Another new year, another attempt to predict how work and HR will evolve as we journey through it.
As is now HRZone tradition, we asked our top-ranking writers of 2023 to polish up their crystal balls and give us a glimpse of what’s to come.
Some have gone bold, others have played it safe – and we welcome both. A healthy mix of optimism, scepticism and pragmatism is wise as you prospect the year ahead.
So, without further ado, here’s our 12 predictions for HR and work in 2024.
Prediction 1: Recession or not, employees will expect employers to meet their demands
Gethin Nadin, Chief Innovation Officer at Benefex
I have previously predicted that the new influence workers have on the employer/employee relationship will become increasingly dominant. I believe this will continue in earnest in 2024, despite what may happen to the economy.
Even with the presence of a recession, while employees may have less choice about where they work, their new expectations and demands will need to be met to help employers buffer against the negative effects of a squeeze on income.
Engaged employees are important in a recession, so giving them what they want and need should be on every employer’s plan.
And if there isn’t a recession, the employee’s newfound authority will reign and only those who lean into and work with their people for mutual benefit will blossom in 2024.
Prediction 2: The return-to-office mandates trend will continue into 2024
Jessica Brannigan, lead people scientist, Culture Amp
While I don’t think we will see large numbers of companies returning to five days a week in the office, enterprises will increasingly move towards mandated ‘back to the office’ policies. There will, however, need to be compelling reasons for established hybrid workforces to regularly come back into physical office space.
Organisations need to align with employees’ requirements and domestic arrangements, otherwise they may risk losing the best available talent to other employers, who offer more flexibility and hire from any geography or region.
Flexibility wins – with hybrid a close second. The best talent wants to do things on their terms.
People are thinking more about quality of life and less about unrestrained materialism.
Prediction 3: Hyper-personalisation of EX will finally be leveraged to foster inclusion
Deborah Hartung, culture and leadership expert, Personify Change
In 2024, organisations will offer more hyper-personalisation of the employee experience (EX) via AI, data, and HR tech as a gateway to fostering inclusion. We’ll see a dismantling of outdated beliefs tied to age, gender, ability and productivity. Furthemore, the narrative on work dynamics will be rewritten, with more acceptance of reverse retirements, diverse life stages, and various flexible arrangements.
By leveraging technology and listening to people, we’ll see more organisations craft tailored talent journeys, benefits, and L&D paths. These employers will realise it’s not just about where and when people work; it’s about accommodating unique circumstances in every aspect of work-life integration.
Prediction 4: Role modelling will become increasingly important as organisations work to reduce toxicity and find equilibrium in hybrid working
Thom Dennis, CEO of Serenity in Leadership
The paradoxical split between systemic dysfunction and the rise of progressive thinking will continue to increase in 2024.
A positive tipping point is probably around three years away. In the meantime, some will continue to tirelessly champion the anxious, marginalised and vulnerable, and others will continue their drive to uphold a money-driven but terminally ill system.
At the same time, there is a balancing of home/remote and office working that is taking place. Organisations will tend to resist remote work and individuals will push for it. People are thinking more about quality of life and less about unrestrained materialism.
As organisations seek to find equilibrium, a new and more complete approach to role modelling by leaders and corporations, particularly for young men, will be incredibly important.
The era of colossal change programmes and large teams will yield to a dynamic approach.
Prediction 5: We’ll see a welcome shift towards outcome-driven wellbeing solutions
Dr Kate Robinson, Chief Clinical Officer, Lumo Health
With the threat of a recession still looming and employee mental health problems continuing to rise, wellbeing teams are going to have to work with tighter budgets and deliver more with less in 2024.
HR teams will increasingly rely on data-based approaches that demonstrate programme effectiveness in outcomes such as engagement. Moreover, utilisation and productivity will be essential to justify continued wellbeing spends and create a feedback loop that informs the continual improvement of wellbeing programmes.
The renewed focus on outcomes will see greater emphasis on the quality rather than quantity of initiatives offered. And services like specialised therapy, which get colleagues back to being their best (and most productive selves), sooner will be more widely offered.
Essentially, we’ll see a greater focus on solutions that actually work and that’s great news for all!
