HR professionals are being asked to do even more with even less heading into 2024, making it the “year of efficiency,” according to Josh Merrill, CEO and co-founder of performance management platform Confirm.
More with less might sound like a broken record, especially to HR leaders who have harmonized the upheaval of the past few years. However, 2024 is expected to present promising tech-driven shifts for employers and human resource teams. But don’t think it’s going to be all machines, all the time—Merrill also gives this heads-up: “Fairness and equality must also be top priorities.”
Before we come to the end of the year, HRE asked industry leaders to anticipate workplace themes for 2024. Hear from Merrill and other pros, including Scott Cawood, CEO of WorldatWork; Sania Khan, chief economist at Eightfold AI; Paul Wolfe, author and former CHRO at Indeed, Match.com and Conde Nast; Paulo Pisano, chief people officer of Booking.com and leaders from various other organizations, about their insights and predictions for the upcoming year.
Also by Josh Merrill: Find high achievers while breaking away from the performance review trap
Labor market trends
HR trends 2024: Competitive challenges persist
Sania Khan, chief economist at Eightfold AI, anticipates continued hurdles in attracting and retaining top talent next year. While the frequency of employee resignations has decreased since 2021 and 2022, the levels remain elevated. Khan suggests that employers will need to offer more workplace flexibility and upskilling programs to prevent people from leaving. “Despite the tight labor market, employers are hesitant to shed staff, reflecting the sustained high demand for labor,” she says.
Slowing job growth
The labor market’s growth is expected to slow in the first half of 2024, says Khan, with a gradual increase in the unemployment rate. Aging populations limit workforce participation, and without a surge in immigration, worker availability is expected to shrink, driving up labor demand, according to the economist.
The impact of AI on the workforce
HR trends 2024: The battle for talent
AI talent will be a focal point in 2024, with a surge in jobs related to “AI transformation,” according to Khan. She says members of these transformation teams will be tasked with choosing AI tools and building workforce strategies to keep organizations agile, productive and engaged.
Aaron Skonnard, CEO and co-founder of tech workforce development company Pluralsight, predicts that in 2024, “we’ll see a shift from AI adoption to AI maturity.” He says that organizations and technologists will focus on deepening their skills to make the most out of investments in artificial intelligence. AI skills are built on a foundation of other strong tech skills, such as coding, cloud computing, DevOps and cybersecurity best practices, and these skills will continue to be relevant in 2024 just as they are today, according to Skonnard.
Enhancing employee training with AI
John Peebles, CEO of enterprise learning infrastructure platform Administrate, expects an increase in AI for employee training and career development. “With the assistance of AI, workplaces can enhance training and yield substantial time savings and automation benefits, ultimately maximizing ROI,” he says.
Rise of AI chatbots for HR
Kat Campbell, founder of HR consultancy HowardHelen, foresees a rise in AI chatbots handling routine inquiries, enabling HR teams to focus on strategic roles. When needed, Campbell says, these chatbots will be equipped to guide more complex employee questions to the relevant channels, such as an HR leader or manager.
Keeping a human in the mix is obligatory, even though chatbots and co-pilots will likely thrive in 2024. Kelly Mendez-Scheib, chief people officer at company insights group Crunchbase, warns that artificial intelligence won’t be the “silver bullet to all things HR.” Like Campbell, she expects that employees will want to talk to real people about certain topics, and she warns that “HR departments may well over-index on these tools early in the year.”
Other new technologies
Peebles adds that employers will abandon outdated tech and adopt more adaptable and flexible systems to navigate disruptions and digital transformation challenges. “Refreshing systems can fundamentally change how an organization tackles disruptions and digital transformation challenges,” says Peebles.
The impact of wellbeing on the workforce
HR Trends 2024: Human-centric employee benefits
Paul Wolfe, former CHRO at Indeed, Match.com and Conde Nast, predicts a shift in employee benefits trends. In particular, beyond traditional benefits, personalized offerings addressing mental health, financial planning and day-to-day issues will gain prominence.
Tracy Avin, the founder of Troop HR—a network for human resource leaders—agrees that employees are increasingly demanding focus on their wellbeing, including opportunities for physical and mental healthcare, as well as flexible work arrangements and other benefits that allow employees to balance their work and personal lives.
The tipping point of negativity
Andrew Shatte, PhD., chief knowledge officer and co-founder of workforce resilience platform meQuilibrium, anticipates a shift in perspectives on workplace mental health in 2024, driven by the convergence of two factors: Gen Z in the workforce, accompanied by their documented struggles with mental health, and the tipping point of unchecked negativity. The potential emergence of “doom loops” is highlighted as a cautionary outcome if the focus on workforce mental health diminishes, according to Shatte. He believes HR leaders should prioritize mental health with a sense of urgency, emphasizing resilience.
