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The past year posed a series of operational challenges and growth opportunities for HR professionals across the world. From the acceleration of generative artificial intelligence (AI) to inflation to generational shifts from a rapidly retiring workforce – leaders felt the changing headwinds. Furthermore, a growing network of 2023 compliance changes and legislation made for an even more complex year. As we look ahead to the new year, we wanted to get a pulse on what HR thought leaders are anticipating. Here are a few topline 2024 HR trends and predictions that we think will come to define what’s shaping up to be an interesting year.
Upskilling in AI
The cat’s out of the bag, and generative AI is having its cultural moment. Aside from broader discussions about AI regulation and ethics, it is an undeniable reality that familiarity with and adept use of generative AI tools will become high-demand skills. While many roles won’t require technical knowledge like proficiency in machine learning algorithms and fluency in programming languages, AI-related skills will still seep into job descriptions.
Looking ahead to 2024, Alastair Woods, Partner, PwC UK is predicting that “upskilling is going to come up the priority list in the months ahead with the acceleration of generative AI. But key to doing this successfully is putting it in the context of future workforce needs – and really targeting those areas where the biggest skills gaps are.”
The proliferation of AI needs in organizations will only continue as generative AI plug-ins and APIs, like those from OpenAI and IBM, fuel business decision-making. Upskilling your current workforce on things like AI prompt writing, data analysis, and fact checking can help you build a more resilient workforce for 2024 and the years beyond. And this upskilling will have impacts beyond individual employee development.
“AI will bridge the gap between managers and their direct reports,” predicts Somen Mondal, General Manager of Talent Intelligence at Ceridian. In 2024, AI will help fill gaps that managers have inadvertently caused. Whether it’s crafting more thoughtful performance reviews or identifying internal growth opportunities for their direct reports, AI will provide much-needed support on tasks where managers are either inexperienced or too burnt out to handle. These AI capabilities will help strengthen managers, in turn allowing them to better empower their direct reports.
The generative AI models of today are just the tip of the iceberg. Human-level artificial general intelligence (AGI) is on the proverbial horizon with some predictions landing within a matter of years.1 What is already a rapidly growing technology will continue making inroads into the way we work. And it’s up to HR professionals to figure out how to encourage AI upskilling at their organizations and build these skillsets into job requisitions and management strategies in 2024.
Individualizing the employee experience
Employers are stuck navigating a delicate balancing act between business needs and employee wants. One area where this tug-of-war is felt is in the employee experience. Increased engagement programming, broadened DEI initiatives, employee listening efforts, reinvigorated company culture – HR-driven pursuits like these can create meaningful changes in the quality of employees’ experiences. In 2024, we expect HR leaders will be working hard to individualize the employee experience, making a meaningful impact on people who are looking for more from their employers.
And focusing work on the employee experience isn’t just about supporting your current employees. It’s also an opportunity to build a strong employer brand that attracts top talent in what we expect to be a tight labor market in 2024.
In fact, Alastair Woods, Partner, PwC UK, shared with us that “organizations are facing multiple challenges around talent scarcity, managing people costs, and a tight labor market – but part of the answer must be in employee experience and customizing the experience to the needs of individuals (within a framework).”
HR leaders will need to build a plan for how they can meet the needs of individual employees to maximize talent retention in the year to come. One way to gauge individual needs and sentiment is through employee engagement surveys. Consider sending quarterly surveys to your employees to gauge how they feel about current employer support and what needs have been left unaddressed. That way, you can move forward with concrete suggestions for how to better serve the employees at your organization.
Hybrid: Here to stay
Everybody’s favorite post-pandemic work topic was still top-of-mind in 2023: hybrid work and the return to the office. We predict that the return-to-work epoch will finally come to a close next year. At this point, the height of pandemic-era workplace confusion, transition to remote setups, and shifting office expectations have settled. Many organizations have instated clear policies about their expectations around hybrid work and remote allowances.
Just because this topic may not be as divisive as it once was doesn’t mean there isn’t room to iterate and continue building a better employee experience. Employees now have at least a few months of remote, hybrid, or in-office work under their belts, and they might be itching for a change. For example, organizations could institute policies where employees can work from anywhere in the world where the organization currently operates. Though role-specific remote, hybrid, or in-office expectations may feel relatively set, this could help you expand hybrid work opportunities.
Internal mobility bolstered by job rotations
Internal mobility has become a larger part of organizations’ efforts to retain top talent. During the Great Resignation of 2021-2022, employers were left scrambling to find ways they could satisfy employee wants and hold onto their best workers amid labor shortages. As the labor market settled, employee needs became slightly deprioritized because talent was more widely available. However, methods that previously drove retention, like internal mobility strategies, are coming back to center stage at the end of 2023’s tight labor market. This means employers are again making increased efforts to work with employees and meet their needs to reduce turnover.
In our 2023 Pulse of Talent survey, nearly half (49%) of respondents said they want to contribute skills to new projects from within their current role. This was followed by 43% who were interested in moving into a new role in a different department or team. And 35% said they would like to change career paths within their company.
Thinking ahead to our anticipated 2024 HR trends, we believe internal mobility will be a top concern for employees. With long-term development top-of-mind for many workers, they want to know that their current workplace is somewhere they can build a substantive career or change careers altogether. You can encourage talented employees who align with your company values to keep contributing by offering them opportunities for vertical promotions and horizontal career explorations. Job rotations will become a much-needed tool for satiating employees’ career interests and building cross-functional resiliency within your organization.
Meeting the needs of an aging, retiring workforce
“As Baby Boomers and Gen Xers get closer to the ends of their careers, we’ll see a bigger emphasis from employees and employers on financial wellness and retirement preparedness,” anticipates Michelle Bonam, VP of Organizational Effectiveness at Ceridian.
Interest rates are rising. Inflation is complicating the cost of living. Future economic outlooks are uncertain. This mix of factors may lead employees in older generations to feel unsure about when and how they retire.
In 2024, financial wellness will be front and center as employers take a more active role in ensuring their employees are financially prepared to retire. Education programs and incentives to save will be key for getting employees in the twilight of their careers back on track. And for those who are already planning to retire in the coming year, HR leaders will feel the pressure to find more ways to support those who rely on their expertise and resources.
Getting ready for 2024
No matter your personal take on AI, hybrid work, retirement, and everything in between, 2024 will bring its fair share of challenges and opportunities for organizations. As HR leaders enter the upcoming year, we can be sure that this mix of technological, economic, and labor trends will impact employee needs and organizational policies.
 Tristan Bove, CEO of Google’s DeepMind says we could be ‘just a few years’ from A.I. that has human-level intelligence, Fortune, May 2023. See also, Shane Legg & Chris Anderson, The transformative potential of AGI — and when it might arrive, TED, October 2023, which references Shane Legg, Tick, tock, tick, tock… BING, vetta project, December 2009.