November 28, 2023

When it comes to 2024 HR trends, the emphasis on workplace culture is stronger than ever. In fact, McLean & Company’s HR Trends Report 2024  lists recruiting and providing a great employee experience as the top two priorities for organizations—the same as last year. 

However, the way employers approach these areas continues to evolve out of necessity. So, what does this mean for employers as we enter the New Year? Where should you reassess, update, and implement change?

Data from the HR Trends Report 2024 found that:

  • There is significant opportunity and room for improvement in leadership skills development—only 25% of respondents said their HR team is highly effective at building talent.
  • Employers that fail to design a positive employee experience see 36% more voluntary turnover.

Essentially, it’s time for business leaders to focus on building a people-first environment through their HR policies and procedures. Check out the seven crucial areas to prioritize below—and if you notice a running theme of DEI, flexibility, and talent development, you’re right on the mark!

1. Identify New Opportunities for DEI

While diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts have risen to the forefront of HR trends in recent years, many companies are still missing the mark. Some only act when it’s too late, while others make attempts at initiatives and campaigns that simply don’t appear genuine. 

Look at the fiasco with Bud Light’s Pride campaign from this past summer. The company received backlash from both sides: First, their conservative audience for the initial campaign; then, the LGBTQ+ community for their on-the-fence response and backpedaling. Yikes

If you’re going to take a stand, truly take a stand. Live out the values and principles you tout. Your equitable practices could include:

  • Equal education opportunities
  • Reskilling and upskilling
  • Equal pay
  • Using data and technology for blind recruiting
  • Promoting mental health and offering resources

Yet, only a third of organizations have a formal DEI strategy, according to the HR Trends Report 2024. But this should be more than an HR trend—both because it’s the right thing to do and because it can have such a positive impact on your business! The data found that companies with a DEI strategy are 1.4x more likely to report high overall organizational performance. 

To embrace DEI, you’ll also want to develop an authentic voice on those issues you choose to focus on. Collaborate with your marketing team to make this a part of your brand and convey it consistently, both internally and externally. Conduct regular DEI training, with specific sessions and workshops for leadership and your entire team.

Dive into more strategies for managing diversity in the workplace.

2. Revisit Your Recruiting & Hiring Strategies

How and where are you finding new team members? This is a powerful area to implement your new DEI initiatives!

Tap into the “hidden workforce,” which the Academy to Innovate HR (AIHR) notes includes retirees who want to work, caregivers, neurodiverse individuals, people with long-term health issues, ex-inmates, and people without degrees. This population represents 14-17% of U.S. workers! 

Recruiting talent from the forgotten workforce is both:

  • A smart business decision at a time when 77% of employers report hiring challenges
  • The right thing to do, as it fosters inclusion and removes barriers for these groups

For example, becoming a recovery-friendly workplace can offer a unique opportunity to grow your team and add fresh perspectives. The National Safety Council found that for each employee in recovery, a company saves more than $8,500 on average. Not to mention, your organization will experience improved employee retention, productivity, engagement, and job satisfaction, among other benefits. 

Another solution to combat the current hiring challenges is to shift your focus from new talent acquisition to promoting from within your organization. Millennials—the largest portion of the working population—want jobs that offer opportunities for growth and advancement. So focus on learning and development (more on this below) and mapping out their career paths. 

Additionally, refocus on skills during recruiting and development rather than college degrees or length of experience. This opens you up to a bigger, more diverse talent pool when hiring and promoting.

3. Assess Employee Compensation & Benefits

We’d be remiss when talking about HR practices and procedures if we glossed over the obvious: compensation and benefits!

Employees want to be paid well and promptly—and they’re not settling for less anymore. According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2023 Report, 28% of respondents said they want to receive better pay and benefits. And it’s not all about wages. People also want benefits that help them financially, such as travel stipends.

Reconsider your reward system, too. Focus on retention by giving employees new learning and advancement opportunities coordinated with bonuses and raises based on performance. 

