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Navigating the Future: Key HR Trends for 2024

Navigating the Future: Key HR Trends for 2024

January 2024


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In this whitepaper, we will dig into the specifics behind the growing role of the CHRO and some of the pivotal topics HR leaders should have in focus heading into an important year.

Everywhere you look, the relationship between businesses, executives, and employees is becoming more complex. 

McKinsey recently referred to 2023 as “Generative AI’s breakout year.” Last year was also a time when many businesses genuinely grappled with the long-term repercussions of remote, hybrid, and in-person work requirements. Inflation continued to put pressure on both individual living expenses and corporate budgets alike.

Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs), or Chief People Officers (CPOs), along with other HR leaders, have been on the front lines throughout this flood of changes. They have strived endlessly to meet corporate goals and maintain company priorities, while also caring for worker safety and well-being. They have considered the ongoing repercussions of past events while simultaneously planning for the future.

As we head into 2024, HR executives will not only have a seat at the table as each member of the C-suite considers their brand’s next steps, but for many enterprises, HR will also play a key role in overall company structure and decision-making.

The Growing Role of the CHRO

Below, we are going to consider several specific trends that Chief Human Resource Officers must be aware of to find success in 2024. Before we do that, though, let’s back up and consider some of the larger changes impacting this essential C-suite role, which has evolved so dramatically in recent years.

Technically speaking, the role of the CHRO has existed in some capacity with most group activities since the earliest points in the history of mankind. In ancient times, the pharaohs assembled entire administrative authorities to oversee the care and upkeep of their workers as they built the pyramids. During the American Civil War, quartermasters saw to it that each soldier had the clothing and equipment they needed to perform their duties.

In the modern workplace, the role of human resources (HR) looks different. In most cases, HR is not tending to the physical act of feeding and clothing workers. Even Google is cutting back on many of its classic “above and beyond” worker perks.

Instead, traditional corporate Human Resources tends to focus on the overall employee lifecycle from recruitment to termination. Between those two endpoints, they also aid in onboarding, training, and upskilling employees over time.

As we approach the quarter-century mark, the role of HR representatives is expanding beyond these iconic areas of recruitment and talent management, too. HR leaders, in particular, are investing more time, energy, and resources into improving the mental and physical well-being of their workforces as it pertains to work-life balance and professional performance. They are also shouldering an increasing workload on an executive level in countless companies and industries. CHROs have an important voice in other leadership decisions, and they play a bigger role in the C-suite than they have in the past.

This growing and evolving set of responsibilities has made it important for companies and their executive recruitment partners to find the right individuals for each HR leadership position. It also puts pressure on the HR leaders themselves to keep up with the increasing rate of change.

Twenty-first-century CHROs must operate with a high-performer mindset. They must unlock the best version of themselves if they are going to draw similarly positive and productive elements out of those around them. 

McKinsey adds that the evolving archetypes required to succeed in HR now put greater emphasis on things like innovation and adaptation. HR must consider the impact that things like artificial intelligence (AI) and similar forms of cutting-edge technology have on operations while still caring for human workers. 

CHROs can no longer follow the age-old principles of hiring and firing and call it a day. They must consider both current and future trends in employment and make ongoing adjustments accordingly.

With so much change perpetually taking place, it is important for CHROs to avoid falling behind the eight ball. The best way to do this is by proactively studying unfolding HR trends.

7 Key Things That Should Be on HR’s Radar in 2024

One of the best ways to stay at the forefront of HR is to observe new trends either before or while they’re taking place. When that happens, HR leaders can adapt on their own terms. They can make changes for themselves, their employees, and even their fellow executives before it becomes a costly necessity. 

This proactive stance buys time to ease transitions. It allows HR to fully grasp new changes first and then acclimate workers to new policies without feeling the pressure to accelerate their adoption due to external pressures.

With all of this in mind, here are seven key HR trends heading into 2024. CHROs and other leaders in Human Resources should have them on their radar throughout a year that is likely to be rife with change of one kind or another.

