Every year, in the world of work, we see different themes emerging. These themes often dictate how we operate as individuals, how businesses are run, and how leaders shift their priorities. In 2023, we identified workplace trends such as job-hopping, hybrid work, and preparing for Gen Z to enter the workforce.
While we’re still working through some of the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and likely will be for the foreseeable future, other issues have started to grab attention. For example, while we’re still talking about remote versus hybrid versus in-person work, we’re also looking toward the not-so-distant future, where artificial intelligence (AI) lives.
Here are some of the most prominent themes we predict for 2024, and leaders should take note and plan accordingly.
A recent Gallup survey found that 53 percent of people “are not prepared to work with AI.” Whether it’s due to a lack of knowledge or a general mistrust of a yet-unknown technology, many people are shying away from AI. Early adopters can see the possibilities and problems to be solved, while detractors worry how it might replace human workers and possibly spiral out of control.
We are already seeing how generative AI can affect people in different ways. A TikTok account dedicated to imposing Keanu Reeves’ face on a man doing basic household tasks has gained a large following, while a legal brief created by ChatGPT landed a Manhattan attorney into some hot water.
The truth is that generative AI will change how many of us work. Eric Fraser, an AI Solutions Architect with Dr Lisa AI, says leaders should do two things to prepare for AI:
- Educate themselves and their employees on the ways in which AI can be used
- Focus their AI efforts on solving a problem within the business
Additionally, business leaders who aim to incorporate AI into their organizations would benefit from focusing their attention on hiring employees who already have a working knowledge of it.
Hybrid Work isn’t Working – or Is It?
It’s been more than two years since businesses began to reopen workplaces and welcome employees back to physical offices in earnest. But we still can’t seem to reach a consensus on which model is best. Is it strictly in person? Is it remote only? Is it hybrid? Who truly knows?
Roblox, a virtual experiences platform, recently announced it would require all employees to work in the office three days a week, including remote employees. This meant that many of their workers had to make the difficult decision to uproot their lives and move to the Bay Area, or leave the company to find a new role.
The debate boils down to one question: Are we more or less productive when working from home? You’ll never get a straight answer. For example, here are Google results from two different searches that return vastly different information.
Prominent business influencers all have differing views of what works best, and therein lies the crux of the issue: the answer is different for every organization. Leaders can make sweeping generalizations about the benefits or detriments of remote work, but in reality, they can only decide what is best for their business.
We’re mostly remote here at The Receptionist, but we have an office in Denver, Colorado. Employees are able to work from the office if they wish, but there’s no requirement – though people do go to the office more often than not. We only require physical attendance for our quarterly in-person meetings, and expense travel for our remote employees to the company.
Continuing Employee Education
Leaders are always on the hunt for the best talent. They can hire the perfect person for the role, pay them well, support them with resources, and watch them excel. But sometimes, after a few years, that person ends up leaving the company. Why does this happen?
Businesses use a variety of tactics to retain their best employees, but something isn’t working, as evidenced by the Great Resignation that took place in 2021 and 2022. A Pew Research Center report found that the second biggest reason people left their jobs in 2021 was a lack of advancement opportunities. In fact, 63 percent of survey respondents cited it as a reason for leaving their last role, second only to low pay.
Many workers want the opportunity to grow their careers, and your organization can implement an upskilling program to support them. It cannot be enough to find the right person for the role and just leave them be. They may have aspirations of moving upward within the company, and learning new skills can be a way for an employee to advance in the absence of a positional promotion.
Make promotions and raises attainable by encouraging employees to seek out learning opportunities and reimbursing them for all or a portion of the cost. The Receptionist’s Professional Development Fund gives each employee a yearly stipend (that can be rolled over if not used) to spend on earning additional certifications, taking classes, or going to conferences, and will compensate an additional amount for travel. No matter the method, an investment in your employees’ futures is an investment in the future of your business.
Adding the B to DEI
Many brands have announced company initiatives to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Some are taking it a step further and including “Belonging” to their DEI pledges.
Belonging is, according to Forbes, “the intersection of DEI and engagement.” If Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion were a Venn diagram, Belonging would be where they all overlap. It’s the ability to bring your whole self to work – not just your “work persona.” In short, belonging in the workplace affords employees the opportunity to be authentic.
Imagine DEIB as a large conference room. Diversity is letting everyone in the door. Equity is ensuring they’re all up to speed on the purpose of the meeting. Inclusion is giving everyone a seat at the table. Belonging means everyone is empowered to speak their minds.
Leaders can encourage belonging by giving everyone space to feel heard. In meetings, for example, make sure every employee has the chance to voice concerns or offer constructive criticism of new changes without fear of retribution.
Another Gallup survey found that worker confidence in employers is relatively low. Only 23 percent of employees surveyed agree that they trust their organization’s leadership team. While it’s still a relatively low number, this finding has generally been trending upward since the survey began in 2011.
Trust between employees and employers is not always a necessary component to running a successful business. However, it is a necessary component when it comes to employee engagement – the degree to which workers “find meaning in their work, feel like part of your culture, and perform better,” according to the report.
Building trust comes down to what Gallup calls a “Trifecta of Leadership,” which consists of three things employers can do:
- Lead and support change – train and develop management-level employees to handle disruptions in normal operations
- Communicate clearly – set expectations and be transparent about the business
- Inspire confidence in the future – explain primary business goals and how you’ll get there
The Receptionist’s Employee Supremacy model means that trust between employees and leadership is mutual. Leaders trust employees to do the jobs for which they were hired, and employees trust the leaders to make decisions that benefit the employees.
Leaders can begin to build trust in their organizations by creating a plan for clear and concise communication with employees. Open a dialog and encourage honest feedback, then be prepared to actually implement employee-driven change when and where feasible.
Quiet Quitting – a movement that gained traction over the last couple of years – is just a more alliterative way of describing someone who has mentally checked out from their job. While we saw a lot of this in 2022 and 2023, it hasn’t gone away – it’s just become a smaller conversation due to more pressing issues, like the ones we’ve outlined above.
51 percent of employed people globally claim to be actively searching for a new job. Leaders should continue to focus on retention strategies to combat the drain:
- Solicit and accept employee feedback
- Focus on living your values
- Recognize people in your organization for a job well done
- Maintain a pulse on culture by having weekly conversations with each employee
Quiet quitting, to some, means doing the exact duties defined in their job description and nothing more. If you expect every employee to go “above and beyond,” you might consider paying them for the additional responsibilities you expect them to carry: a Pew Research study found that 63 percent of people who quit their jobs in 2021 did so because of low pay.
Focus on People
In business, there are three major components that contribute to your overall operations: people, processes, and technology. All of the above trends are focused on people. Employees ultimately drive your business forward and ensure you reach your goals. Train them, trust them, value them, and lean on them to uphold your organization’s values.
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