Another area top talent is focused on is overall well-being. That means offering unique employee perks that allow them to focus on their physical, mental, and emotional health. People want jobs that fit into their lives, and they’re no longer willing to sacrifice time doing the things they love for work. That’s where flexible work policies and wellness offerings like lifestyle spending accounts and gym memberships come into play.

4. Update Your Employee Handbook & Policies

Another area you should review yearly is your employee handbook and policies. Of course, you’ll want to ensure your policies are compliant and review them with your legal team. But you should also approach it from a cultural perspective by looking for areas where your business can be more flexible and inclusive, keeping up with the HR trends and what employees want.

For example, parental leave, PTO, flexible schedules, and pay transparency policies could all offer opportunities for a stronger focus on employee well-being and inclusion. 

Could you offer floating holidays? They allow employees of different beliefs and religions to observe various holidays.

Are you sharing salary info on all job postings? Have you stopped asking for candidates’ salary history? If you’re embracing pay transparency, these are just a couple of steps to take.

Do you still have separate maternity and paternity leave? Consider consolidating them into one parental leave policy with equal time off for all parents. Work to break the stigmas around men’s and women’s parenting roles, like paternity leave being frowned upon. In fact, recent research found that longer paternity leave actually changes a dad’s brain and strengthens his fathering and caregiving instincts!

Check out our list of the top 11 employee handbook policies and sections to review.

5. Rethink Your Training & Development Programs

As mentioned earlier, McLean & Company’s report discussed the risk of focusing too heavily on task and functional skills over core and leadership skills (e.g., navigating change, working collaboratively, and leading others). Now more than ever, it’s important to build your talent in a way that makes them and your company more resilient against the unexpected.

An important part of building a culture focused on learning and development is to both lead by example and provide employees with the time and space to—you guessed it—learn and develop! Take a good hard look at your corporate culture. Do you create these opportunities for employees? Or is there room for improvement? 

6. Evaluate Your Performance Management Process

If you’re still using the old-school annual review system, it’s time to shift to everyday performance management! This involves ongoing check-ins and consistent feedback. Effective ongoing performance management relies heavily on clear, realistic, and flexible goals.

To truly support employees’ success, you’ll need more than the once-yearly performance appraisal. Blending weekly feedback with more frequent reviews (think monthly or quarterly) will boost employee engagement and make them more likely to achieve their goals. This holistic approach allows you to develop employees, help them pave their career path, and promote from within. 

Also, consider what evaluation methods you’re using (e.g., self-evaluation or 360-degree feedback). It might be time to change techniques or combine multiple systems, depending on your company and the roles. Learn more in our comprehensive guide for employee performance reviews.

7. Strengthen Employer-Employee Relations

The pandemic has changed when, where, and how we work—as well as employees’ expectations. This can create upheaval and challenges, so as businesses continue adjusting, it’s important to look at how you can overcome them. How can you create processes and policies that benefit both your company and team? 

Considering the current economy and recent stories of big layoffs, employees are still wary. Plus, they’ve become accustomed to working remotely and don’t want to return to the office. 

Gallup found that engagement has 3.8x as much influence on employee stress as work location. It all ties back to their relationship with their team and manager!

When you focus on the areas we’re discussing here, you’ll enjoy positive, stronger relationships with your employees. Rather than forcing employees to come back to the office or work set hours, offer flexibility where possible. Implement ongoing performance management to keep employees feeling engaged, motivated, and secure in their positions. Most of all, be transparent and realistic when it comes to performance expectations and company changes.

Do you need guidance on refreshing your practices and policies while embracing the latest HR trends? Contact BlueLion today at 603-818-4131 or to learn how we can help. We know from both our own people-first culture and helping dozens of clients build their own!

The information on this website, including its newsletters, is not, nor is it intended to be legal advice. You should contact an attorney or HR specialist for advice on your individual situation.