Director, Talent and Analyst Relations, Culture Amp
A note from the series editorDidier Elzinga, Founder & CEO, Culture Amp.
As we move into a new year, it’s a good time to cast our eye forward into the future and lay out the broader themes and trends that are emerging. Even better, to think about how these trends might impact our own workplaces.
Our work culture evangelist, Damon Klotz, shares his own thoughts and asks four other leaders to share theirs.
The last few years of work may have been hard, but 2023 could be argued to be one of the hardest years yet.
Market research commissioned by Culture Amp found that the top challenges facing more than 500 HR leaders included competition for talent, employee retention, balancing flexible work models, maintaining employee engagement, fostering employee development, and managing performance. While these challenges have always been a top HR priority, our survey revealed that they have all become more challenging year after year.
So where to from here?
Looking ahead to 2024, we’re entering a new phase of work where technology, leadership, and communication are about prioritizing ease and reframing productivity metrics for more cohesive workplaces.
Because when both work and the world outside work are hard, it can feel pretty overwhelming to be a working human. But if we can make it easy for people to do their best work so they feel valued, purposeful, and confident they have the tools and support to work well, we’ll be setting up employees and workplaces to succeed.
Here are my top three employee experience predictions for 2024, along with key predictions from four experts around the globe.
7 HR trends to keep in mind during the coming year
1. Regaining trust
The importance of trust in the workplace is top of mind this year, especially as trust is the foundation of remote working relationships. But trust needs to work both ways. The question isn’t can employers trust their employees, it’s can employees trust their employers?
Every year, our people scientists create benchmarks based on survey results from over 600,000 of our customers to surface insights into the cultures of the best-performing organizations.Our employee engagement surveys, in particular, measure confidence in leadership as a critical driver of engagement. While our benchmark data shows that this confidence has remained fairly steady in recent years, I predict our next set of survey benchmarks will show a significant drop in leadership confidence after the widespread layoffs that took place in 2023.
Because when leaders are quick to cut costs by cutting jobs and aren’t creating workplaces where communication is open and honest, that trust starts to crumble. Trust is hard won and easily lost.
In 2024, leaders will need to work hard to regain the trust of employees, and people will be looking for leaders who prioritize communication. They will seek the kind of leaders who share their strategic vision with the wider organization, rather than keeping their cards close to their chest or unexpectedly changing course without ever telling people why.
2. The next generation of managers is already here
The generational power balance is shifting in our workplaces. Members of Gen Y are now well into their 30s and even 40s and are coming into upper leadership positions with decades of experience. Meanwhile, Gen Z isn’t just starting to enter the workforce – many of them are already managing teams. The new generation of managers is well and truly here.
As digital natives, Gen Z has different expectations about communication, leadership, and culture at work. They’ve grown up on social media and have a different social code. They’re used to sharing vulnerabilities online, both personally and professionally, and our survey found that they are 33% more likely to do this than older generations.
They question hierarchical top-down power dynamics and want to be actively involved in the decisions that affect their work. They encourage open, two-way communication, and they have different expectations and approaches for receiving feedback, delegating responsibilities, and creating workplace connections.
They seek a culture of documentation and research where they can see that decisions have been informed by data, not gut instinct.
The Gen Z cultural shift isn’t just coming, it’s already here.
Expect closer working relationships between IT and HR teams as they collaborate on creating work tech stacks that enable the workforce of tomorrow. Because workplace tech is about enabling work to be faster, smarter, and generally better.
Hardware developments specifically designed for work will start to enter the market such as the Apple Vision Pro. The challenge for organizations will be to create equitable experiences for employees in their tech-enabled workplaces so that tech is inclusive for all people, regardless of their proficiency.
From a software perspective, AI will level up the workforce and enable better work. AI tools won’t replace humans, but they’ll empower employees to focus on higher-order work.
AI is still in its infancy in the workplace, with nearly 75% of workers in our survey saying they don’t use any AI at all, including chatbots, Bard, or Siri – so there is a long way to go to make these tools embedded and accessible.
For HR leaders, AI will unlock unique and actionable insights into their workplaces and workforces and will be a key tool in navigating future uncertainty. Technology is pushing the frontiers of workplace insights and communication in ways we’ve never before thought possible and will underpin the connection-hungry, information-seeking workforce of tomorrow.
Directives to return to the office and the “requirement of being in” are missing the opportunity to rethink the role of the office completely in 2024 (and beyond).
While the office was once the place we’d go to get our work tasks done, and offsite was where we’d connect, the office is now all about connection rather than task completion.
