‘The year of efficiency’: Industry leaders forecast 2024 HR trends

Industry leaders, spanning from the C-suite to think tanks, shared their insights on the anticipated HR trends for 2024.
By: | December 18, 2023

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 harmonised the upheaval of the past few years. However, 2024 is expected to present promising tech-driven shifts for employers and human resource teams. But do not 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 professionals, 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 Nest; Paulo Pisano, Chief People Officer of Booking.com and leaders from various other organisations, about their insights and predictions for the upcoming year.

Labour 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 programmes to prevent people from leaving. “Despite the tight labour market, employers are hesitant to shed employees, reflecting the sustained high demand for labour,” she says.

Slowing job growth

The labour market’s growth is expected to slow in H1’2024, says Khan, with a gradual increase in the unemployment rate. Ageing populations limit workforce participation, and without a surge in immigration, employee availability is expected to shrink, driving up labour 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 organisations agile, productive, and engaged.

Aaron Skonnard, CEO and Co-Founder of tech workforce development organisation Pluralsight, predicts that in 2024, “we’ll see a shift from AI adoption to AI maturity.” He says that organisations and technologists will focus on deepening their skills to make the most out of investments in AI. 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 maximising ROI,” he says.

Rise of AI chatbots for HR

Kay 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 Mendex-Scheib, Chief People Officer at company insights group Crunchbase, warns that AI would not 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 organisation tackles disruptions and digital transformation challenges,” says Pebbles.

The impact of wellbeing on the workforce

HR trends 2024: Human-centric employee benefits

Paul Wolfe, former CHRO at Indeed, Match.com and Conde Nest, predicts a shift in employee benefits trends. In particular, beyond traditional benefits, personalised offerings addressing mental health, financial planning and day-to-day issues will gain prominence.

Tracy Avin, Founder of Troop HR—a network for HR 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 prioritise mental health with a sense of urgency, emphasising resilience.

Talent and skills in 2024

HR trends 2024: Development of a skills-based approach

Paulo Pisano, Chief People Officer of Booking.com, emphasised 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 organisations 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 organisations to focus on developing internal talent marketplaces, “prioritising 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 customised and for learning to happen on-demand and in the flow of work,” he says.

Workplace predictions

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 organisations that double down on RTO mandates will find it harder to recruit and retain employees. In the current climate, decisions about where to work are not 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 organisations 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 should not get complacent.

Many organisations 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, employees 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 jobseekers will remember the organisations that stuck to their commitment and the organisations 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 organisation, employees will be better able to handle difficult change and come out stronger for it,” says Bruce. She predicts that proactive organisations will employ tangible tools to assess and address psychosocial risks.

READ MORE: Amid the AI craze, do not forget about employee wellbeing

Strikes will decrease

After a year in which unions such as the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), the Writers Guild of America (WGA), and the United Auto Workers (UAW) scored multiple victories, one might expect organised labour 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 labour seems to be notching some impressive wins, organisations might be increasingly reluctant to engage in games of chicken.” Cawood expects to see more organisations voluntarily reviewing and improving their employee value propositions to “inoculate” against this possibility.

Eventually, organisations 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 in 2024, the workplace continues to evolve. Organisations 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.”

About the author: Jill Barth is HR Tech Editor of HRE. This article first appeared on Human Resource Executive.