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What Comes Next for HR Professionals?

Companies should invest in the employee experience, skills building, and technology to gain insights into workforce trends in 2024.

By Simon Kent

As the end of the year approaches, HR is no doubt busy ensuring hardworking employees enjoy the break they deserve and are ready to come back to the workplace refreshed. But what does 2024 hold for HR itself? Will it be more of the same, or has crisis mode finally subsided enough for a more proactive approach?

“The biggest challenge for HR professionals in 2024 will be to invest smartly and efficiently in the employee experience and skill building,” says Fidelma Butler, chief people officer at cloud database platform Couchbase. “The last period of economic uncertainty forced business leaders to reevaluate spend allocation, sometimes leading to difficult decision. Given smaller budgets, HR leaders must understand what truly matters to employees and business outcomes and prioritise accordingly.” However, the greatest impact may not come through spending at all, but through enabling employees to feel they are contributing to a higher purpose, helping them to “understand their role in achieving company outcomes, receive quality feedback, develop their skills and be valued at work,” Butler adds.

Bev Cunningham, chief people officer of Ricoh Europe, is expecting the new year to see the use of technology and data to enhance the employee experience. “This will involve leveraging advanced analytics and AI technologies to gain deeper insights into workforce trends and behaviours, thereby enabling more strategic and informed decision-making regarding talent management and organisational growth,” she says. “This approach will aim to inspire employees towards finding fulfilment in their roles and thus deepening their engagement within the organisation.”

Attraction is also firmly on the agenda with a determination to bring the right people into the workplace. Cunningham says HR teams are set to concentrate on “talent shaping and acquisition,” making sure they capture the skills, capabilities, and talent needed to address present and future business challenges.

Cunningham agrees the HR function should be proactive in understanding the available technology, if only to ensure they stay ahead of the curve rather than always trying to keep up. The potential is already there to leverage technology in order to streamline administration functions, gain efficiency in workflows, and create a smooth consistent employee experience.

But alongside technology, Cunningham intends to address Ricoh Europe’s employee value proposition to ensure it remains competitive among digitally skilled workers. Like Butler, she wants to make sure everyone feels valued, supported, and empowered. Part of this means ensuring the employee voice is heard, and the company is looking to provide and maintain platforms where this communication can take place.

Áine Fanning, managing director of Cpl’s Talent Evolution Group, a company that offers talent solutions for businesses, says employer brand and candidate perception will be more critical within the war for talent going forward, particularly with the proliferation of social media use among those who have contact with an organisation.

“Job seekers viewing a company’s profile on employer review websites like Glassdoor, Comparably, and Vault, pay close attention to ratings and reviews, which can significantly influence whether they choose to move forward in the application process,” she says. According to Glassdoor, 84% of job seekers state that this kind of information and feedback is very important when making decisions about job application.

However, this is not just about the use of workplace review websites. Other social media platforms can amplify word of mouth opinions, creating highly influential views of a business even if it is only based on one person’s experience. “In 2023, we have witnessed the increasing trend of people exposing toxic company cultures on TikTok, particularly among Gen Zs,” says Fanning. “One disgruntled employee or candidate’s poor experience candamage talent attraction considerably if an online post or video gains enough traction.”

One initiative Fanning believes companies should take in the new year is the use of exit interviews. “Data from our 2023 talent retention survey found that 55% of U.K. employees were not invited to a formal exit interview when resigning from their last job role,” she says. “This is concerning as exit interviews are crucial to maximising engagement and retention for future employees. Without identifying and addressing the genuine reasons for talent departure, companies’ risk perpetuating the same errors with new hires.”

For Jesper Diget, group chief people officer at business solution consultancy emagine, culture and well-being will be important in the new year. “In a corporate setting, making sure you are an attractive employer by creating a safe and trusting environment will not only ensure employees thrive, but will distinguish your business from your competitors,” he says.

As a Nordic company, emagine is seeking to leverage their culture across all locations. “This means every part of the group adopts the same open-door culture, has a flat hierarchical structure within the team, and champions employee empowerment as a core influence of business decisions,” he explains.

Ultimately, emagine is aiming to position itself as the best place to work in their particular industry sector. “It’s an ambitious task,” admits Jesper, “but we are reviewing every area of the business in fine detail to ensure we are offering our employees competitive benefits. We also want to provide our employees with the opportunity to constantly learn and improve, boosting the overall motivation across the organisation.”

Reflecting on her personal journey, Butler, who only joined Couchbase as CPO in February 2023, is looking forward to taking action based on what her business’ employees truly value. “The upcoming year will be powered by the action areas from our recent employee engagement survey,” she says. “I’ll be prioritising efforts in total rewards and career development, establishing practices to drive diverse representation and inclusivity, optimising systems and processes, and investing further in leadership and communications.”

Butler is also looking to extend the company’s leave and benefits packages, relaunch employee communities for under-represented talent, and expand leadership coaching.

Until this point, she says, her focus has been on moving the people function up the scale in terms of operational efficiency and strategic impact. Having established herself and the function within the business, the time is right to push forward on some new fronts. Many in the HR function will be using the new year to take a similar path.

Tags: Current Features, EMEA November December 2023

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