If you’re asking people to come into the office, you need to create commute-worthy experiences that inspire a healthy sense of FOMO rather than a begrudging sense of compliance. This compliance focus is something we’ve called ROBI, the requirement of badging in. Leading with a focus on what employees can expect when together in person (and establishing why it’s worthy of the commute) will be far more effective than leading with an ROBI policy.
This means creating experiences that can only happen in the office. For example, sessions with leadership where employees can get real-time feedback. The workspace becomes a stage for mini work “conferences,” where ideas are sparked and connections are made. The kind of experiences that are worth leaving the house for.
From our data, we’ve found employees are most interested in coming into the office for team lunches, team meetings, and development opportunities. So make these experiences commute-worthy, and get your people excited about coming into the office space to connect and grow.
The risk of this office flip is that it could lead to people doing a double shift. If they’re coming into the office to connect, they still need time to actually get their work done.
What you don’t want is a scenario where people are in the office connecting and learning and then having to put in extra time from home to catch up on the work tasks on their to-do lists. The challenge, then, is to create commute-worthy experiences that accommodate the work that still needs to be done so “going into the office” doesn’t become another “do more with less” ask of employees.
In 2024, employees in virtually every role will experience both the productive benefits and the painful reality of generative AI. From recruitment to performance management, from shift allocation to assessing training needs, every employee will experience AI in some capacity.
Human nature makes it hard for us to process the possible changes coming because we tend to think of dystopian perils ahead rather than a utopian middle ground. AI algorithms will indeed impact how an employee experiences brands, develops connections, and grapples with old and new skill sets. Moreover, if AI is only ever used to make life easier, it can potentially displace an employee’s need to learn and, worst case, even the need to think.
However, AI algorithms also bring the promise of doing more with less, amplifying the work we already do, and reducing time spent on unproductive tasks. 2024 will be the year that employees will experience generative AI in a way that will accelerate us all into a future that is forever changed.
A really significant component of employee experience is equitable compensation. The EU Pay Transparency Directive, adopted in January 2023, will shift employers into implementation mode in 2024. The obligation to collect and report on gender pay inequity data, as well as provisioning for employees to see this addressed in cases of injustice, will strongly incentivize employers to formalize career pathing, introducing leveling and pay transparency.
The downstream impact of this on employee experience cannot be understated – for many organizations, this will be a cultural revolution – and while the transformational journey will not be easy – the ultimate outcome will be greater transparency and, therefore, greater trust.
In 2024, the worker experience will be shaped by the push to adopt AI-enabled tools for greater efficiency and productivity. Workers will need to learn how to incorporate these new tools into their work – not just to do what they were doing before faster, but to achieve their objectives differently. This will require employees to be curious, experiment, and learn. Importantly, it will also require organizations to give employees the resources, time, and psychologically safe space to engage in this learning.
Further, given the “superhuman” capabilities AI tools can provide, we anticipate that some organizations will look to adjust performance objectives to capture the benefits of these new technologies. We caution organizations against going too far in this direction, as it will limit the learning mindset necessary for employees to learn about and adopt these tools effectively. Further, it will contribute to a sense of “dehumanizing” workers, which will feed further suspicion around the integration of AI into work.
Instead, leaders should set objectives that are about both the activity of learning these tools and the outcomes these tools can help workers achieve.
With the new year fast approaching, now is the time to take action in anticipation of these 2024 predictions. Think about:
Rebuilding trust by encouraging leaders to both share their vision with employees and create new channels of communication where feedback is encouraged.
The new generation of managers and how they would like to give and receive feedback, especially in the context of performance reviews.
Embedding workplace tech by better connecting IT and HR teams so that the tech being rolled out fits workplace requirements and makes work easier, not harder.
Commute-worthy experiences that spark ideas and connection, without setting people up for a dreaded double shift.
The generative AI experience as being integral to every aspect of your business. Look for ways to get your people excited about it as a way to accelerate the workplace.
Staying human in the age of AI by actively encouraging your people to upskill with AI. Set objectives around learning to use the tools and the outcomes they can create.
Greater pay transparency, which requires leaders and HR teams to prepare to have salaries and remuneration questioned. Conduct a pay audit to highlight any pay inequality in your organization, and create a plan to address discrepancies, rather than hoping they’ll remain hidden.
2024 has the potential to be a year of essential progress in the workplace evolution – where we learn from lessons learned in previous years and tune into the requirements of organizations and employees to create truly impactful and engaging employee experiences.
As we navigate generational workplace change, rethink the role of the office, and adapt to emerging technologies, the possibilities are endless. Here’s to a new year of making good things happen at work.
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