1. HR’s Role in Digital Transformation

For those who saw the term “digital transformation” and rolled their eyes, it is an understandable reaction. HR has been warned of the perils of falling behind in the technological realm for decades now. But the “broken record” narrative does not change the fact that digital transformation remains as relevant—dare I say more relevant—as ever. 

Allow me to jog all of our memories with a brief reminder of the definition of the term itself. Digital transformation is a broad term that refers to the adoption and application of technology across an entire business.

This is an ongoing and comprehensive process. The information technology experts at Accenture add that this is a fundamental change and one that requires more than just plug-and-play applications. 

Good digital transformation stems from people change management. It requires HR oversight and direction as individuals, teams, departments, and entire workforces are shown the value of each piece of technology and are then trained and retrained to remain efficient while using it.

In a year when technology on every level remains more important than ever before, managing digital transformation should be at the top of every HR leader’s to-do list.

2. AI’s Applications in Recruitment

2023 was the coming-out party for generative AI. We learned what the latest and greatest algorithms were capable of and began to scratch the surface of AI’s infinite potential.

With that said, 2023 also felt like a bit of a mulligan year for the fledgling digital innovation. Sure, the leading generative AI tool, ChatGPT, became the fastest-growing technology ever after gaining 100 million users early in the year. But by August, the big news (via Yahoo Finance) was simply that its creator, OpenAI, might actually begin generating enough income to avoid repeating the $540 million loss it incurred in 2022.

In other words, while AI may have been in the limelight last year, it was not yet ready to be a heavily adopted and profitable technology. That narrative seems set to shift in 2024. As the applications of generative artificial intelligence become more apparent, this new wave of AI technology is likely to impact recruitment as significantly as any other area.

Generative AI already has the potential to influence virtually every aspect of the Human Resources department. It can help create job descriptions, analyze applications, review job performance data, streamline onboarding, and generate feedback from workers.

At the same time, CHROs should continue to view AI as a two-edged sword. Sites like TealHQ are already helping candidates use generative AI to create resumes and cover letters. While there’s nothing wrong with this when used correctly (i.e., applicants make sure to review and clean up any AI-written content they generate), it does open up the door for more fraud and factually incorrect data in the recruitment process.

As a final note on AI in HR, this is yet another solid reason to work with an executive recruitment partner like Stanton Chase. We put in the legwork to keep up with the pros and cons of technological change so that you can make the most critical hires—your leaders—with confidence.

3. The AI Revolution’s Impact on Worker Morale

Speaking of two-edged swords, another negative aspect of AI in the context of HR is the impact that it will have on human workers. This is by no means an all-bad thing, but it is one that HR leaders should keep a close eye on.

Along with considering how you can positively use the technology in the workplace, it is important to gauge how the use of generative AI is affecting the well-being of your workforce. This is both an existing and potential consideration.

As far as existing impact is concerned, AI is already replacing jobs hand over fist. The burgeoning technology replaced 4,000 jobs in May of 2023 alone. By the end of the year, 37% of companies reported that the tech had already replaced workers, and 44% reported that AI would lead to more layoffs in 2024.

Obviously, the worst casualties here are those losing their jobs. But those left behind also remain unsettled and uncertain—and it is up to HR to ensure that they are seen and heard. This is not just a nice gesture. It is a critical part of maintaining engagement and productivity.

The first step in addressing this is to maintain communication and transparency, both of which are high priorities for many modern workers. The next step leads us to our next trend…

4. The Unparalleled Importance of Upskilling and Reskilling

One of the best ways to combat the employee anxieties created by AI is to give workers the confidence to engage positively with the inevitable. In other words, HR leaders must seek ways to upskill and reskill workers to utilize generative AI and other digital transformation tech to their advantage.

McKinsey estimates that AI could soak up as much as 30% of work hours by 2030. The company also reports that there could be as many as 12 million occupational transitions by that time.

