Generative AI will continue to influence how HR teams increase productivity and optimize employee experience in 2024, a new report from McLean & Company which surveyed 1,373 business professionals in September 2023, found.
Additionally, experts say HR will continue to focus on optimizing hybrid work as well as attracting and retaining the right talent in 2024.
Nearly half of HR organizations will seek to build a business case and demonstrate return on investment (ROI) on the implementation of new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), with a whopping 79 per cent of respondents citing increased productivity and efficiency as the primary reason.
Despite this potential, HR organizations have been slow to assess the new technology, with just 28 per cent reporting they are taking steps to implement generative AI in 2024.
They continue to face numerous roadblocks such as a lack of budget, and skills gaps, as well as inadequate technology. The risks of AI also remain a major concern for many HR professionals, with 32 per cent of respondents citing risk as a reason for not implementing generative AI.
The continued trend of AI in the workplace, primarily for productivity enhancements, requires HR to adopt a dual approach, advised Miriam Connaughton, chief people officer at employee experience platform, Simpplr.
“On one hand, HR should explore and implement AI tools that can improve HR service delivery, enhance the employee experience, and provide predictive insights into turnover and engagement challenges. On the other hand, they need to be proactive in addressing the legal and ethical implications of AI, especially concerning privacy and data security.”
She added that HR professionals must also focus on transparent communication about how AI is used in the workplace and its impact on employees, fostering a culture of trust and ethical AI usage.
The report explained that the key to building trust in HR while navigating change and disruption in 2024 will be to take a data-driven approach to decision-making, and communicating the “why” to leadership and employees. One important part of this, the report said, is qualitative data in the form of the employee voice.
This is even more critical as employees feel increased pressure and uncertainty, with concerns about AI taking over jobs and certain skill sets.
The report said, “employees expect to be involved in initiatives that impact them more than ever, so it’s crucial to engage with employees during the planning and rollout phases of initiatives to capture the employee voice and build trust.”
Connaughton acknowledged that organizations should prioritize a gradual transition when using AI to augment or replace employees’ capabilities, rather than making an overnight change.
Preparing workers for changes related to AI will also require great upskilling and reskilling efforts in 2024, she added.
Communicating clearly on the company’s AI goals and upskilling needs, in turn, would help HR professionals to maximize employee experience, another major goal in 2024, the report stressed.
“Organizations that prioritize the employee experience are putting it into action by providing employees with interesting and purposeful work and enabling them to perform their tasks without friction, while also ensuring the organization’s values and culture are resonating with employees.”
Focusing on things like diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), social and environmental sustainability performance, creativity, workforce productivity and the ability to change at scale to capitalize on new opportunities can help augment employee experience.
More practically, Connaughton referred to things like flexible work options, establishing clear career progression opportunities, offering competitive benefit packages, and providing robust employee wellness initiatives, as well as active listening to employee feedback as essential to employee experience.
The report, however, warns against generalizing employee experience. HR functions are advised to gauge the lived experiences of employees, and identify individual, key areas of improvement.
Tech big hitters like Meta, IBM, Amazon, and even remote work poster child Zoom have pressed for a return to office (RTO), but the report revealed that location flexibility will not change in 2024.
Most organizations are, in fact, taking a “wait and see approach”, leveraging internal data to inform decision-making, and using that data to communicate the rationale to employees.
“There is too much noise around the pros and cons of remote work for organizations to make informed decisions solely based on external benchmarks or trends,” the report said. “And, ‘because I said so’ won’t cut it with employees who have options; organizations must look internally and listen to employees to understand the needs of different groups and the impact of RTO to facilitate data-driven decision-making.”
There is much economic growth tied to hybrid work, and it is only getting bigger, especially as emerging, younger workers join the workforce, said Dave Drewery, associate director, Work-Learn Institute, during an HRPA conference.
“So if any organization wants to fight for talent, and think about how they would survive in a competitive marketplace, they need to be considering hybrid work and what it means for their people,” said Drewery.
The job market will be resilient going into 2024, according to research from recruiting agency Robert Half, with 54 per cent of hiring managers planning to add new permanent positions in the first six months of the year, while another 40 per cent anticipate hiring for vacated positions.
Further, capitalizing on top talent laid off from other companies and their own employee turnover were tied, with 48 per cent of hiring managers citing these as factors in their hiring plans, said the research.
2024 is all about opening the aperture for talent, said Susan Tohyama, chief human resources officer, Ceridian. “My prediction – and hope – is that 2024 is the year when organizations make skills-based hiring and internal talent mobility a reality for their workforce. It’s time to help eliminate bias from talent in terms of who should do what job and why. The way to do that is to ensure external hires aren’t prioritized over internal talent mobility, and that hiring focuses on the skills people have.”
During the pandemic, a lot of companies were hiring for quantity, while in 2024, the quality of the hire will be top priority, added Steve Knox, global head of talent acquisition, Ceridian.
Interestingly, research company Forrester noted that tech leaders will turn to shadow HR to upgrade talent acquisition, especially as the shelf life of tech skills becomes even shorter and emerging skills like AI are harder and more expensive to find. Therefore, tech leaders will turn to skills-based talent practices to keep their workforce up to date and adaptive to future demands.
A retention plan will be of equal importance for companies, especially as hiring challenges and economic pressures persist in 2024.
Ninety per cent of managers, in fact, cited concerns with retaining top talent for the first half of 2024, the Robert Half report highlighted.
“Though expanding teams will be a big priority for companies in the new year, managers need to focus on the needs and wellbeing of their existing staff too, to boost retention and productivity”, said David King, senior managing director, Robert Half, Canada and South America. “Regular compensation and benefit audits are key to ensuring you remain competitive, and offering perks such as flexibility can help lessen turnover.”