The area of human resources (HR) has undergone massive changes and developments in recent years. From the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and more flexible work arrangements, to rising wage demands and increased competition for talent, it is safe to say that navigating this area has not been a straightforward task.
However, as we move forward into 2024, it does not look like it is getting any easier for businesses, and more specifically, HR leaders.
Technology is becoming more integrated into work than ever before, requiring businesses to have effective leadership and communication structures within the workplace.
But what specific HR trends and challenges will businesses be facing this year?
2023 was characterised by announcements of mass layoffs by a number of huge global companies such as Google and Amazon, as well as locally through the planned closing of the HSBC Global Services (UK) Limited Malta Branch (HSMB) in Swatar.
Undoubtedly, the decision for many businesses to cut costs by cutting jobs has had a strain on the relationship between employers and employees, particularly when it comes to trust. While trust takes a long time to form, it can be lost within a couple of interactions.
In 2024, leaders will need to work hard in order to regain employees’ trust, particularly by fostering greater communication at the workplace.
Employees will want employers and leaders who are open about plans and strategic visions, rather than keeping everything under wraps.
One of the most substantial changes that has taken place at workplaces over recent years is the increasing presence of Gen-Z employees.
Millennials, or Gen-Y individuals, are now in their 30s or 40s, and are being entrusted in more leadership positions after amassing years of experience. On the other hand, Gen-Z members have been integrated into the workforce and are now also managing teams.
This generation was born into technology, and therefore they have different expectations when it comes to communication, leadership, and workplace culture.
They tend to question hierarchical top-down power dynamics more and want to be actively involved in decisions that directly affect them and their work. They are advocates for two-way communication and prioritise feedback.
Business leaders need to be prepared to integrate this generation into the workplace, as the cultural shift isn’t just coming, it has already taken place.
Nothing has summed up recent years more than technological developments.
This is also present in the HR space, with workforce-specific technology being developed in recent years as IT and HR teams collaborate more closely.
Organisations will need to create equitable experiences for employees in their tech-enabled workplaces so that the technology is inclusive for everyone. Whether this is by providing mentorship sessions to help individuals who are not as digitally proficient as others, or by holding events aimed at increasing awareness about the importance of technology, workplaces simply need integrate this more.
In terms of software, artificial intelligence (AI) is set to become an even more prominent element of workplaces, with AI tools set to level up the workforce and enable better work to be done.
From recruitment to performance management, every employee will experience the effects of AI in some way or another.
AI tools will also unveil unique and actionable insights into the workplace and workforces for HR leaders, and thus they will be of great help when it comes to navigating future uncertainty.
Companies and employees pushed for remote working to become more commonplace during and immediately after the pandemic. This turned the office into more of a place where people connect, rather than focusing on getting the work done.
As a result, business leaders now need to create commute-worthy experiences for employees to inspire a healthy sense of fear of missing out (FOMO) instead of just complying to workplace regulations.
This entails creating experiences for workers which can only take place at the office, such as feedback sessions with managers and leaders, as well as networking sessions. These are experiences that employees will feel are worth leaving the house for.
However, HR leaders need to be wary about this shift, as they must also ensure that even though employees are coming to the office to connect, they need to also be getting their work done.
Businesses cannot afford to have a situation where workers are coming to the office to connect and learn, and then have to dedicate more time to getting up to speed with what they need to do in terms of actual work. Therefore, HR leaders need to create commute-worthy experiences that accommodate the work that still needs to be done.
A crucial element in the HR world is that of providing equitable compensation.
This is set to undergo significant changes in 2024 through the EU Pay Transparency Directive, adopted in January 2023. This year, employers will be focusing on implementing different initiatives to avoid any discrimination in terms of payment, and to also help close the gender pay gap present in the bloc.
By having the obligation to collect and report on gender pay inequity data, as well as provisioning for employees to see this addressed in cases of injustice, employers will be strongly incentivised to formalise career pathing, introducing levelling and pay transparency.
While to many employers this will mean a total cultural revolution and a tough transformational journey, it is one that is necessary and the outcome will be that of greater transparency and hence, greater trust on the employees’ end.
The push to adopt Ai-enabled tools for greater efficiency and productivity has already been mentioned.
However, workers will need to learn how to incorporate these technologies into their work, not just in terms of how to do things faster, but also to achieve objectives in a different way. Therefore, employees will need to be curious, experiment, and also learn on the job.
Additionally, businesses will be required to give employees their fair share of resources, time, and safe space to engage in this development.
While many businesses will be seeking to adjust performance objectives to capture the benefits of AI, they need to be wary of going too far in this direction, as it will limit employees learning mindset. It will also serve as a means to dehumanise workers, striking further doubt about the integration of AI in the workplace.
Business leaders need to compile objectives which entail both effective learning and suitable outcomes that can be achieved.
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