CHROs must take a leading role in shepherding the mass transition that is about to unfold. The specific skill gaps vary with each industry, company, and role, but in all cases, HR leaders must look for the best ways to retrain their workforces. They must empower their workers not just to survive the AI revolution but to take advantage of it.

This applies to new employees all the way up to leadership development. As you create talent pipelines and cultivate candidates, make sure to include AI training in the mix.

5. The (Still) Growing Focus on Health and Wellness

I briefly touched on the health and wellness angle earlier, and it is important enough that it is going to get its own section. Modern HR leaders must look further than recruitment if they want their employees to remain both loyal and engaged.

This includes equipping them with the ability to care for their health and wellness. These are major priorities, especially for the younger generation entering the workforce.

For instance, when asked what their New Year’s resolutions were for 2024, Gen Zers prioritized things like staying healthy and self-improvement or development. They also included things like entrepreneurship and exploring career paths, but at the end of the day, the number one concerns tended to focus on physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

It is understandable why these are priorities, too. We just came through a global pandemic. Depression and anxiety are widespread. Drug overdose deaths are at an all-time high. As young workers establish themselves, they want to stay healthy, and HR leaders should help them explore solutions in 2024.

6. The Emphasis on DEIB

The trio of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) has been a common focus in HR for a while now. However, recently, the DEI acronym has been expanded to include “B” for “Belonging.”

This is a key concept that brings the entire spirit of DEI together. While diversity, equity, and inclusion have been priorities for HR leaders for years, the belonging concept seeks to go a step further. It is an active effort to make all of your workers feel that they belong to a work community that matters.

If you are wondering if inclusion and belonging sound like the same thing, there is a subtle difference. Online mentoring platform Qooper explains that inclusion refers to a welcoming and respectful work environment. Belonging is a feeling of acceptance as part of a larger community of individuals. 

DEI has been around for years now. However, in 2024, the more recent emphasis on DEIB will be a critical part of cultivating a workforce that buys into your workplace culture and is engaged, positive, and productive. HR leaders should ensure that they are effectively executing DEIB within their companies this year.

7. Keeping an Eye on Politics

Finally, we are heading into an election year in the USA that is red-hot and ripe for discord and disagreement. As the political waters heat up again, HR leaders must think about how they can maintain calm, peaceful, and respectful workplaces.

They must also consider how they should react if, and when, HR-related legal decisions occur. From generative AI regulation to DEIB legislation to payroll, there are many ways this can happen.

One need look no further than the June 2023 decision by the Supreme Court to curb affirmative action initiatives in higher education as an example of how quickly the rules can change. As an HR leader, it is your responsibility to stay up to date and have a plan in place if and when changes take place.

Navigating 2024 as an HR Leader

Human Resources is center stage at the moment. Twenty-first-century CHROs are intimately involved in running their companies, and in a year filled with change, they need to take that responsibility seriously. We are in the midst of a massive shift in how the work world integrates AI and recruits and manages our fellow humans. It is important for HR leaders to be prepared.

Twenty-first-century CHROs are intimately involved in running their companies, and in a year filled with change, they need to take that responsibility seriously.

If you are feeling unprepared, or you want additional HR support as we head into 2024, reach out to the Stanton Chase team. Our executive search consultants can help you successfully conduct your C-suite recruitment and meet any additional HR needs as we all prepare to face the ups and downs of the year ahead.

Here’s to a prosperous and successful 2024!

About the Author

William Brewer, CCP, is a Director at Stanton Chase Los Angeles. He is also Stanton Chase’s Global Human Resources Functional Leader. Prior to moving into executive search, Bill had 25 years of experience in corporate human resources. In addition to his executive search career, Bill is an adjunct Professor at the University of Redlands. Bill also serves as a mentor for the MBA program at the Paul Merage School of Business at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and has been a mentor with the School of Business at the University of Redlands.  

Executive Search
Leadership Development
Talent Management and Employee Well-Being

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