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10 biggest challenges for HR leaders in 2024

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You don’t have to be an experienced HR leader to realize how challenging the job is these days. On top of the normal day-to-day work, there are the added complications of how much is in flux at the workplace.

In just the past five years, we’ve seen a sudden shift from in-person to remote work, then to more complex hybrid arrangements. Meanwhile, a robust job market has meant increased employee expectations all around. And, of course, there are the still evolving challenges coming from new technology like AI.

All this can make it feel impossible to do the job well anymore. To help you untangle some of these challenges and gain some perspective, we’ve gone ahead and listed out the most prominent HR challenges you’ll likely face this year, along with tips for tackling them.

Harnessing the power of emerging tech

New technology has always been transforming the way we work, but lately it seems like it’s kicked into overdrive. This is largely due to advances being made in the AI and machine learning fields, although data analytics and automation are also changing how we think about work. For HR leaders, this can present just as many opportunities as it does challenges. Leveraging these technologies can help streamline HR processes, enhance decision-making, and even improve employee experiences. At the same time, a failure to understand their potential impact on the workforce could be damaging.

What’s the best course then for today’s HR leaders? As impressive as much of this new technology is, the best course may be to just treat it as any other new initiative. That is to say, don’t try to take advantage of all of these new capabilities at once. Instead, take a more incremental approach that gives you ample time to educate employees on how to best use it, as well as the space to enforce best practices. If needed, bring in outside experts to help establish these rules and ensure any new technology is being used correctly. As HR experts, just remember that your role should be to establish the ideal conditions for this to occur and, if necessary, put up guardrails.

Few saw the sudden shift to remote work that took place after the COVID-19 pandemic. And, judging by the confusion that has reigned in the workplace ever since, few have been able to predict what’s the best way for everyone to work ever since. For the time being, most organizations seemed to have settled on some kind of fluid hybrid arrangement. Some employees might be fully remote, some might be in-office, and some might navigate between the two. This flexible arrangement certainly has its benefits, but it continues to pose real challenges for HR.

In order to successfully navigate the complexities of managing dispersed teams, HR leaders will need to focus on balancing flexibility with productivity. One way to do this is to establish clear communication channels for all employees, whether in-person or remote. Make sure that every employee is aligned when it comes to checking in with managers and working with teams. Likewise, ensure that the onboarding process (both in-person and virtual) helps outline what employees should expect as they work either remotely or at the office. Your job here should be to set them up for success.

Addressing complexities in employee well-being

Maintaining the health and wellness of employees has become a critical component of HR work in the past few years. The expansion of flexible work options and the growing influence of a younger generation of workers has placed a greater emphasis on not only physical wellbeing, but also mental health. The challenge for HR leaders here is not only coming up with creative ways to maintain a healthy work environment, but also being proactive about addressing their employees’ wellbeing concerns. 

Fortunately, there are many ways to do this. A great place to start is by considering strategies that help ensure a better work-life balance, such as instituting hybrid work policies or sanctioned recharge days. Employee benefits that include holistic wellness initiatives, like yoga workshops or meditation retreats, can be helpful, as can programs that look out for employee emotional health, such as mentorships. Most important is to make sure you are promoting a larger culture of wellbeing that prioritizes employee health over profit.

Evolving the employee value proposition for modern needs

Beyond just expanded health and wellness benefits, modern employees now expect to receive much more out of their jobs than just a paycheck. They want their role to give them a sense of purpose and a larger meaning, as well as opportunities for growth. The volatility of the job market these past few years means that many employees don’t expect to stay at an organization for nearly as long as past generations. As a result, they’re looking for work that not only offers attractive benefits, but also contributes to their larger career ambitions.

HR leaders interested in attracting top talent and keeping their organization competitive in the job market should pay attention to these preferences. They could start by working with department heads to make sure employees have a strong sense of agency. Can they make their own decision? Are they able to control the outcomes of their work? These are some of the best ways to make the job more meaningful. Beyond this, be creative with helping them grow. Offer training workshops, mentorships, and opportunities for continuing education. Above all, listen to what employees want in terms of growth, then work with them to deliver it.

The persistent challenge of employee retention

Retaining employees continues to be a pressing concern for organizations. According to Gallup, nearly half of employees are actively seeking a new job — a clear sign that many employers are not doing enough to appeal to their current workforce. The reasons for this can be numerous. The job may not have enough career advancement opportunities (see above) or management might not be doing its job well. Or perhaps there are more systemic issues that need to be addressed, such as a larger cultural misalignment.

