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.
Our employee engagement score is on the rise 🥳 job done, right?
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…
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s a flawed perception of why people stick with companies
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 👇
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:
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 🚀
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.
In addition to this, feelings of belonging are up to 60 percentage points higher when people see their reviews as fair and equitable.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.