Global HR Outlook Q4: Trends for 2024
In speaking with our global clients over the past quarter, we have detected plenty of excitement and enthusiasm for what lies ahead for HR in 2024. At the same time, we have noted a lot of discomfort with the uncertainty around geopolitics and inconsistencies in economic projections. This has led to a general “wait and see” attitude, with many late 2023 hiring plans postponed to 2024. As the new year becomes imminent, we are beginning to see a re-acceleration of hiring activities in each of our regions. With this in mind, we see this as a timely opportunity to cover a handful of top trends which will shape the future of HR in 2024 and beyond.
1 – The Future of Work: HR in the Driver’s Seat?
The future of work weighs heavily on the minds of CEOs as they strive to navigate the present and position their organizations for success in the years to come. To effectively guide the C-suite in shaping strategies that align with the evolving work and talent landscape, CHROs and HR leaders must possess comprehensive insights into how the future of work will impact their workplaces.
While technology and physical infrastructure often take center stage in discussions about the future of work, it’s essential to recognize the significant influence of other factors, such as remote employment and the gig economy. These factors not only shape how work is performed but also redefine the composition of the workforce and the geographic boundaries within which work takes place.
By embracing the multifaceted nature of the future of work, CHROs must take the lead and be fully responsible for driving the entire roadmap, providing informed guidance to the C-suite when making critical decisions that propel their organizations forward. CHROs can also be the “voice of reason” on generative AI, positioning it as an augmentation of HR, rather than an entity we should outsource everything to. The human-to-human element is so crucial and it’s up to CHROs to be the keeper of this messaging and how HR services should be delivered.
Now is the time for HR leadership teams to undergo transformation from within, acknowledging the new skills required across our broad function before the COO, CTO or Transformation Office beat us to it.
2 – Three HR Specializations That Need to Transform in 2024
There is much transforming to be done in HR. Here are the three that we think need the most attention:
2024 will be an outstanding year for HR from a technology perspective especially given developments in generative AI and a plethora of opportunities to digitize and automate within the function. Yet in many organizations HR leaders work on these projects with the CTO, while the HRIS function is relegated to “system implementation”. The fact that HRIS sits under Total Rewards in many companies seem to be symptomatic of the problem. Given the future that is looming large, we believe that HR practitioners will need to start to expect their tech experts to be true CTOs for HR (i.e., specialized in HR technology and People data), reporting directly to the CHRO. HRIS may also be well-overdue for a name change.
HR Shared Services/Operations
In 2024 we expect to see the area that is interchangeably referred to as HR Shared Services, People Services, and HR Operations start to become a key focal point within the HR function. It is the specialization that commonly forms the connective tissue between the HR Business Partners, the HR verticals/CoEs, and the employees.
Through people analytics, technology, and AI, the most progressive HR leaders are looking at a much more ambitious and interesting proposition for this low-key specialization: uplifting and personalizing the employee experience. HR Operations can act as the “conductor of the band” when it comes to the employee experience being digitized and automated in a way that HR has not focused on before. With today’s multi-generational workforce, this will become increasingly important as digital natives (Gen Z, Gen A, and beyond) further raise expectations on how services to employees should be delivered. To get there, this specialization will need exceptional leadership with deep skills in technology and people analytics as well as a robust understanding of the broader HR domain.
Given the accelerating pace of change we will continue to experience, talent needs will be anticipated and delivered on much faster in the future. Companies that cannot do this will be left behind. CHROs and their Heads of Talent will need to figure out:
- How to quickly and effectively use data analytics to anticipate changes in the talent landscape internally and externally.
- How to integrate more effectively: OD/Talent Planning, Talent Acquisition, and Talent Management/Development.
- Standardized, practical and reliable methods to attract, develop and retain a diverse, multi-generational global workforce.
- How to get the candidate experience right by exceeding expectations on the small things, down to interview logistics and scheduling. Today even world leading academy organizations are generally poor in this regard.
Technology and generative AI are only going to increase the pace of change and the demands on the Talent specializations going forward. We believe the degree of difficulty for Talent leaders will be highest of all HR roles in the coming year.