Regardless, HR leaders should be at the forefront of addressing these challenges. The best way for you to do this is to implement retention strategies that are tailored to the specific needs and preferences of your employees. You should begin by holding regular feedback sessions that make it easy for you to learn what is and is not working for them. If there is a clear solution, then work with department heads and executives to make sure it rolls out quickly. If the challenge is larger or more abstract, work with the employees themselves so that they can take the lead in helping create a better and more supportive work environment.

Fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce

Diversity and inclusion aren’t just nice ideals to strive for — they also make good business sense. Study after study has borne this out. Research from the World Economic Forum, for instance, shows that companies with above-average diversity scores drive 20 percent more revenue from innovation than companies with below-average scores. Meanwhile, a McKinsey study showed that companies in the top 25 percent for racial/ethnic diversity were 36 percent more likely to have superior financial returns.

So what can HR leaders do to promote greater diversity and inclusion? There are plenty of options. Before employees are even brought on, inclusive hiring practices can help bring in a wider range of potential candidates. These can include expanding where you post your job openings and leaving out gender-based language in your descriptions. For current employees, diversity training and education can go a long way toward making a more inclusive and accepting environment, while getting buy-in and support from senior leadership can help ensure that your diversity and inclusivity goals get met long-term.

Managing data privacy and security concerns

With the increasing digitization of HR processes, along with the growing volume of employee data, it has become paramount for HR departments to take extra measures to ensure the protection of sensitive information. This not only means mitigating an increasing array of cybersecurity risks, but also navigating complex data privacy regulations and ensuring compliance with evolving regulatory requirements.

This process should start by doing a thorough audit of your existing data protection measures, then taking the necessary steps to fill in any gaps and ensure robust security on your end. Be sure to conduct regular audits moving forward to make sure this security continues to adapt with evolving threats. Don’t forget to also provide employees, both within and outside of HR, with training on data security best practices. This way, you can set up your organization to be proactive about safeguarding its most sensitive information.

Fostering a culture of work-life balance

Today’s workers want their jobs to be more meaningful and engaging — but they also don’t want it to take up their whole lives. That means HR leaders need to promote a culture that values and supports a healthy work-life balance. This is important not only for employee well-being and productivity, but also for maintaining high employee retention and remaining an attractive place to work. After all, if your workers are getting burnt out on the job, no one will want to stick around.

However, balancing a healthy work-life balance with the needs of the business can sometimes be hard. So rather than trying to figure it out for your employees, the best strategy may be to trust them to do it themselves. You can do this by offering them flexible work arrangements that allow them to create their own schedules and work when it’s most convenient for them. Help them out by promoting time management skills so that they can plan better for their tasks and make sure they complete them. And, if possible, try to lead by example so that you set the tone. The result should be a healthier, more sustainable work environment for everyone.

Austin Fossey

Cultivating leadership skills

Any organization interested in building a more resilient and adaptive workforce needs leaders. This is especially true as the number and complexity of challenges they face continues to increase. Strong leaders will not only help them navigate through them, but also inspire trust along the way through effective communication and empowerment. But where can these leaders be found? As we’ve written about before, effective leaders are not not something we should be looking for — they’re something we should be creating. 

HR departments should do this by investing in cultivating leadership skills at every level of their organization. After identifying high performers or other individuals who may be well-suited for management or leadership roles, you should offer training and development opportunities that will help them grow these skills. Even for those who may not see themselves as leaders, you can help nurture them along by creating a culture of continuous learning and growth. By doing so, you can help drive organizational success and foster employee engagement and development.

Finally, as the regulatory landscape governing HR practices continues to evolve, HR leaders will be faced with the challenge of ensuring ongoing compliance. This may include anything from changes in employment law to evolving regulations related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Regardless, staying abreast of these legal developments and making sure your organization adapts as necessary is essential.

To accomplish this, HR professionals should consider forming close collaborative relationships with legal experts. This will help ensure that any HR policies and procedures are fully aligned with the most up-to-date legal requirements. You should also proactively monitor legislative changes at both local and national levels in order to identify anything that may potentially impact your department’s policies. Above all, make sure your HR team remains agile and ready to adjust strategies as needed. This will help keep you prepared for any sudden shifts. 

Leveraging The Predictive Index to address these challenges

From changing employee expectations to the evolving use of technology, today’s HR leaders face a range of new and unprecedented challenges. Navigating this complex landscape requires a strategic approach, as well as a willingness to embrace new and innovative ways of thinking and doing business, as well as a commitment to continuous improvement.

Predictive Index can help you along this process by offering tools that give you valuable insights wherever you need them. Get access to analytics that help you improve the hiring journey and build more effective, high-performing teams. Make your leadership development more personal and engaging for everyone involved, while also identifying exactly who needs help and where. 

David is a freelance writer and PI contributor. When he’s not writing, he’s probably thinking about food. He believes pretzels are superior to potato chips and you can’t convince him otherwise.

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