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5 Trending HR and Recruitment Topics for January 2024

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The HR and recruiting world is abuzz with forecasts for 2024. 

The impact of generative AI (GenAI) is a major theme with experts discussing how this new technology will impact leadership and upskilling initiatives. 

The rise of fractional executives is also under discussion with predictions more companies will hire contract or freelance C-suite executives. 

New laws have brought the gender pay gap back into the spotlight and climate quitting is on the rise as employees seek to work for values-aligned organisations. 

Xref branded green graphic with text that says Generative AI impacting how managers lead

Trend 1: GenAI will impact how managers lead 

According to Morgan Stanley, GenAI technologies will likely affect a quarter of all occupations today, rising to 44% within three years. 

Given the rapid pace of GenAI adoption, it’s safe to say both human and digital workers (AI) will make up the modern workforce. As a result, managers must now consider how to leverage GenAI to achieve more with their teams. We are in the early stages of discovering exactly how GenAI can help employees get more done and it’s up to leaders to begin the investigation (if they haven’t already).

For example, GenAI can help leaders with decision-making and strategic planning. By analysing datasets, recognising patterns and predicting outcomes, GenAI tools can offer invaluable insights for business strategy. 

In the recruiting world, leaders can use GenAI to make workforce predictions and plan future talent strategies. 

GenAI can also help employees become more productive in their day-to-day helping with rote tasks like drafting content and writing code or, in the case of HR, answering employee queries. Assistance with low-level tasks can help employees become higher performing allowing managers to set higher goals and targets. 

The challenge for managers lies in discovering just how they will use GenAI with their teams. Overall, managers must get better at finding problems to solve and learn how to create efficient workflows that include both human and digital workers. 

Companies already leveraging GenAI

Large companies around the world like Deloitte,  PwC, Walmart and Microsoft have launched their own GenAI-powered work buddies. 

These platforms can perform tasks like: 

  • Writing content like emails and announcements
  • Generating code for software development 
  • Building presentations 
  • Creating report summaries 
  • Setting meeting agendas and summarising minutes 

With hundreds of thousands of workers already set to use GenAI as part of their work this year, it’ll be up to managers to understand how GenAI can help their teams and reorganise work, resources and expectations accordingly. 

Xref branded green graphic with text that says The Great Upskill

Trend 2: The great upskill 

As we noted in Trend 1, GenAI is here to stay. Thus, employees around the world need to upskill and prepare for a present and future where AI is part of working life. 

It’s less likely employees will lose their roles to AI and more likely they will lose them to AI-trained professionals. 

Recruiting and HR teams are increasingly focused on hiring staff that are already digitally savvy so they can help take businesses to the next level in a world where AI will be commonplace. 

In response to this global demand to upskill, PwC has invested $1 billion in training its workers on AI with courses on topics such as the ethics of AI, responsible use of AI, and how to create AI prompts to generate the best results. 

Companies around the world will follow suit by offering better resources for upskilling, through programs such as in-office workshops, partnerships with academic institutions, mentoring schemes and trials that expose workers to multiple parts of the business. 

Cross-skilling is also becoming important 

Upskilling won’t just be confined to AI. 

Tight labour markets are causing business leaders must rethink how to utilise their existing workforce. 

One strategy is to cross-skill workers in areas like coding, cyber and project management so they can move around an organisation as needed.  

For HR and recruiting leaders, focusing on upskilling and skills-based talent management may help workplaces develop internal talent marketplaces and expand internal talent pools with better-trained individuals. 

Xref branded green graphic with text that says The rise of fractional workers

Trend 3: The rise of the fractional executive 

The freelance and gig economy has been growing for years and now experts suggest part-time work is set to become even more common. The rise of AI-powered platforms is predicted to take grunt work from employees allowing people to spend less time at work.  

An offshoot of this growing trend is the rise of the fractional executive. Fractional executives are experienced C-suite professionals who work with organisations on a freelance, contract or part-time basis. 

We can expect to see more fractional executives on the market as more C-suite executives are leaving the corporate world in search of better work-life balance and more control over their working lives. 

The benefits of working with a fractional executive 

Fractional executives are an asset to companies when they can: 

  • Plug talent gaps: Stepping in when a C-suite member resigns and finding a replacement is taking longer than expected. 
  • Focus on specific projects: Companies use fractional executives to focus on specific priorities benefitting from high-level expertise without a full-time salary
  • Offer new perspectives: Working with many clients gives fractional executives broader knowledge your company can harness. 
  • Allow quick results: Hiring a fractional executive is a much faster process, they can hit the ground running and offer ROI relatively quickly. 

