HR Trends 2024: Make These Changes, Drive More Impact

Gary Stringer
September 11, 2023
September 11, 2023
Learning And Development

2024’s looking like a big year for HR pros!

You ready? If not, it’s time to get ready because…

😞 People have lost faith in performance reviews.

🤷 HR teams have built hiring skills for the last 12 months, but we’re now in a talent shortage.

📈 Engagement’s high, but it’s not what it seems, and career conversations don’t happen enough (but more of them isn’t the answer either).

Oh, and to top it off, we’ve got a cost of living crisis that really needs a human touch, empathy and a healthy dose of HR magic.

Good news? These are all solvable problems, and this deep dive into 2024 HR trends will give you all the context to go away and work it all out in your business.

Free Guide: Download the 2024 L&D Trends Report

1. HR to harness the power of employee engagement to reduce stress, quiet quitting and turnover levels.

Our employee engagement score is on the rise 🥳 job done, right? 

Not quite!

It’s an easy pitfall for companies to fall into, and one the latest Gallup State of the Global Workplace Report could have the whole industry slipping into if we’re not careful - hence why it’s here as a HR trend for 2024.

23% of employees were engaged at work, the highest level since they started measuring it in 2009.

However, employee engagement is like that duck gliding across the water.

Everything looks calm, but below the surface, a struggle is definitely at play…

The struggle: Engagement’s high but so is stress and desire to quit

If we stop at engagement, we can give ourselves a nice big pat on the back.

But we don’t solve the other problems affecting our people. 

And if you’re reading these 2024 HR trends, you’re probably looking to go beyond the bare minimum!

  • 44% of employees surveyed said they’d felt stress A LOT during the previous day. Equal with 2021’s peak, and before 2020 (43%), that number had never gone into the 40s.
  • 59% describe themselves as quiet quitting, with 23% thriving and 18% loudly quitting.
  • More than half (51%) of employees expressed some level of intent to leave their job.

The big lesson here is that engagement isn’t happiness.

Engagement isn’t productivity.

It isn’t even enough to get people to stick around.

The best business and HR leaders understand the nuances and differences between these things and are really intentional about what each one means.

The good news: Engagement does influence these other things

There is a correlation between engagement and all these other metrics! 

As you’ll see below, when engagement is high, things like stress and desire to quit are less likely to be present.

This is all about reframing engagement from the only metric that matters to something that works with other workplace factors to create a better experience and drive employee retention.

Engagement influences employees in other ways. (Source: Gallup).

Take these three actions today and get on right side of this 2024 HR trend 

1. Start with your quiet quitters

Gallup make a few interesting recommendations in their report, and one is that these quitters offer a quick-win for productivity gains.

Look at some of the reasons people quiet quit. Lack of purpose, lack of stimulation, lack of opportunities to grow - these are all solvable things.

And given half of employees sit in this category, this offers the fastest route to moving more people to the engaged column.

We asked Pauline Taylor, HowNow's Head of People, for her thoughts on tackling quiet quitting:

"Quiet quitting is just a new word for lack of engagement. This can be attributed to poor management and not understanding your people's engagement drivers - which might typically look like..."

1) Clarity of expectations with the what, why, and when are important but giving people autonomy on the 'how'.
2) Opportunities to learn and grow - that could be with new skills or tasks/projects.
3) Feeling cared about - It's no surprise that people are motivated to go the extra mile for those who show them gratitude, praise, and support.
4) Lastly - they must see what they do has a strong connection/correlation to the organisation's mission or purpose.

2. Enable your managers! So much of this comes back to them

70% of team engagement is attributable to the manager, but if they’re stressed, quiet quitting or lacking the tools to address employee concerns, we’re not going anywhere.

Check in with them!

What’s influencing their engagement, stress and desire to leave? 

And what are they lacking when it comes to dealing with employees in all these areas?

With every HR trend for 2024, take a wider view beyond the employee - these issues might also be impacting your leaders, C-Suite, CEOs and investors.

It’s easy to end up with a narrow view of leadership development but we all have skills gaps, things we never learned and struggles we face every day.

3. Listen to your people (or start with these general responses)

When asked what would improve their job, 41% of Gallup’s respondents said engagement or company culture, and there were some interesting themes in their recommendations of how to crack that nut.

Recognition for contributions, more autonomy in how they worked, learning more, doing less repetitive work, and fairness/respect were the top level responses.