3 – Strategic Enablement Through Skills-Based Hiring and Talent Practices
In a quest to unearth non-obvious talent pools, and to build people capability internally, many progressive companies are successfully shifting to skills-based talent practices for selective job functions. Creating a skills-based talent lifecycle from assessment and hiring through to curated learning, career development and mobility can be a strategic enabler and means of retaining and growing talent. While skills-based practices may appear simple on the surface, sophisticated thinking is required to design the frameworks and processes. Internal stakeholder education, communication, and pragmatic discussions with hiring managers and business leaders around the ROI is paramount to ensure successful implementation and adoption by the business. Despite the challenges involved in shifting to skills-based practices, companies that have focused on problem solving for critical capabilities, project-by-project, are finding that the outcomes are well worth the effort.
In our extensive discussions with CHROs, it’s inspiring to hear about the HR profession itself embracing a transformative approach. We are encouraged by the success stories of HR functions that have taken bold steps to hire HR leaders and practitioners from diverse backgrounds, including individuals without prior HR experience, who were previously overlooked as non-traditional candidates. This shift in mindset is a significant departure from the conventional norms. Rather than limiting the talent pool, CHROs should continue to demonstrate their courage and vision by prioritizing critical skills like commercial acumen, tech literacy, and change management when making HR leadership hiring decisions. This approach allows organizations to tap into a wider range of expertise and perspectives. We have witnessed several successful appointments of “unorthodox” HR leaders in recent times, and their contributions have been instrumental in enriching organizations through the introduction of fresh perspectives, challenging the status quo, and raising performance benchmarks—especially around The Future of Work.
Looking ahead, we eagerly anticipate the continuation of this positive trend as we move into 2024 and beyond. It is our hope that organizations will maintain their commitment to diversity of thought and embrace unconventional HR leadership appointments, thus fostering innovation and driving success in the ever-evolving business landscape.
4 – The Saga of “Back to the Office” Continues
Given the time that has passed since the pandemic, it is interesting to note that “back to the office” remains a hot topic for employers and employees alike. We are seeing a more pronounced trend of employers pushing to get people back into the office for more days and often full-time. We are also seeing a continuing reluctance from employees, and this can also be an emotional hot button for many. Companies with more flexible work practices are currently finding it easier to hire and retain top talent and we expect this trend to continue.
ChapmanCG is hearing from some CEOs around the world, and particularly in the United States, that they are dissatisfied with HR not having resolved this dilemma by now. Some have said that they would consider a change in HR leadership in 2024 if this remains an ongoing issue/distraction given this “does not reflect what is best for business”.
HR is clearly the meat in the sandwich in this debate, and in a tricky situation. We anticipate that HR may be put in the difficult position of having to take a firm view either way, rather than being seen as not having resolved this to anyone’s satisfaction. For many companies there will be no perfect solution; however, we believe it will be important for CHROs to lead from the front with a firm view on this topic and a preparedness to issue consistent direction and guidance with clear and robust explanations.
5 – Emerging Business Hubs Will Re-Shape the Global Talent Picture
Refreshingly, ChapmanCG is seeing some emerging business hubs starting to create a focus on key HR leadership in certain geographies. Important examples include:
Mexico and in particular Mexico City is emerging as a regional headquarters for North and Latin America. ChapmanCG became unexpectedly busy in this geography in 2023 for regional HR leadership roles and we see this trend continuing through 2024. US near-shoring is a definite contributor to this trend, along with a well-educated, globally minded, hard-working, and affordable talent base. We expect that opportunities will abound for top Mexican HR talent in 2024 especially given regionally and global experienced Mexican talent is in short supply.
Over many years, India never quite achieved Asia Pacific regional hub status. However, more recently India has taken considerable “share of mind” from China and other major Asia Pacific markets as a key global business hub—particularly for technology and services. While a large chunk of India business is focused on “India for India”, there is also a plentiful supply of world-class Indian HR talent distributed around the world. Notably, India’s HR education and development system is second-to-none. This is a country which can only go from strength to strength in global HR in 2024.
This is a new name on the world stage, with some exciting plans. Already selected to host the World Expo 2030 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia is looking to diversify its currently oil-dependent economy. Saudi Arabia is investing in a high-tech future which will rival the United Arab Emirates and make it one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world. Its ambitious plans include building The Line, a futuristic walled city, part of a “giga-project” that will reshape the kingdom’s northwest. Assuming these plans head towards fruition, entrepreneurial, technical, and leadership talent will be in heavy demand in this exciting emerging geography.
Thanks largely to technological developments, 2024 promises to be one of the most fascinating and rewarding years ever for global human resources. ChapmanCG looks forward to sharing it with you.