For the fractional executives themselves, this style of work can offer more autonomy, better work-life balance, no income limit, and more variety

HR and recruiting leaders can leverage the rising popularity of fractional work by assessing their workforce and talent gaps and thinking about how these holes can be filled with experts who require fewer working hours. 

Xref branded green graphic with text that says Gender pay gap back in spotlight

Trend 4: Closing the gender pay gap 

Discussions around closing the gender pay gap are receiving renewed attention among HR professionals. 

In June 2023, the EU Pay Transparency Directive came into force introducing obligations on employers to disclose salaries at the point of recruitment and comply with requests for pay data, among other things. 

The directive only applies to EU nations but countries around the world are feeling the pressure to match these standards. 

In Australia, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) will publish a gender pay gap of businesses with more than 100 employees on February 27, 2024. 

“For the first time, we will see at an individual level what's happening in individual businesses across Australia," Women Minister Katy Gallagher said to HRD Australia

In 2023, Australia's gender pay gap narrowed to 21.7 percent, but women still earn less than men.

On average, Australian women earn 78 cents for every dollar men earn, with an annual pay gap of $26,393. 

New data emerging from around the world will continue to encourage discussion around initiatives that can help women.

Initiatives to close the gender pay gap 

Speaking to SBS News, Joseph Mitchell, acting secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions listed the following initiatives as ways to help close the gap: 

  • More parental leave 
  • Pay rises in female-dominated sectors
  • Targeted interventions in certain businesses and sectors  

In the EU, there is a push to offer more pay transparency with measures including: 

  • Indicating initial pay levels in job descriptions 
  • Avoiding asking about previous pay history 
  • Providing employees access to information about individual pay levels and average pay levels broken down by gender 
  • Prohibiting pay secrecy clauses in employment contracts 

HR and recruiting teams can become proactive about closing the gender pay gap by implementing initiatives like the above before they become compliance standards. 

Xref branded green graphic with text that says Climate quitting set to increase

Trend 5:  Climate quitting to increase 

In 2024, an organisation’s approach to sustainability will become an important talent magnet. 

Employees unhappy with their organisation’s stance on climate issues are more likely to quit and find work more aligned with their values. 

According to a 2023 survey of 4,000 employees across the US and UK, 51% of workers say they would consider quitting their jobs if the company’s environmental actions don’t align with theirs. And, 35% of employees said they already have resigned over climate issues. 

The number of quitters rose to 44% among Gen Z and Millennial workers, who also said they would take a pay cut to work for a company that shared their values.

A growing number of publicly traded companies have already committed to sustainable practices with more companies expected to follow. 

Companies like, Alphabet, Apple, Cisco, and PayPal, have created sustainability annual reports with Alphabet committing its entire $5.57 billion Sustainability Bond to support environmentally and socially responsible projects such as clean energy, clean transportation, and circular economy design.

Retain staff by focusing on sustainability 

If they aren’t already, organisations can start focusing on sustainability as a way to attract and retain staff. 

Companies who are yet to prioritise sustainability can do so by: 

  • Revamping or creating Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) policies with a specific focus on the environment. 
  • Addressing ESG concerns when attracting, motivating and working to retain staff. 
  • Working to implement ESG policies to display true accountability to candidates and employees. 

For example, at Xref part of our ESG policies involves reducing paper consumption by using digital files and cloud-based sharing. We run all services via Amazon Web Services, with the lowest level of environmental impact possible and offer hybrid working which helps lower our carbon footprint. 

Final thoughts 

If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last few years, it’s to expect the unexpected. 

No one knows exactly what the year will bring but we can be certain about a few HR and recruiting trends for 2024. 

GenAI will directly impact how people lead, what workforces look like, and current upskilling initiatives. 

More discussions on the gender pay gap are likely to happen in the first half of the year as key reports are released, laws are enacted and transparency heightens around the world. 

Workers will continue to put their values and lifestyles first with many professionals leaving corporate life for fractional work which can lead to a win-win situation for independent workers and corporations. 

More employees may also quit due to climate-related issues pushing organisations to further focus on sustainability policies and practices. 

Whatever unfolds, the team at Xref will be here reporting on trends every step of the way.

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