Workplace Trends 2024: HR & People Teams, You Need To See This

Gary Stringer
September 11, 2023
September 11, 2023

Want to build a better workplace in 2024?

Of course you do, that’s why you’re here!

And to do so, you’ll need to overcome some big challenges and tap into the latest trends…

📈 People want to stay and grow, but a lack of development is driving them out the door.

😟 Employee stress is at a record high and there’s ways to tackle that.

🤝 Bringing intentionality to our productivity and flexibility approaches is a must.

Everything you’re about to read taps into 2023 data, empowering your decision-making without wading through reports! 

So, strap in, because we’ve got some scary numbers and honest conversations in these 2024 workplace trends and the future of work.

Free Guide: Download the 2024 L&D Trends Report

1. People are leaving companies because they’re not learning, but they’d prefer to stay and grow

What a sad state of affairs…

At a time when people really don’t want to leave companies, most aren’t giving them the biggest motivator to stay.

🌱 Growth 🌱

LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report shows the big five factors people consider when pursuing new roles, and three of them come back to development.

Offering progression and purpose retains your best people. (Source: LinkedIn).

And what pushes them to this point? Not getting it in their current role!

Three in four employees told Betterworks they’d prefer to advance at their current company in the 2023 Global HR Research Report

This screenshot from the report sums it up personally!

People aren’t feeling vulnerable to outside offers but there’s a huge priority shift towards growing inside the business - hence why it's one of our 2024 workplace trends.

People don't want to leave, but they do want to grow! (Source: Betterworks).

Good news? We’re coming back to these numbers and tackling career path and performance conversations later.

But here are three things you can start doing today to develop people more effectively.

1. Connect people’s goals and roles to business priorities

People want roles with purpose, so if the tasks they’re doing or skills they’re building don't feel like they’re for the sake of it, you’ll tick that box.

And when the company reaches that goal, there’s a tangible story about their part in the journey.

2. Build skills profiles and close skills gaps

If you know the company’s goals, you can work out the skills needed. If you measure the skills you currently have, you’ll know the gap between the two.

And then you can give people meaningful development by upskilling them in areas that are truly needed and have impact.

3. Bring learning to the flow of work

Too many people feel disconnected from their company’s L&D offering. It either drags them out of the workflow to do something or pushes out content to them when it’s not relevant - both make learning feel like an interruption.

Work out the problems people face day to day and where they face them, then bring learning to them in formats they can find and apply in those situations.

Learning that's useful and applicable in typical work environments and the tools or situations people typically encounter also build credibility around learning.

2. Employee stress is affecting engagement and retention

Employee engagement has never been higher!

Or at least it’s at its highest since Gallup started measuring it in 2009.

23% said they were engaged in the latest Gallup State of the Global Workplace Report.

So, we’re popping the champagne, right?

Not quite, one metric doesn’t make a summer, and there are worrying signs when we dig a little deeper…

Daily stress and quiet quitting are also on the rise

Employee stress also reached an equal record high in 2022.

😰 44% said they’d felt stress A LOT the previous day, on par with 2021 levels.

😞 And 59% described themselves as quiet quitting.

That teaches us that we can’t get hung up on a single metric or take every workplace trend at face value.

And it's a reminder that engagement doesn’t always mean happiness.

It’s also reinforces that one emotion often influences another, as you’ll see from the two charts below.

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

People’s engagement was influenced by their stress levels, and their stress or engagement level influences how likely they are to seek new roles.

And with 51% actively watching or applying for new roles, keep two things in mind:

☝️ Try to drive engagement but always make sure it’s channeled in the right way!

Someone might be really engaged in their job but at the expense of wellbeing and work-life balance.

✌️ Ensure you have the feedback mechanisms to capture stress and the causes, then try to make small daily changes that lower them and improve your culture.

3. Productivity, flexibility, fairness and happiness are key pillars of employee experience, but the balance has to be right

Like all things in life, employee happiness is all about balance!

Yes, they want flexibility in how and where they work, but recognise some things are best done in collaboration.

And of course they want to be productive, but this shouldn’t be at the expense of employee happiness.

Productivity culture is piling on employee pressure

Let’s take these two productivity numbers from Slack’s The State of Work in 2023 report:

Productivity culture and the option to always be online in some way are clearly pressuring some people.

To the extent that they’ll probably have a worse work-life balance and potentially poor mental health.

We need flexibility with the guard rails up

Slack’s report also revealed that 52% of employees say a flexible work schedule is the best way when it comes to productivity, however:

“The issue is far more nuanced than giving people free rein over their schedules and specific working locations. The key is to create workplace policies with intention. 