Prediction 6: HR will move away from colossal change programmes towards aggregated value creation
Perry Timms, Founder and Chief Energy Officer of People and Transformational HR
In 2024, HR will shift towards a prioritisation of value creation in every facet of our work. Organisational effectiveness will be deployed through smaller, targeted activities that eliminate superfluous processes and bureaucratic bottlenecks.
The era of colossal change programmes and large teams will yield to a dynamic approach, integrating change seamlessly into workflows. Evolutionary practices will be a collective effort, driven by individuals and teams, fostering agility and adaptability.
To capture and align these incremental changes, a new form of programme infrastructure will emerge (like open-source software) ensuring cohesiveness and coherence for everyone.
This evolution reflects a future where HR not only facilitates the impact of talent but becomes a strategic force propelling continuous improvement and smaller but aggregated value creation.
We will see the rise of leaders who act in line with their deepest values.
Prediction 7: It’s going to be a tough year for your transgender and nonbinary colleagues with heightened negative political discourse
Joanne Lockwood, CEO of SEE Change Happen Ltd
As we approach the 2024 UK general election, my prediction is that transgender and nonbinary individuals will become focal points in political debates, potentially leading to increased marginalisation.
Organisations should respond by strengthening their commitment to inclusivity, particularly through enforcing language guidelines and cultivating respectful workplace cultures.
I believe that this year will be a critical test for HR leaders in actively protecting and supporting transgender and nonbinary colleagues amidst a potentially divisive political climate.
Prediction 8: Wisdom and compassion will be at the heart of ethical leadership in 2024
Karen Liebenguth, leadership coach and mindfulness trainer
We will see the rise of leaders who act in line with their deepest values, and who practise essential attitudes such as curiosity, compassion, generosity, empathy, acceptance, trust, humility. As a result, these leaders will create conditions for freedom, ease, connection and safety across their organisations.
We are living in an era where social, political and economic injustices are rife and distress and mismanagement in workplaces is felt everyday. In this current state of suffering, more leaders will take an ethical approach, setting a daily intention to cultivate the best of themselves for the benefit of self, others and the wider world.
Prediction 9: Participative change will have its moment in 2024
Garin Rouch and Dani Bacon, Distinction Business Consulting
Organisations that engage in participative change will gain a competitive edge over their rivals in 2024.
Participative change is where leaders actively involve their employees and stakeholders early and often in the change process, rather than relying on top-down directives.
The ongoing Post Office crisis serves as a stark reminder of the risks associated with overlooking collective input and not listening to stakeholders. Participative change processes allow you to change direction when new information comes to light that will negatively impact your programme rather than forging on regardless.
As we move forward, expect a technologically enhanced yet deeply compassionate approach to HR.
Prediction 10: Employees will no longer tolerate persistent high-stress work
Nicky Marshall, Director of Discover your Bounce
In recent years we have talked much more about stress, mental health and wellbeing. In 2024 I believe more people will take personal responsibility and actions for reducing their own stress. This may be working with HR on a plan of action, or walking away from roles that aren’t sustainable to also maintain a good level of wellbeing.
As a result, organisations will need to consider how they retain and support staff by having a strong culture, supportive leadership and a well thought out wellbeing strategy.
Prediction 11: Advanced AI will begin to enhance mental health and wellbeing support
Nick Elston, Founder of Forging People
In 2024, the HR landscape is poised to evolve dramatically, especially in the realms of wellbeing and mental health.
With the integration of advanced AI and technology, HR professionals will have access to more sophisticated tools for monitoring and enhancing employee wellbeing. However, the real challenge will be in maintaining the crucial balance between technological efficiency and the irreplaceable value of human empathy and understanding.
As we move forward, expect a technologically enhanced yet deeply compassionate approach to HR, where mental health and wellbeing are not just monitored but genuinely nurtured.
Prediction 12: People will realise they miss old-school communications
Lisa Hawksworth, Senior consultant of scarlettabbott
Data from our internal communications (IC) audits paints a clear picture – people are yearning for ‘the good old days.’ Gone is the desire for the next new fancy digital tool or a thirst for AI, but rather people want the basic tools that used to be standards in the world of work.
That means more face to face time. More print. More in-person conversations. Essentially, what worked in 1994 is still desired in 2024.
Interested in more HR and work predictions? Read Four worrying signals for organisations in 2024