In 2023, HR faced diverse challenges, paving the way for innovation despite trials in employee experience, HR tech, learning initiatives, hybrid work models, metaverse integration, and DEIB efforts.
In recent years, HR leaders have faced many different challenges. The sudden need for remote work (due to COVID-19), waves of employees quitting, unstable economies, and global tensions have put them to the test. The year 2023 was no exception.....it brought its own set of trials.
Yet, with these challenges came opportunities for innovation and growth.
In 2023, HR leaders found themselves dealing with more than just typical HR tasks. They had to handle other important matters beyond their usual roles.
This means they had to juggle various priorities and take on new responsibilities that weren't part of their usual job description. This shift required them to adapt and expand their scope of work to address the challenges emerging from different areas within the organization.
So, here are the main HR trends we saw in 2023:
The usual steps to career growth—setting a path, finding new roles, and identifying opportunities—became less straightforward in 2023.
From the quiet resignation to massive layoffs, job options became less visible. There were various reasons for this change. Some employees left their jobs quietly, while others faced substantial layoffs, making job options harder to come by. Additionally, skills that were once highly valued started to become outdated, leaving many employees feeling unprepared for future roles. People started reconsidering the role of work in their lives, making current job options less appealing. HR leaders found themselves dealing with new challenges in helping employees shape careers that fit their evolving needs and aspirations.
Understanding the employee experience became crucial as companies competed for top talent. With businesses competing for the best talent and best talent only, understanding what those employees want and need in their jobs became a key focus for HR.
HR technology (especially AI)
In 2023, there was a lot of excitement about artificial intelligence (especially generative AI) and its potential in HR technology. People were talking a lot about how AI could boost productivity and the importance of using AI responsibly.
AI tools became helpful for recruiters and hiring managers because they could automate tasks like organizing resumes and managing job applicants more efficiently. Some articles even highlighted the top companies developing AI specifically for HR and recruiting purposes.
However, even though AI was a big topic, many HR departments weren't fully ready to make the most of AI technology. This means we might see more focus on better preparation and effective implementation of AI-related projects in HR during 2024.
Also, on a side note, I think it's important to state that with a limited understanding of AI and minimal regulations in place, mistakes are happening that can significantly impact both businesses and individuals. Let's not forget the cosmetics giant Estée Lauder, Company that settled out of court with three make-up artists who were removed from their jobs after failing an interview process that was assessed by an algorithm.
So, although AI can make the recruitment process faster, it is important to ensure that the technology addresses potential biases and complies with anti-discrimination laws.
Learning, reskilling and upskilling
Of course, as companies kept laying people off despite amazing fiscal years, we noticed an increased need for the employees who remained in their roles to be equipped with the right skills. Those skills were crucial for adapting to changes like automation, the integration of AI, and taking on tasks that had been previously handled by other colleagues. Generative AI was happening whether we liked it or not. I thought it was a great opportunity for HR teams to amplify their work and unlock opportunities with data and performance.
As companies evolved and technologies advanced, employees had to stay updated with the skills needed to match these changes. Investing in learning, reskilling, and upskilling programs became essential to ensure that employees were prepared and capable of handling evolving job requirements in today's dynamic work environment.
Traditionally, reskilling had been considered part of the overall corporate learning function, siloed within HR. Investments in reskilling needed a huge commitment from HR leaders, of course, but unless the rest of the organization understood the importance of those investments, it was very hard to generate the effort that reskilling initiatives required to succeed.
Hybrid work model
Hybrid work had increased significantly and was on its way to becoming the most prevalent work arrangement in most offices. Even though in August, Meta and Zoom had asked employees to return to the office. But in all of these cases, the mandate had called for hybrid work, so not a complete return. Meta required employees to be on-site three days a week; Zoom, two days. Also, in 2019, 60% of remote-capable employees spent their week working fully on-site, while that figure had fallen to just 20% in 2023.
Despite the benefits (of such an arrangement) to the employee experience, many HR leaders acknowledged the challenges accompanying hybrid work. Managing schedules and fostering collaboration between remote and in-office workers could be tricky. This sometimes led to difficulties in coordinating tasks and could have contributed to employee burnout.
Overall, while hybrid work provided flexibility, it also required careful planning and effective communication to ensure that teams could collaborate seamlessly and employees could maintain a healthy work environment without feeling overwhelmed.
It's the HR's job to stay ahead of any latest trends in the workplace — and the metaverse is no exception. For that reason, Meta Horizon Workrooms and Microsoft Mesh VR technology were designed to help employees collaborate in the same virtual room. For example, Bosch used metaverse to train their employees. Ergo (insurance companies based in Germany) used a custom VR training module to help their salespeople interact with virtual customers.
Jobs for the Future (JFF) (which is a USA nonprofit) partnered with SAP to introduce immersive learning into classrooms. Called the Skill Immersion Lab, etc. These are only some of the companies that have used Metaverse in the past years.
Of course, from an HR perspective, using the metaverse can enhance recruiting, onboarding, and talent management by using virtual and augmented reality for interactive job previews, assessments, and a more inclusive learning experience.
And despite that, HR was found a bit unprepared to handle all the challenges this technology brought. From technical challenges to accessibility concerns, security and privacy risks, limited applicability for certain types of work, and even potential cultural resistance to virtual work.
DEIB in the spotlight
Amidst the year’s challenges, some organisations faced resistance to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) initiatives, spanning various industries. This resistance highlighted a lack of support or resistance within these groups, hindering efforts towards universal DEIB promotion. However, fostering a DEIB environment remains crucial. Businesses embracing these values will undoubtedly thrive in the future. Studies suggest that focusing on DEIB can improve decision-making by up to 87%, potentially increasing revenue by 250%.
The wave of layoffs compounded this pushback, significantly impacting HR's DEIB efforts. Layoffs often create a ripple effect on company culture, affecting morale and trust among remaining employees, which can impede DEIB's progress. Furthermore, these layoffs often lead to tighter budgets and reduced HR resources, limiting funds for DEIB training and programs aimed at cultivating a diverse and inclusive workforce.
What does 2024 have in store?
In 2023, HR weathered changes and hurdles, finding innovation in adversity. Ahead in 2024, learning and adapting persist, tech drives fairer practices, and DEIB remains crucial despite resistance. Employee growth and experience, intertwined with advancing HR tech, set the stage for innovation and enriched workplaces.