Talent and skills in 2024
HR Trends 2024: Development of a skills-based approach
Paulo Pisano, chief people officer of Booking.com, emphasizes the importance of continuous skill development in a dynamic workplace. A tendency towards skills-based talent management will help employers tap into diverse talent sources. “This shift allows companies to better match individuals with the right jobs, expanding their talent pools and increasing overall success,” he says.
AI in performance and talent mobility
As competition for external talent cools, Pisano expects organizations to focus on developing internal talent marketplaces, “prioritizing cultural alignment, excellence in innovation, career progression and development for their employees.” This shift presents a unique opportunity for HR to drive business impact through enhanced employee engagement, learning and development, according to Pisano.
Bite-sized learning opportunities
In the era of gen AI, learning platforms can meet learners where they are. Pluralsight CEO Skonnard says that gen AI has demonstrated that learning content can be generated in a matter of seconds and can seamlessly enhance data analytics, search capabilities and technical problem-solving. Skonnard expects that bite-sized content will be preferred over long-form courses. “It’s easier than ever for learning experiences to be customized and for learning to happen on-demand and in the flow of work,” he says.
Still talking about remote, hybrid, in-office
Return-to-office has been debated “ad infinitum,” says Scott Cawood, CEO at WorldatWork. “For those of you tired of the back and forth, I’m sorry to say it’s going to continue and perhaps grow more cacophonous in 2024.” People capable of working from home see no reason to return to the office if it does not materially impact their productivity, and Cawood anticipates these individuals will correspondingly seek workplaces that align with this perspective.
He says that organizations that double down on RTO mandates will find it harder to recruit and retain employees. In the current climate, decisions about where to work aren’t always going to be a slam dunk for employers: “The genie is not going back into the bottle,” says Cawood. “RTO proponents, particularly those with extensive holdings in business real estate, aren’t going to go quietly.” He says this contingency will grow bolder as more organizations allow people to work elsewhere.
Tech talent wars
This year delivered a pause in the decade-long war for tech talent, but Mendez-Scheib of Crunchbase predicts a competition comeback. “Nearly 200,000 employees were laid off in the tech sector alone, and those who managed to hold onto their jobs largely paused their job search,” she says. This led to a decrease in attrition rates, but employers shouldn’t get complacent.
Many companies have responded to this new-found leverage by cutting perks, including remote work arrangements and mental health days. This will be a “miscalculation” in 2024, according to Mendez-Scheib, because when economic volatility eases, workers will resume their hunt. She says this will be particularly true for those with highly competitive skills, like software engineers and data scientists.
As for HR trends in 2024, many people will have strong memories of the past year or two. “I can confidently predict that job seekers will remember the companies that stuck to their commitments and the companies that didn’t,” says Mendez-Scheib. She notes that fully remote opportunities may not return at scale, but as top employees look for new roles, they will want flexibility.
Leaders will give order to a ‘disordered world’
In 2024, the workforce will grapple with the continued impact of job demands, traumatic events and workplace incivility, says Jan Bruce, CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium. She says business leaders face the daunting task of guiding the workforce through the harsh realities of a “disordered world” while maintaining an optimistic outlook for the future.
“By [leadership] making a full commitment to the potential of their organization, employees will be better able to handle difficult change and come out stronger for it,” says Bruce. She predicts that proactive organizations will employ tangible tools to assess and address psychosocial risks.
Strikes will decrease
After a year in which unions such as SAG/AFTRA, WGA and the UAW scored multiple victories, one might expect organized labor interests to push for further gains, says Cawood of WorldatWork. He also expects this but says it takes two to tango: “Coming at a moment when labor seems to be notching some impressive wins, organizations might be increasingly reluctant to engage in games of chicken.” Cawood expects to see more organizations voluntarily reviewing and improving their employee value propositions to “inoculate” against this possibility.
Eventually, organizations will secure collective bargaining victories, too, likely at the expense of lost wages and productivity, according to Cawood. “What’s largely unsaid in the media commentary amid this us-versus-them discussion is that the greatest victory would have been a successful negotiation that both addressed [union] interests and prevented the work stoppage in the first place,” he says.
Adapting to the evolving landscape
As we step into HR trends 2024, the workplace continues to evolve. Organizations must navigate the challenges and opportunities of technology, changing dynamics and economic shifts. But this could bring powerful gains. Chelsea Alves, a consultant at UNmiss—a platform that creates SEO content at scale—believes that AI promises a future where innovation knows no bounds. In 2024, she says, “some of the greatest advancements in technology are likely right within reach.”