2024 Trends HR Professionals Should Evaluate for a Connected Culture

By: Tim Schieffer

    What You Need to Know

    • With the growing use of AI, creating a connected culture and people-first policies is vital.
    • Employee expectations for rewards packages and benefits are changing, and it’s imperative that organizations adapt with them.
    • DEIB initiatives and learning and development programs are crucial ways for organizations to attract and retain employees.

    work life balance concept image of shoes and headphones on left and laptop on the right

    A new year typically means a renewed commitment to goals and fresh outlook for what’s ahead. But it’s also a valuable time to reflect on your organization’s overall HR approach to employee experience and evaluate how a more connected culture may be influenced by the shifting environment.

    Trend #1: Developing AI Will Force HR to Double Down on Connected Culture

    It’s no surprise that one of the buzziest topics of 2024 is artificial intelligence (AI), and it’s impacting HR departments. Not only does the technology allow HR professionals to streamline work processes and reduce human biases, but machine learning can also enhance analysis and decision-making. 

    In fact, in a recent Eightfold report, a significant majority of leaders surveyed shared that they are already using AI in a variety of ways, including employee records management, payroll processing, benefits administration, recruitment and hiring, performance management and onboarding. As AI continues to influence decision making, I’m excited for its ability to assist HR leaders with their many responsibilities. 

    In the same breath, I’m also nervous that in a rush to adopt technology that is “all the rage,” we run the risk of losing the human element of HR (no pun intended). AI is built on historical models, descriptions, patterns and competencies. It doesn’t recognize individual uniqueness. AI was created to prescribe the next best action based on an existing model that doesn’t always account for what is best when it comes to true human interaction.  

    Unintended Outcomes

    AI limitations and vulnerabilities have already given some organizations pause. A Harvard Business School survey found that 88% of HR executives knew the AI tools they were using rejected qualified candidates, in many cases based on how job descriptions were structured or desired skills were outlined.

    Data Security Concerns

    Some organizations have raised concerns about using AI to store business information, especially in light of data security. Regardless of advancements, HR professionals must be able to reassure employees (and prospective employees) that their personal information, like Social Security numbers and bank details, is secure. Similarly, in order to harness the true power of generative AI, organizations need to put an emphasis on having trustworthy data. If you want AI solutions to deliver informed analytics, reliable data is no longer just a “nice to have”—it’s a need.

    As you weigh the power of AI, I recommend keeping genuine care, love and empathy for your team members at the heart of all of your decision-making. 

    Related: A data-driven approach to recognition increases inclusivity and equity.

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    Trend #2: Total Rewards Packages & Flexible Benefits Will Be Essential

    Hiring continues to stay low. According to LinkedIn’s Workforce report, hiring is down 13.3% year over year. Combined with continued worries of a significant economic downturn on the horizon, it’s easy to see why organizations are being forced to reconsider total rewards strategies to adapt. In the coming year, it will be essential for HR professionals to make sure benefits truly resonate with employees.

    From higher rates of remote work to broader expectations individuals hold toward employers, evolving workforce needs will require new and differentiated approaches to awards. As the workforce shifts with Gen Z having more and more influence over what benefits should look like, organizations need to be responsive and make sure their offerings are not seen as inferior in the marketplace. Be open to new and different approaches to what “total compensation” can look like. 

    The evolving labor market demands a more personalized total rewards approach to meet employees’ needs moving forward. Having a full grasp of the key employee benefits trends will allow employers to assess whether their offerings are meeting employee demands so they can attract and retain talent. Employees have expressed preference and demand for benefits and rewards packages. 

    Flexible Work Arrangements

    As workplace culture has changed, flexible work arrangements are a benefit that many employees now see as a non-negotiable. Employers that offer flexible work environments will have a distinct edge in both hiring and retention.

    Related: Learn how to create a sense of belonging with your hybrid workforce.

    Healthcare Benefits

    Comprehensive, high-value healthcare benefits remain the most valued employer-sponsored benefit. These programs continue to increasingly include dependent coverage, preventive and mental health care, and wellness programs.

    Family & Work-Life Integration

    More employers are implementing personalized, flexible benefits like a Lifestyle Spending Account (LSA). LSAs are employer-funded accounts that employees use to support their individual needs or can be targeted for use in very specific well-being purposes. Family-friendly benefits like parental leave and childcare support also help employees achieve improved work-life integration, which leads to higher job satisfaction and reduced burnout.

