11 HR Trends for 2024: Elevating Work

Written by Erik van Vulpen, Dieter Veldsman
10 minutes read

In 2024, HR will elevate work. We see three fundamental shifts driving this transformation, fueling 11 defining HR trends.

First, HR will realign its priorities, reflecting the changing needs of the modern workforce. Second, the way HR operates will be reinvented with a focus on driving value for its internal customers. Finally, HR is stepping up to champion meaningful change in the world of work. These shifts will send HR on a thrilling journey with opportunities, challenges, and the promise of a future in which Human Resources takes center stage in elevating work for all.

Let’s dive into the 11 HR trends we’ve identified, drawing from these anticipated shifts.

11 HR Trends for 2024 across three themes: HR realigning priorities, HR operating model changes, and HR as a force for good.

Theme 1: HR realigning priorities

The role of HR is undergoing a significant transformation in today’s business landscape, requiring reconsideration of some of HR’s traditional frameworks.

Different forces drive these developments, from global environmental shifts to legislative changes and from societal movements to the unexpected stagnation of an entire HR function.

Moreover, as technology integrates further into workplaces, it calls for reevaluating how we leverage this technology to boost worker productivity, include workers who have long been hidden, and increase HR’s potential impact.

All of this makes it clear that in 2024, HR needs to realign its priorities.

2024 is the year in which HR isn’t just adapting but spearheading the charge toward a more sustainable, inclusive, and business-focused future.

This leads us to our first four HR trends.

1. Resolving the productivity paradox

With significant economic changes, disruptions, and technology advancements over the past 20 years, productivity has always been high on the HR agenda. Although employee engagement, employee experience, and wellbeing interventions have led to the highest job satisfaction in the US in the past 36 years, it has mostly failed to impact worker productivity.

A line graph showing worker productivity stagnation in the US, UK, Canada and Euro area.
Worker productivity index with predictions (2015 = 1.00). Productivity growth in the UK and Euro area have been minimal in the past 17 years while the US is performing better. Productivity gains can be mostly explained by more efficient manufacturing processes. Source: OECD data

The little productivity that we gained is mostly due to manufacturing becoming more efficient. White-collar productivity has flatlined since the 2008 financial crisis, presenting an opportunity for HR to find solutions.

Impact: 2024 as the year of productivity
HR action: Finding ways to increase productivity

2. Tapping into the hidden workforce

At a time of historically low unemployment, where companies become increasingly desperate to find talent, we expect HR to invest in a workforce that has often been ignored: the hidden workforce.

The hidden workforce, also known as the “forgotten workforce”, represents 14-17% of U.S. workers and includes retirees who want to work, caregivers, neurodiverse individuals, people with long-term health problems (including those with long Covid), ex-inmates, and people without degrees.

These either already participate in the workforce but want to work more (and are often paid as “hourly workers”) or don’t participate yet but are willing to work under the right conditions.

We believe that 2024 is the year in which this workforce will no longer be forgotten.

Impact: Broadening talent horizons for all the right reasons
HR action: Removing barriers to work

3. The point of no return for DEIB

2024 is the year of reinvention of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB).

Three big shifts have led us to this point. The first is the Supreme Court’s ruling that struck down race-conscious decisions in college admissions (also known as affirmative action). Republican attorney generals cautioned Fortune 100 CEOs that this ruling will also apply to private companies.

At the same time, we see discontent with DEIB departments. Companies like Amazon, Twitter, and Lyft have laid off DEI professionals, while DEI job listings dropped by 19% during 2022 compared to the previous year. Revelio Labs examined the lay-off notices of more than 600 companies and found that the attrition rate for DEIB-related roles was 33% at the end of 2022, compared to 21% for non-DEIB-related positions.

DEIB initiatives in their current form also risk negatively impacting employee attitudes. Gartner reports that 44% of employees agree a growing number of their colleagues feel alienated by their organization’s DEI efforts. 42% say their peers view their organization’s DEI efforts as divisive and resent DEI efforts. 

And finally, we see that diversity officers either don’t fit in themselves or fail to see the impact of their work. Following an exodus of diversity leaders in Hollywood, the former VP of impact and diversity at the Academy hinted at some of the struggles that Black executives face by saying that “leaders in these positions need the support, love, and advocacy while they are in the roles, not when their departures make headlines.”

Impact: A new approach to diversity
HR action: Systemic DEIB
Three components of Systemic DEIB are HR voice, inclusive practices, and targeted action.

4. HR driving climate change adaptation

While HR’s role in sustainability is relatively new, it’s quickly becoming crucial as companies strive to adapt to the challenges of climate change, ensuring their workforce is resilient, informed, and prepared for environmental disruptions.

HR professionals need to shift their focus to step up to this responsibility as sustainable practices are increasingly urgent for organizations.