These might even be a great starting point for you to survey your people and understand where you are right now.

2. HR skill building to shift away from recruitment and towards employee development/upskilling

Let’s face it, in a world where there are six open roles for every qualified person, the harsh truth is…

🤯 You can’t fill every skill gap by hiring external talent.

Buying or borrowing talent is becoming increasingly more difficult, hence the shift we’re seeing towards upskilling, internal mobility and looking more at skills needed than job roles to be filled.

The trouble is, nobody seems to have told the HR departments and people looking to upskill themselves.

The top 7 surging skills for workplace and human resources were dominated by recruitment and hiring, according to Udemy’s 2023 Workplace Learning Trends Report 👇

In plain terms, what HR professionals spent the past year learning seems to be at odds with the latest data and one of the biggest 2024 HR trends. 

HR pros might need to shift their focus away from hiring skills. (Source: Udemy)

We’re in a talent shortage, meaning we simply don’t have enough skilled humans to fill our roles.

A lack of skills makes it harder to meet customer demands, execute our strategies and get the work done to reach our goals.

Winning the talent war isn’t about bringing in all the skills you need (time-consuming and expensive), it’s about helping people build the skills that matter in the shortest amount of time (cost-effective, engages employees and sustainable).

So, before you take another course on talent spotting or recruitment, think about the internal talent that could fill skills gaps and recruiting the right skills to reach your goals, not just the job titles you think you need.

3. Career conversations and development opportunities need to be more regular and available

Let’s caveat this by saying there are a lot of things organisations are doing really well to support people right now.

A recent survey of 1,000 UK employees by Lattice and YouGov showed that more than a third of employees have access to flexible working, mental health support and flexible time off.

This was arguably on HR trends lists for the past few years and big credit to people teams for delivering what their people needed.

Companies are nailing the flexibility and employee support benefits. (Source: Lattice)

But if you’re looking for signs of career development and growth conversations, strap in! 

👇 We’ve got a long scroll to the very bottom of the list.

Propping up these 14 factors are professional development budgets, career growth plans and regular growth conversations - with 15% or less response rate in each.

But career development is right at the bottom. (Source: Lattice).

Why on earth is this happening? And how can we tackle this HR trend head on?

Maybe, just maybe, it’s a flawed perception of why people stick with companies

  • 78% of companies have lost talent because of a lack of growth opportunities (Aptitude Research).
  • 45% of employees told Glassdoor a lack of growth opportunities was the top reason for a lack of job satisfaction.

There are things that make a company a nicer place to work, and there are things that fundamentally make people’s day-to-day job more enjoyable and fulfilling.

Right now, it seems the benefits offering leans too far one way…and there’s one way to fix it 👇

4. While we’re at it let’s revamp performance management and reviews (making them our secret sauce for trust and engagement)

This 2024 HR trend can be summed up in 32 words:

“Only 1 in 3 employees say the performance management review helps them perform better… And employees who have confidence in their performance management review process have much higher trust in their organisations” - Betterworks: 2023 Global HR Research Report: The State of Performance Enablement

The faith in the performance management and review system has been shattered.

And we really are looking at rubble here:

  • 37% of workers said performance management is an outright failure in their company.
  • And 64% view their performance review process as always or sometimes a waste.

But when something gets taken apart, we can rebuild it! And create employee experiences that truly work.

And this is why we’re including it in our 2024 HR trends - this is a huge chance to drive real change from both a process and performance perspective.

More impact, here we go 🚀

This is how performance management should be done now

Performance management is about gearing employees towards adding maximum value, and the review process should set the foundation for how we get there.

People can create all the flywheel graphics and fancy flow charts they want, but in a world that’s changing fast, you’re better of having these five simple, universal questions:

1. What does success look like for our team and company?

2. How does our employee contribute to that goal every day?

3. Which skills and knowledge would they need to do that?

4. Do they have it, and to what extent?

5. How are we measuring progress towards those skills and goals?

Not only are these questions gearing our conversations towards impact…

They’re creating consistency and transparency, and that’s currently undermining people’s trust in the whole damn process.

😰 Only 1 in 3 employees view their performance reviews process as fair and equitable! 

But when they do perceive it as fair, productivity and engagement are both higher, meaning this 2024 HR trend can make a huge difference to your culture.

