Jess ElmquistDecember 22, 2023
Topics: AI

What the HR Tea Leaves Are Saying about Next Year’s Talent Trends

Before I unveil the top trends in HR for next year, it’s worth pausing, taking a step back, and assessing all that has happened to the HR landscape this year.

The talent market in 2023 will go down as one for the ages. 

Business leaders saw employee turnover stabilize for the first time in some industries from the frenetic pace of the pandemic years. Meanwhile, “lazy girl jobs,” “Bare Minimum Monday” and “rage applying” were viral TikTok trends.

The pendulum swung back toward employers this year, but that doesn’t let organizations off the hook in any way. They still have to invest in workers and prioritize their professional development. I’ll share how a little later in this article.

Connecting with CHROs and keeping the knowledge-sharing pipeline flowing is probably the most important aspect of my job, so I started a podcast in 2023. It’s always hard to tell how these ventures are going to turn out, but the outpouring of love and support from senior HR leaders is a sign that the episodes are hitting their mark.

If I had to put a finger on one topic that had the most profound impact on HR this year, undoubtedly it was artificial intelligence and its offspring, generative AI. Bar none, AI was the most talked about subject among the news media and corporate executives.

You can always tell when a technology is deeply impacting business and people, because that’s when politicians feel the need to enact rules of the road. New York City passed the nation’s first law covering AI and hiring, and the White House issued a wide-ranging presidential executive order that touches on multiple aspects of AI, not just hiring. Europe is moving in a similar direction.

[For more on the White House order, read “AI Standards: What HR Needs To Know About the New Executive Order”]

None of this is to imply that there’s anything inherently “wrong” with AI, let’s be clear. Rather, it’s the logical next step for this fast-moving technology.

What’s in store for ‘24

A new normal will be the defining theme in the HR world in 2024. Return to office policies are becoming normalized, for example. Poaching has gone down dramatically, but people will still leap if the opportunity is right. Employers would be wise to treat evolving workplace norms with an employee-centric culture and focus.

That, then, leads to these new trends.

Trend #1: Skills will continue to be the buzzword of the year. Watch for more ramped-up efforts by organizations to future-proof their workforce by emphasizing skills. AI will figure more promptly as a workforce partner with HR teams, managers, and employees becoming more familiar with the tech.

Companies that have not yet taken that step will need the advice and counsel of outside experts since the tech is moving too fast to figure out on their own.

In fact, I hosted a recent gathering of CHROs to discuss the road ahead. Several questions were posed to get their feedback, including: 

AI is going to drive a lot of new skills. Have you identified where this will impact your job at work profiles?

This question is related to generative AI, of course. One of the more popular predictions being made is that gen AI, for many roles, will become part of the job description. We’re going to start to see the tools and the copilots and the cobots that may be incorporated into one's work and your ability to use those technologies will be embedded in the job description itself. 

So there's a lot of potential there in terms of creating efficiency and productivity gains, but the notification and training required specific to AI in work is going to be a very important one.

Another question that received a lot of attention:

Do you know which tasks AI will replace? 

Almost every leap in innovation has replaced jobs, some faster than others, but the first step in this is task replacements. One of the tasks for recruiters that we absolutely know we will see is writing job descriptions. That's certainly going to be a big one.

So is interview scheduling, which has been well underway on the Phenom platform for a few years. AI has now reached the point where it has taken over the majority of scheduling interviews and follow up interviews.

Trend #2: Develop a robust internal talent mobility strategy. With a growing focus on employee development, more organizations are prioritizing structured programs and initiatives for career growth. The U.S. workforce is undergoing a major transformation mostly because of a widening skills gap, one study found. Dynamic internal talent mobility assist programs are the solution. 

Trend #3: Build a resilient and flexible workforce by giving mental health the attention it deserves. Events of the past few years, including the pandemic, return to office, and economic uncertainties underscore the need for HR leaders to engage in employee performance coaching with human-to-human interactions, not just an app.

This is a non-negotiable workplace priority. HR has to figure out how to do company-wide change management for mental health-related stress. Employees want meaningful program offerings on demand, not just during work hours.

For those who thought attention to mental wellness was a passing fad, I encourage you to get better in tune with what your workforce is telling you.

Trend #4: Double-down on DEI programs and take advantage of the diversity bonus on your bottom line. Stay focused as an organization even as DEI is being challenged in court. At least a dozen state legislatures have proposed or passed laws targeting DEI efforts, including laws aimed at limiting DEI efforts in businesses. The risks associated with DEI are only expected to grow, legal experts say. Organizations that encourage diversity of thought and insight win in the end. 

DEI can seem too large to take on. There’s so much to do that it’s easy to get stuck, so the advice I give is the same one I give all data-driven businesses — find the places where you’re stuck. Focus on the bottlenecks. 

For your organization, it might be how to promote diversity into frontline leadership or executive level positions.

Action over inertia

While I’m on the topic of getting stuck, some CHROs may be overwhelmed by their 2024 To Do Lists and not know how to get in front of a changing labor market. That’s understandable.

Reach out to me and I’ll be glad to draw up a talent blueprint specific to your organization’s business strategy. Then go forth and hit those goals for next year!

Jess Elmquist

Jess Elmquist is the Chief Human Resources Officer and Chief Evangelist at Phenom. In a previous career as the Chief Learning Officer at Life Time, the healthy way of life company, Jess hired more than 200,000 people and spoke to hundreds of his executive peers about talent trends.

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