First, sustainability-related legislation is changing around the world. The EU introduced the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive to improve sustainability reporting for EU companies as well as any company that does business in the EU. The UK introduced Sustainability Disclosure Standards on reporting climate-related risks, while the US Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) is drafting climate change disclosure rules.

Second, leading companies are starting to invest in climate adaptation, which is the practice of adjusting to the reality of climate change instead of working to mitigate it.

  • Unilever has launched water stewardship programs to preserve water quality and manage supply risks around factories, such as Prabhat in India.
  •  Nestlé promotes intercropping to support soil fertility and build climate change-resilient supply lines.
  •  Bayer invests in developing seed varieties that are more resilient to heat, drought, wind, and flooding.

HR is responsible for a large part of this agenda, and it should work to help the organization adapt to the new climate reality.

Impact: Navigating climate challenges to ensure business continuity
HR action: Embracing climate adaptation for future resilience

Theme 2: HR operating model changes

The way HR has operated has remained mostly the same despite the changing world and shifting business landscape of the past two decades. Often, HR is organized to deliver efficient services through specific roles, divided into specialized centers of excellence, client-facing business partners, and centralized administrative teams.

However, truly adding value in today’s complex world requires integrated solutions rather than separate specializations.

This leads to consolidating centers of excellence into solution areas that drive business impact. Doing so effectively requires a different set of skills as well as a different value proposition. It will compel us to communicate better – both internally and externally.

HR will also embrace what it takes to operate in the uncharted landscape of transparency and social connectivity.

And finally, HR will reclaim its identity. HR has evolved into a profession that is backed by evidence-based practices, data, and technology that helps achieve organizational goals. However, we often still see ourselves as supporting the business rather than driving impact. HR has an outdated self-image, and 2024 is the year this will change with the next three HR trends.

5. From silos to solutions

Business models have evolved to become more digital and adaptable to the changing needs of consumers. That’s why the siloed and functional nature of the popular Ulrich operating model has come under question in terms of its ability to deliver cross-functional and integrated business solutions.

We believe that in the long run, the Ulrich model will evolve into a new HR operating model that better fits the organization’s business strategy. This evolution will start in 2024 as siloed HR services begin to integrate into fully developed solutions.

Impact: Deconstructed CoEs become people solution areas
HR action: Merging of critical skills that create an impact

6. HR leans in

In the history of HR, the function has been through various changes – from human resources to human capital, to strategic partner, to the people and culture function, and most recently, the employee experience function. However, a fundamental shift beyond a change in naming convention is needed to truly rebrand and reposition HR to enable and drive business transformations.

HR has not equipped itself to contribute optimally in the past, often neglecting skills development, digital adoption, and confidence in its own ability to create value, resulting in a transactionally and operationally burdened function.

This is reflected in perceptions about HR. 73% of HR leaders and 76% of C-suite leaders believe that their HR team focuses primarily on processes, and 63% of C-suite leaders see HR’s role as administrative. It’s also one of the reasons why we see recent layoffs disproportionally hit HR teams and why many HR professionals lack pride in the contribution that the profession makes to the business.

In 2024, HR will turn this around, rediscover its identity, and lean into the strategic conversation.

Impact: Creating a strategic vision for HR
HR action: Accepting the challenge
HR needs to develop a strategic vision by defining the function's purpose, identity, and contribution to deliver value to the business.

7. HR meets PR

Employee experience has increasingly become public. From people being laid off to live firings on TikTok with over 10M views, and from the way companies like ZoomJP Morgan, and Goldman Sachs ordered employees back to the office to employees sharing their onboarding package with the world, HR is operating in a glass box.

Discontent with internal policies also gets shared more. At Google, workers protested about layoffs in New YorkCaliforniaLondon, and Zurich, but also about union busting and even nearly canceled drag shows in the span of about five months. These stories often make headlines with little consideration for the internal context and how it was communicated to employees. Yet, they shape public opinion.

As more moral and social issues require an organizational response, HR needs to collaborate with marketing to have a PR strategy in place to influence and control the narrative in the public domain.

Employees themselves are starting to act increasingly as activists and are more comfortable sharing sensitive information publicly as opposed to using internal organizational channels to raise their voices.

Impact: HR’s emerging role in public relations
HR action: Delivering on the employee promise

Theme 3: HR as a force for good

With the US labor market being the tightest since World War II, HR is stepping up to lead transformative changes that benefit both their organizations and their employees. In 2024, HR will be at the forefront of positive change.

One of these changes is generative artificial intelligence. It improves worker productivity and company output but also promises to impact the meaning we derive from our jobs. Not every job may provide the same degree of meaning for the job holder, but we should work to prevent jobs from being entirely meaningless.

This shift gives HR a unique opportunity to drive business results through better employee practices.