Fair performance reviews are crucial. (Source: Betterworks)

In addition to this, feelings of belonging are up to 60 percentage points higher when people see their reviews as fair and equitable.

Shall we pop in more check-ins! No, hold your horses…

Fancy another HR pitfall you might be falling into?

Doing more of something isn’t useful unless we set the foundations and give people the right skills for it to work.

If people don’t feel like you have a good feedback culture, more feedback surveys isn’t the answer… yet. 

We need to give people the skill of providing clear and constructive feedback, as well as being open to receiving feedback and processing it effectively.

And in a world where people have lost faith in performance reviews, more of the same is more of the stuff people hate.

The solution for this HR trend lies in enabling managers for 2024 and beyond, and here’s where they need help:

Enable managers, drive better performance reviews. (Source: Betterworks).

5. Supporting people through the cost of living crisis (and what comes next)

The only certain thing over the past five years is that more uncertainty is on the way.

If you look back on any of the HR trends lists for the past half decade, you’ll spot the theme that continues into 2024.

Between Brexit, COVID-19 and the cost of living crisis, it’s impossible for the conditions of the outside world not to influence how we’re feeling and performing at our companies.

The CIPD explain this 2024 HR trend in their Good Work Index 2023: Survey report:

“Notions of ‘good work’ in 2023 have been shaped by the events of the last five years… which have seen inflation hit record levels. Businesses and institutions have had to try and find a way forward in a world where uncertainty has become endemic.”

The latest in that list of challenges, the cost of living crisis, offers another opportunity for companies and their HR teams to put their people first.

And there is a precedent, 78% felt their company responded to COVID appropriately, while 80% feeling leadership were proactive in actions to protect them.

Where do employees need cost of living support?

  • Just under half (48%) said they were meeting bills and commitments without any difficulties, meaning more than half are experiencing some issues.
  • 16% were signalling severe social distress, with 12% saying it was a constant struggle.
  • 3% of workers said they were falling behind with some bills and commitments, and 1% said they were having real financial problems.

Some of those percentages might seem small, but “nearly one in six in serious difficulties translates into more than 5 million people in work.” - which is a significant figure.

If you read the full report, you’ll also find that groups of people are affected more severely - like those in lower-income households.

HR trends lists tend to be statistic-heavy, leaning into percentages, so this is your reminder to try and think in human number terms and the context of who is affected.

A percentage is easier to digest, but it’s certainly not the full picture.

How can HR teams help?

There won’t be one silver bullet! In fact, the best thing is try and open up a conversation about how much your people are struggling and where they need support.

However, here are a few suggestions:

  • Flexibility around office days and times: If a lot of people are commuting, this might help them cut down the days they’re paying fares or travel outside peak hours.
  • Offer food and drink on the days people do come in: Whether that’s snacks or providing a meal, this is one way to save an expense for people.
  • Help those with childcare: If being more flexible allows people to save on childcare costs, look into how you can support that.
  • Review your benefits package: A cost-of-living crisis really means we should cut the fluff. Is what you’re offering right for the context? Free cinema tickets might have appealed when you launched them five years ago but could that be swapped out for something more helpful…
  • Launch and improve mental health support: We might not be able to solve the problem but we can support the symptoms. A solid mental health support scheme can provide people with an outlet to discuss or work through financial stresses.

Rounding up these five 2024 HR trends and actions you can start taking today.

Let’s recap these top five 2024 HR trends and give you the gist of where good action starts and strong improvements follow. 

1. Harness the true power of engagement: Go beyond the surface level of looking at how many people are engaged, bringing in the likes of stress and desire to quit to build a better picture.

2. Build the skill of upskilling others: In a talent shortage, we can’t hire our way to closing skills gap. HR teams can help by thinking in terms of skills needed, not just roles to be filled.

3. Workplaces need to provide balance between nice-to-have and makes-my-life-better benefits: Lots of workplaces are offering flexibility and strong time-off policies, but career growth is lagging far behind.

4. Make performance reviews fairer and more impactful: People have lost trust in their performance reviews and it’s linked to a desire to do meaningful work - bring the two together and you’ll retain people who are genuinely driving impact.

5. Support people through the cost-of-living crisis: In such a difficult time, it’s inevitable that personal struggles blend into our professional lives, and our employers can make a big difference with their support. Reconsider how you view and support work-life balance for the current context.