Four things that HR leaders and businesses must do to make 2024 better than 2023

After a year defined by uncertainty, Leslie Tarnacki advises on how to make the next 12 months more positive for employees and firms

Image credit: Leslie Tarnacki

For many, 2023 was a year defined by uncertainty – with record-high inflation and geo-political turbulence impacting organisations across all geographies and sectors. Ahead of the festive season, employees are tired, unsettled and in some cases mistrusting.

In 2024, companies must take action and ensure their workforce management strategies address employee needs, while supporting evolving business requirements. But what should best practice look like?

Be decisive when it comes to flexible working practices

Ongoing changes to policy have created whiplash this year, leading to staff disengagement and a widening of the ‘us and them’ culture between management and staff. The focus on returning to the office is too simplistic and often does not fully account for the unique circumstances of individuals or teams.

Companies should focus less on where employees work and more on what they are doing as a business to improve the tools provided to increase productivity and engagement amongst colleagues.

For example, instead of mandating more days in the office, at WorkForce Software my objective is to increase more person-to-person connections. We’re encouraging staff to get off email and connect with their colleagues for more 1:1 meet-ups, and volunteering opportunities to create more connection to each other and a shared purpose.

Decisive action and putting trust in employees will have a far greater impact on productivity than office mandates.

Tackle burnout at middle management level

Extra attention should be placed on tackling manager burnout in 2024. According to Microsoft’s most recent Work Trend Index, more than half of managers currently feel burnt out at work. This statistic is not surprising – after all, managers have had to navigate staff through a pandemic and its aftermath, facing situations that have required them to lead with empathy while managing growing demands.

We know that a stressed middle management level rubs off on more junior team members, who then feel pressured to work equally as hard or for just as long.

As we approach a new year, HR teams will need to provide the tools to support mental health alongside consistent training opportunities for teams to leverage these tools that are available to them.

Place attention on succession planning

Currently, we’re seeing more baby boomers filter out of the workplace. It’s clear that employers will need a strong workforce plan for replacing these exiting workers. As part of this, HR leaders need to assess whether they have the right people to step up and fill roles.

Are they able to support future leaders to be human-centric and empathetic leaders? If not, there is a lot of development to be done in early 2024 for effective succession planning.

Ways to spot these future leaders include a great attitude, willingness to learn and a desire to be part of the company's culture. Oftentimes this is more important than having a degree or specific technical skills.

That’s not to belittle the value of a degree, but more companies should recognise that there are other core values and skills that an individual can bring to the table. For example, we are educating managers on balancing specific skills with a focus on personal traits like those who embrace change, pivot to whatever is needed and show a willingness to try new things.

Avoid shift shock by being transparent about roles

The skills shortage continues to have an impact on many companies' bottom line and ability to succeed. While it’s tempting to fill vacant roles at whatever cost, emphasis must remain on hiring the right talent for the right job.

Ultimately, you’re only doing yourself and the employee a disservice by not adequately describing a role to fill vacancies. This leads to unhappy employees and the same hiring issues when they quickly leave. Next year, HR teams must remember to balance speed and relevance in hiring to reduce team turnover and disruption.

Employers must be clear about what the company culture is throughout every step of the hiring process, which will help to foster a sense of transparency, honesty and trust during the initial employment stages.

By prioritising employee wellbeing, taking decisive action when it comes to hybrid working models, embracing new recruitment practices to identify the best possible talent available and fostering a culture of transparency, HR departments will be well-placed to navigate the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead in 2024.

Leslie Tarnacki is global CHRO for WorkForce Software