Here, we see a move away from competing in a crowded external talent marketplace towards internal marketplaces emphasizing career progression and promotion. Organizations will continue to further accommodate talent by providing the different flavors of work-life fit that employees are looking for.

All of this promises a hopeful vision for 2024, where HR drives business results through smarter people policies as it becomes a catalyst for critical changes in work. This is what our final four HR trends are about.

8. AI-empowered workforce evolution

The tremendous growth of Generative Artificial Intelligence (GAI), like ChatGPT, has profoundly impacted the workforce in 2023. As organizations continue to recognize its transformative potential, most of them will integrate AI into the workforce and operations in 2024.

With the lines between human tasks and machine functions blurring, a holistic approach to AI in the workforce will become crucial for sustained business growth.

Impact: The end of low performance?
HR action: The rise of technology self-efficacy and leading by example

9. Shifting work-life balance to work-life fit

The pandemic ripped the bandage off our strained relationship with work, revealing the stress and imbalances in our professional lives.

Beyond the Great Resignation (where 47 million workers voluntarily quit their jobs in 2022), there were quiet quitting, lying flat, and bai lan. This literally translates to ‘let it rot’ and has its origin in NBA games, referring to the voluntary retreat from pursuing a goal as one realizes it is too difficult to achieve. These terms paint a grim picture of how we relate to work and, as an extension, the organizations we work for.

How organizations approach and manage work has contributed to the problem. There’s a growing desire for alternative work lifestyles. Most employees who participated in a four-day workweek pilot said they didn’t want to go back, and 15% of employees said “no amount of money” would convince them to return to working five days a week.

Workers are dissatisfied with work, and organizations have been failing to address this trending HR topic.

Impact: Different people, different needs
HR action: Balancing flexibility, expectations, and legalities
Nine points showing how HR has evolved from past practices to the innovative actions of 2024.

10. The end of BS jobs

A decade ago, David Graeber introduced socially useless, and thus – in his words – bullshit jobs. 

Prior research shows that 37% of British working adults believe their job is not making a meaningful contribution to the world. A more extensive study covering 47 countries finds that 17% of workers are doubtful about the usefulness of their job. Similarly, another study in the US reports that 19% consider their jobs socially useless.

What’s more, technology developments are impacting job content and skills needed to successfully carry out the required tasks. With 83 million jobs projected to be lost and 69 million new jobs created, designing meaningful jobs that match employees’ strengths becomes crucial to maintaining a competitive edge in an evolving market.

Impact: Better jobs equal better performance
HR action: How HR can fight BS jobs

11. From talent acquisition to talent access

In today’s historically tight labor market, we see a shift away from talent acquisition towards progression and promotion within the organization. 

Attempting to bridge the talent gap by competing for external talent leaves organizations at the mercy of the labor market.

Taking a more proactive and sustainable approach that creates ways to access talent will be imperative in 2024.

That is not to say that acquisition is not important – in fact, we believe that enabling access will improve acquisition, too, as talent today needs (much) more than just a great offer.

According to Gallup, the top things Millenials look for when applying for jobs are:

  • opportunities to learn and grow,
  • interest in the type of work, and
  • opportunities for advancement.

Organizations have caught on as well, with 48% of companies identifying improving talent progression and promotion processes as key business practices to increase the availability of talent, making it one of the most important HR trends of 2024.

Impact: Talent strategies are changing
HR action: Creating access to talent

A final word

2024 stands as a transformative year for HR, where its influence will extend beyond the traditional scope of the function.

As these 11 HR trends unfold, HR will not only address immediate organizational needs but will also lay the groundwork for a sustainable future. Embracing these changes will empower HR to create a work environment where employees thrive, and businesses achieve what they’ve set out to do. While the challenge is vast, the potential rewards for organizations, workers, and broader society are immeasurable.

The blend of innovation and strategic thinking that HR brings to the table will drive growth, inclusivity, and resilience. In taking up this expanded role, HR will guide organizations to new heights of excellence. 2024 presents a world of opportunity; it’s time for HR to rise and shine in this new era of work.

You can read about 2023 HR trends here.

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Erik van Vulpen

Erik van Vulpen is the founder and Dean of AIHR. He is an expert in shaping modern HR practices by bringing technological innovations into the HR context. He receives global recognition as an HR thought leader and regularly speaks on topics like People Analytics, Digital HR, and the Future of Work.

Dieter Veldsman

Chief HR Scientist
Dr. Dieter Veldsman is an Organizational Psychologist with 15+ years of experience across the HR value chain and lifecycle, having worked for and consulted with various organizations in EMEA, APAC, and LATAM. He has held the positions of Group Chief People Officer, Organizational Effectiveness Executive, Director of Consulting Solutions, and Chief Research Scientist. He is a regular speaker on the topics of Strategic HR, Future of Work, Employee Experience, and Organizational Development.

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