"Is it useful to be in the office when no one else on your team is there? Are there certain tasks that benefit from an office setting?”

And employees are self-aware enough to know this! Just look at the numbers below:

Productivity is a complicated subject that needs clear guidance. (Source: Slack).

Brainstorming and collaboration are still viewed as a positive in-person activity, while they also recognise it’s sometimes just a case of being available at the same time as those you work with - not necessarily being there with them in person.

The good news is that, according to a recent survey of 1,000 UK employees by Lattice and YouGov, almost 50% of employers are delivering flexibility.

Whether or not they’re following Slack’s advice of being intentional with it is a grey area, but that’s something we can all aim for as we tackle these 2024 workplace trends.

4. People don’t want to leave, but they need the right reason to stay

No point sugar-coating this one…

There seems to be a significant gap between what keeps people at companies and what companies are offering.

Here's a reminder of the numbers we shared earlier, before we unpack what all this means.

Only 9% of people said they were vulnerable to poaching in 2023, down from 22% in 2022.

While the likelihood of leaving’s gone down, the value of purpose and career goals has gone up

According to Betterworks’ 2023 Global HR Research Report pay, company culture and flexibility were high in importance, but career goals and purpose saw the highest-growth on 2022 numbers - jumping by 15%!

Development saw the most growth in employee priorities. (Source: Betterworks)

And the rest of the report is a goldmine for numbers around what’ll get your best people to stay.

It was essentially beating us over the head with a big inflatable hammer that says:

People want to stay and grow at your company - give them learning and development opportunities.

  • Three in four employees would prefer to advance at their current company.
  • While 61% cited pay and benefits as a key reason to stay, 41% named career growth.

Where are people teams currently falling short?

Access! The career conversations and paths to progress just don’t seem to be there right now.

Only 48% see a path for advancement in their current company, and a similar number (46%) feel supported in their career aspirations.

And it could be a case of what HR and people teams are choosing to prioritise.

Coming back to that Lattice and YouGov research - the report that asked which benefits were offered by employers - which showed that while flexible working, wellbeing support and bonuses were high up the list...

Development opportunities, pathways and conversations propped up the list - something we need to do as we tackle our 2024 workplace trends.

Career growth and development aren't frequently offered. (Source: Lattice).

Now that we’ve given people flexibility and support for the things outside their role, we have to shift focus to their career goals.

Especially in a period of talent shortage, where hiring skills externally becomes more expensive and less sustainable. Building skills from within and setting people on purposeful career paths go hand in hand.

5. Revamping performance reviews and management could drive trust and engagement

Here’s the issue in just 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

Trust in performance reviews and management has hit rock bottom:

  • 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 you hit a low, the only way is up!

So we’re reframing this to a positive: How do we rebuild performance so it works and people love it in 2024 and beyond?

This is how performance management should be done now

The goal is to gear employees towards adding maximum value.

The foundation should be our review process.

And the problem is often a lack of structure or people trying to do too much in those sessions.

In a fast-changing world, there are five simple, universal questions you can use:

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?

Congratulations, you’re not only driving the conversations towards impact, you’re creating consistency and transparency.

Something that’s missing right now and undermining people’s trust in performance reviews.

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

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

Fair performance reviews are crucial. (Source: Betterworks)

The answer is not simply adding in more check-ins

Ever heard of the idea of scaling your problems?

An example would be hearing your company doesn’t have a good feedback culture and just adding in more surveys.

But that won’t work if we’ve not given people the skills of giving clear feedback and being open to constructive criticism.

Instead, the wrong thing is just happening more often.

In a world where the current performance review process is the problem, more of the same is more of the stuff people don’t like.

So the answer comes in enabling managers to build out the right framework and skills, and here’s where Betterworks discovered they need help:

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

Rounding up these five 2024 workplace trends with actions you can start taking today.

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

1. People who don’t learn leave companies: They want challenging work that develops them and has purpose. So try connecting people’s goals to business priorities, building skills profiles that help close skills gaps and delivering learning in the flow of work.

2. Employee stress is at an all-time high: And with more than half of employees describing themselves as quiet quitting, it’s time to gauge how and why this might be a problem in your organisation.

3. People want productivity and flexibility with the guardrails up: There’s a pressure to always be on that needs addressing, meanwhile employees recognise certain environments work best for different tasks - so provide flexibility but with intentionality to support it.

4. Just 9% believe they’re vulnerable to poaching: And the biggest reason they stay is career development and progress, the trouble is that many companies don’t do this well enough. It’s time for an honest assessment of your development offering.

5. Performance reviews and management are lacking trust and engagement: Which you can tackle by gearing conversations towards performance and creating a sense of consistency in how each employee accesses these types of conversation.