    Trend #3: Authentic DEIB Efforts Will Continue to Enhance Employee Experience & Company Culture 

    It’s not enough to approach your DEIB efforts with the mindset of “checking a box.” Organizations need to step outside of traditional expectations and look at what the larger picture of DEIB initiatives could mean for their culture and day-to-day employee experience. While there’s always room for improvement, I think it’s exciting and encouraging to see that 53% of workers say that their company has gotten better at DEIB compared to three years ago, according to the ADP People at Work report. Early indicators show that this trend will continue. But in order to ensure these efforts are carried out in a meaningful way, organizations need to support growth authentically and intentionally.

    As remote and hybrid work environments continue to evolve, organizations will be dealing with the DEIB challenges related to a globally diverse workforce. By 2044, the latest consensus projections show that more than half of the U.S. population will belong to a minority group.

    Comprehensive Inclusion

    There will be a growing focus on promoting mental health wellness and creating supportive resources as organizations continue adopting more comprehensive and inclusive approaches. Whether that includes expanding understanding of identity and disability or championing pay transparency and shining a light on how intersectionality effects the workforce, organizations will need to become more and more proactive in their efforts.

    Competitive Advantage

    It's clear that DEIB can also be a competitive advantage, as more diverse companies have been shown to outperform their competitors. This continues to be an invaluable asset to organizations as diverse culture brings a richness of ideas and an environment of psychological safety to express and explore those ideas.

    But it’s not enough to have employees say an organization’s work has improved by a percentage point or two year over year. In order for DEIB to bring about meaningful change, these initiatives need to be incorporated across organizational programs and continually be reinforced to ensure that the messages are resonating with team members. That means incorporating DEIB messaging into culture and employer brand communications, awards and recognition efforts, learning and development programs, and more to ensure an organization is truly walking the DEIB talk.

    Related: Address generational differences in the workforce with years of service recognition program. 

    Trend #4: Rethinking Learning & Development Will Be Vital for Attracting & Retaining Top Talent—Even Within HR Roles 

    While training and skill development has always been important to attracting and retaining top talent, HR departments and their organizations are beginning to recognize just how vital these offerings are to the company’s bottom line. Not only do learning and development programs serve as a competitive differentiator when it comes to meeting the changing needs of employees, but they can also be a huge boost in establishing a human-centered employee experience. 

    Sometimes these initiatives are not keeping pace with the speed that the industry is changing. According to Gartner, only 45% of employees believe that the learning opportunities their organization offers is relevant to them. To avoid this disconnect, HR leaders need to shift their mindset, and L&D budgets, toward programs that help employees develop as people rather than as their role within the organization. 

    As a result of these changes, HR technologies are changing, too. 

    Expanded Learning Formats

    With the increase in digital learning platforms and shifting learning preferences, organizations are investing even more resources into leadership development, skill management and coaching applications.

    Global Organizational Plans

    Similarly, increasing complexity of rapidly changing workforce landscapes is expanding HR professionals' roles even further, adding stress to a team that’s already managing monumental organizational change. Being mindful of the whole organization’s business needs and creating short- and long-term plans will help activate positive change for the business, its employees and your customers.

    For HR departments that are evaluating their current L&D solutions, I recommend talking with an employee engagement expert. That way, your team has a strategic approach to move forward that is rooted in both your organization’s strategy and business objectives. 

    Related: Invest in your employees’ career development to retain top talent.

    What These Trends Mean for Employee Experience 

    Whether you’re focused on attracting new talent or building a more connected culture, adapting to the changing demands of the workforce will be vital to the success of your organization going forward. By doubling down and committing to your organization’s values and core beliefs, I believe you can capitalize on these trends to strengthen your existing offerings and hone your internal policies to provide an even better overall employee experience in the coming year.

    Ready to get dive deeper? Learn How to Develop a Connected Culture to Attract & Retain Talent

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    Tim Schieffer
    Tim Schieffer

    Tim is the Employee Experience Insights and Strategy Leader for ITA Group. With 20+ years of experience serving clients in multiple industries, including e-commerce, communications and finance, he offers a unique perspective on how to attract and retain top talent. His passion for delivering personalized employee engagement strategies helps create cultures centered on empowering people. Outside of work, you'll find him cheering on the Green Bay Packers as a proud part-owner. Go Pack Go!