Turn the big three HR challenges of 2024 into opportunities

Next year could well mark a watershed moment for HR; 12 months in which trends that have been bubbling under the surface emerge to transform the sector and have a major influence on how we work.

They say bad things come in threes, and that’s what 2024 will be all about. Three major challenges, which are also entwined.

But before you decide to hibernate until 2025, remember that in every challenge lies an opportunity if handled correctly.

This means how HR teams approach next year could prove to be a defining moment for you, your organisation and your people.

You won’t find the answers here. They reside within your team and specific situation. But you will get a heads-up on what to prepare for. So, hold on tight as together we look at 2024’s big three HR challenges.

1. The push for productivity

Hot topic: Can HR solve the UK's productivity problem?

It could be said that HR has been hiding from or escaping the ‘P’ word for some time.

That’s highly likely to end in 2024. As global competition heightens amid increasing costs and limited resources, HR’s responsibility will grow from not only reporting on headcount, but also on how to get the most out of it.

Yes, productivity will be riding high at the top of the business agenda next year, and CEOs are likely to place the problem firmly in the lap of the CPO, who will need to work out how to monitor, report and drive it.

We have an increasing number of tools and technologies to help us identify, attract and manage the right people.

But 2024 will be all about researching ways to gauge how they are performing – what value they are bringing to the business and how that can be improved. Achieving this successfully could set you apart from your competitors.

But let’s not confuse this with insidious spyware.

This is all about monitoring people who are already performing well to find out how we can help them excel and optimise their productivity.

How we can inspire and motivate them. It could be everything from their working environment, to wellbeing package, to pay, to technology. And HR will be expected to play a key role in finding out.

2. Reinventing the workplace

Making the right call on hybrid work

In terms of where employers want their people to work, you could say 2023 has proven to be a more divisive year than most. After the post-pandemic exodus, the ground has shifted significantly.

There’s been a polarisation in thinking between those desperate to get their staff back into the office and those extolling the virtues of remote working. And guess who’s stuck in the middle. Yes, that’s right, HR.

Can you come up with the right solution for your organisation that satisfies your bosses, those employees who like hybrid working, and those who get frustrated that no one’s in the office?

Well, it looks like you may well have to address the issue in 2024.

Of course, this will also contribute to challenge number one. I did say they were entwined. Where are people happiest and more productive?

How can we facilitate better collaboration and less frustration? How can we bring organisations together when it looks like they are splitting apart? This could be one of 2024’s big HR dilemmas.

What do people lose by being remote? Some research has shown higher levels of attrition and lower levels of belonging where hybrid working dominates.

It looks like next year could be the time to reinvent the workplace.

Should it be somewhere to bring employees together, to help them make connections and create informal networks to drive collaboration, rather than simply being a place where they do their day-to-day work? Over to you!

Then there’s the added complication of the growing contingent proportion of the workforce.

In 2024, more organisations will wake up to the fact that the workforce is becoming increasingly extended along with the importance of this hidden element and the flexibility it can bring both organisations and workers.  

3. Supporting social mobility

How employers can get involved with social mobility

Next year will also see the dial shift with respect to ethical HR. The current three-pronged focus on diversity, equity and inclusion will be extended to ‘the forgotten value’, social mobility, which could also prove to be the most important.

Social mobility applied in the right way has the power to break the cycle of privilege breeding privilege.

It should never be underestimated the influence one leader’s privilege can have on spreading bias across an organisation based on their social standing, no matter how large. Social mobility as a defined goal can help to change that.

It can also influence motivation and performance and drive up productivity simply by removing barriers to who we recruit, how we manage them and through the knowledge that there are no limits to progression.

Embracing social mobility also underlines an organisation’s commitment to social value and making a positive impact on society.

There was a time when the big financial institutions were the destination employers for school leavers and graduates, but no more. Today, the new generation of employees favour more ethical organisation, and strong social and environmental values are key to attracting the best talent. This will be even more so in 2024.

Good luck!

So, there we have 2024 in a nutshell. Prepare for and embrace these trends and it could be quite a year for HR. Whatever happens it will be well worth the effort. Worst case scenario is you’ll be ahead of the game in 2025!

Roger Clements is CMO at Matrix