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Deborah Hartung

Personify Change

SPARKFluencer: Sparking Ideas Influencing Change

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The Spring Budget 2024: Hints for HR on the future of work

The 2024 Spring Budget Statement offers subtle hints at a changing world of work. Culture expert Deborah Hartung postulates the direction we might be heading in, and how HR can adapt.
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This week’s Spring Budget Statement offers a mix of familiar promises of growth and change against a backdrop of economic uncertainty. Talk about tax cuts and changes to legislation aren’t new or unusual; however, this time, something is very different. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s mentions of AI, automation and public sector productivity are about more than just fiscal policy – they are subtle hints at a rapidly changing world of work.

While some measures might seem incremental, HR professionals and business leaders must recognise the underlying message: the future of work isn’t a distant concept, it’s shaping up right now.

So, whilst there are a few changes on the horizon in terms of increases to the living wage and reductions in National Insurance, there are subtle clues on how the Spring Budget 2024 can be a catalyst for accelerating the future of work. Let’s dive right in:

Flexibility and personalisation: Key to engagement

The Budget nods toward the need for greater workforce participation, but it’s up to us to make true flexibility a reality. This means embracing remote work options, flexible schedules, and being open to different contract models that address evolving skills needs.

It also means understanding that our traditional ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to benefits simply won’t cut it anymore. By tailoring benefits to individual needs – whether it’s childcare support or wellbeing programmes – we can create a more appealing and inclusive work environment.

How HR and businesses can embrace flexibility and personalisation

  • Offer flexible working arrangements: Introduce remote working options, flexible hours, and compressed workweeks, as these cater to diverse needs and preferences. Businesses can attract and retain talent while fostering a better work-life balance for employees.
  • Expand fixed-term contracts, part time roles and gig work: Where appropriate, use these models to fill critical skills gaps, ensuring fair treatment and protections for a sector of the workforce that is especially vulnerable to economic fluctuations and uncertainty.
  • Personalise employee experience and benefits: Go beyond the standard offerings with benefits tailored to individual needs. This could include anything from flexible working arrangements and childcare support to wellbeing and mental health programmes.

Embracing automation and the power of skills

With more integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into everyday software programs and workplace tools, we are faced with the opportunities of improved productivity, alongside the threat of redundancies due to automation. While the fear of automation is understandable, we shouldn’t allow fear to overshadow the opportunities that digital transformation and AI present.

Instead of resisting change, let’s invest in these technologies whilst simultaneously equipping our people with the skills to thrive alongside them. This means not just technical skills, but the adaptability, problem-solving, empathy and collaboration abilities that machines can’t replicate. Critically, leaders must be empowered to manage effectively in a world of hybrid and remote teams.

How HR can cultivate skills for an automated world

  • Invest in AI, automation and digital transformation: Embrace technology’s potential while preparing employees for the evolving landscape.
  • Upskilling and reskilling programmes: Provide training and development opportunities to equip employees with the necessary skills to thrive in the digital age.
  • Invest in leadership development: Equip leaders with the skills to manage effectively in a hybrid or remote environment, fostering innovation and continuous improvement.

Talent management: Finding, nurturing and retaining

The Budget may not explicitly focus on talent management, but that’s where our attention needs to be. Proactive identification of potential skills gaps allows us to reskill or upskill our existing employees, avoiding unnecessary churn.

Robust succession planning helps us not only identify high-potential employees but maps out a clear development path to keep them engaged and prepared for future roles.

How HR and businesses can prioritise talent management

  • Identify redundant skills and reskill employees: Proactively address skills gaps by reskilling or upskilling existing employees to align with future business needs.
  • Develop a robust talent and succession plan: Identify high-potential employees, assess their strengths and development needs, and create a roadmap for their career progression.

Apprenticeships: A gateway to opportunity

The emphasis on apprenticeships is a positive step towards closing the skills gap and creating employment opportunities for younger generations. However, businesses have a responsibility to make apprenticeships a true entry point into fulfilling careers. This means offering mentorship, training opportunities and a long-term perspective for these individuals.

What HR and L&D needs to start doing 

  • Develop apprenticeship programmes: Partner with educational institutions to create programmes aligned with business needs and the evolving job market.
  • Promote apprenticeships: Raise awareness of apprenticeship opportunities internally and externally to attract a wider pool of talent.

The Spring Budget 2024 is not a crystal ball

It might not provide all the answers to some of our biggest concerns relating to the cost of living crisis and fears about unemployment due to automation and AI. But it undeniably highlights the urgency for businesses and HR to adapt to a rapidly changing world of work.

By embracing flexibility, personalisation, upskilling and proactive talent management, we can create workplaces that not only survive the coming changes but thrive within a constantly evolving landscape.

Interested in this topic? Read Navigating the Autumn Statement changes

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Deborah Hartung

SPARKFluencer: Sparking Ideas Influencing Change

Read more from Deborah Hartung

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