This article was originally published here on the Forbes website. This is a repost of Sander’s regular column.
2023 has been a year of transition for the world of work. Global markets are turbulent but talent scarcity continues and the need for skilled talent is growing. Our clients tell us that attracting and retaining the right people is higher on their agenda than ever before.
Meanwhile, talent expectations have shifted. They want more than a wage - focusing on learning opportunities, a sense of belonging and work-life balance. To retain competitive advantage, employers need to step up to meet talent demands and understand what motivates them, as it may not be what employers are used to.
For example, over the last few years, we have seen work-life balance and flexibility increase in importance to employees. In 2024, we’re likely to see this trend continue and come in line with salary expectations.
As we enter into 2024, several major trends are set to dominate and disrupt the labour market. AI will reach new heights and roles will continue to evolve for example. This is all against the backdrop of global economic uncertainty and geopolitical conflict. Below I’ve shared some of my predictions for what’s to come in the world of work and how businesses will need to navigate this.
To retain competitive advantage, employers need to step up to meet talent demands and understand what motivates them, as it may not be what employers are used to.
1. AI will disrupt work in ways we haven’t yet imagined
If there was one defining trend that captured the world’s attention this year, it is AI.2023 was the year AI became mainstream.
In 2024, conversations around the safety of the technology will continue, with governments set to introduce AI regulation, while businesses accelerate AI plans and strategies. WEF estimates suggest new technologies could perform up to 48% of all tasks by 2025.
I believe the technology will disrupt the world of work in ways we haven’t yet imagined and we’ll soon start to see more of the benefits of AI in the workforce. As with other technological revolutions, it will bring around disruption but also opportunities for growth. In India, for example, the job vacancy rate for senior AI and automation talent is roughly four times higher than for the overall skill cluster.
One of AI’s benefits will be alleviating the impact of talent shortages. Increasing the use of AI to empower workers may help drive productivity and efficiency, and help to fill hard to hire-for-roles, while increasing innovation.
We will also see businesses begin to invest significantly in much needed AI learning and development opportunities. In fact, a recent Randstad study revealed that nearly one-quarter (22%) say they wanted learning and development support to use AI, but just 13% reported receiving it during the past 12 months.
2. Some operational roles will continue to decrease in favour of highly skilled positions
Innovation and the advancement of AI and other frontier technologies will undoubtedly change the shape of the workforce. They will generate new jobs, and it’s likely that the rise of automation may remove some roles from the labour force completely.
This means that in the coming years in some cases, we will see a big shift from blue-collar, operational roles, to more highly skilled positions. This may be hastened by an increasing shift towards skills-based hiring too. WEF projects that large-scale job growth is driven by technology, digitisation, and sustainability - hence roles like AI and Machine Learning Specialists take the first spot in the list of the fastest growing roles.
I see this as a net positive for the labour force, as talent will have time freed up from administrative or repetitive tasks, to rather focus on the relationship and ‘human’ aspects of their roles, including various regulations to be managed. This also opens up space for people to explore more interesting and fulfilling careers.
This means that in the coming years in some cases, we will see a big shift from blue-collar, operational roles, to more highly skilled positions. This may be hastened by an increasing shift towards skills-based hiring too.
3. Specialised support will be crucial to navigate the changing world of work
Right now, talent is scarce and in-demand skills are becoming harder to find. This is putting increased demands on our clients, which range from local SMEs to the world’s largest enterprises. The profound shifts that are happening in the labour market right now require specific sets of skills and specialised talent partners.
Our clients are all looking for the same thing. They want services and solutions which help them address big talent challenges around flexibility, agility, and a sustainable pipeline for talent with the right skills.
That’s why we’ve set ourselves the aspiration to become the world’s most equitable and specialised talent company. To do this, we’re organising ourselves through four specialisations, which will each have its own strategy and growth focus. The specialisations will bring focus and distinctness, enabling Randstad to grow faster and deliver better for our clients and talent. I believe this updated strategy will help us realise our ambition.
4. Flexibility with intentionality is set to address talent demands
In 2023, we saw tensions between talent and employers, relating to flexible work, grow.
The divisive ‘return to the office’ debate emerged as the poster child for this push and pull.
As many workers considered hybrid work the norm and have made life changes with this belief in mind, businesses struggled to figure out the ideal arrangement for their workforce.
This is because productivity has been a key worry for CEOs, with some leaders believing that remote work can lead to decreased innovation. Some believe that for younger workers, being in the office can help them to learn and grow early in their careers.
On the other hand, remote work has opened the door to a global and more diverse talent pool and facilitated potential for labour and facility cost savings, since employers can hire at lower wages and operate with fewer offices. It has also allowed workers to achieve a work-life balance they have long wanted. For lots, this is now non-negotiable. Randstad’s 2023 Workmonitor data revealed that over three quarters (78%) of workers said they have a good work-life balance, and a majority would not accept a new job if it negatively impacted this.
I’m confident that demand for flexible work will show no signs of slowing. This means in 2024, employers should seek to better understand why flexibility is so important to talent. The focus should also be on how flexibility is executed, recognising that it means different things to different people.
Right now, talent is scarce and in-demand skills are becoming harder to find. This is putting increased demands on our clients, which range from local SMEs to the world’s largest enterprises.
I believe that employers with policies based on flexibility with intentionality will likely prevail as the most effective and popular. This is achieved by addressing workforce needs in a way that also promotes culture, performance and engagement. Doing so positions companies to not only succeed but also stand out as an employer of choice.
5. Business leaders will embrace equity in the workplace
This year talent shortages have ensured equity is a strategic imperative for businesses. But the reality is that we’ve seen underserved communities continue to get limited access to the labour market, education and upskilling. This has left large sections of potential talent untapped.
During a time of intense talent scarcity, this isn’t good enough. Our Randstad insights show, for example, that among the most in demand skills, ethical judgement is over four times more challenging to find than problem-solving skills.
We need everyone on the pitch. And if we want to bring the best talent to our clients, we need to look in all talent pools, not just a few. In 2024, we have to make sure we create a level playing field, where all talent is treated in an equitable way. It isn’t just the right thing to prioritise in the year ahead - it’s good for business.
I predict that next year leaders will further embrace equity in the workplace to unlock better outcomes for both individuals and organisations. In addition to opening up new talent pools, equity in the workplace can also lead to a more innovative, effective and productive workforce. When everyone feels like they belong and have equal opportunities, they can contribute their unique perspectives and ideas, leading to better outcomes and results for the organisation. This is particularly true for younger workers, with over half (54%) saying they would quit a job if they didn’t belong there.
We can also expect an increase in employees wanting employers to align with their values, and to take decisive action on issues that matter to them, such as diversity and inclusion.
As we enter the year ahead, we can expect turbulent global markets to continue. At the same time, the need for good talent will continue to grow, and employee motivations will continue to evolve. Successful leaders will be those who truly understand the priorities and expectations of their employees. This will help businesses navigate and respond to ever-changing emerging trends, mitigating the negative effects of these.