3 things HR can learn from 2023

18 Dec 23 | Blog

Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Or don’t get a chance to intentionally repeat it, depending on how you look at it… That’s why, when we get to the end of a year, it’s a good time to reflect. 

What happened in the last 12 months? What can we learn from it? What mistakes were made, and what successes were won? And when it comes to the workplace, how can HR use these learnings to shape their work in the New Year?

1. Mandated office returns

What happened this year:

When the pandemic hit, it changed the ‘where’ of work – forcing a remote revolution that made organisations reconsider office working. But in the year where the WHO finally declared the end of COVID-19’s ‘global health emergency’ status, some leaders tried to turn back the clock.

Major organisations – from Amazon and IBM, to JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs – made a call for employees to return to a higher level of office-based work, in some cases removing the option for home-based employment completely. 

What we can learn: 

Unsurprisingly, there was a certain amount of resistance to these demands – even to the point of organising petitions. While the household names of the business world could afford to risk alienating their workforce, that’s not the case for small-to-mid-sized companies. Especially when so many competitors are willing to commit to at least a hybrid model.

In many cases, it was the business leaders’ personal beliefs about remote working (Elon Musk and David Solomon, for example) driving these decisions. What we can learn is the importance of understanding the likely response from employees before making drastic moves, using people analytics and employee surveys.  

2. The rise of AI 

What happened this year:

Reaching 100 million users by February 2023, almost everyone was talking about ChatGPT and the potential power of AI this year. Able to produce everything from academic essays to haikus, just with a simple text prompt, the chatbot got us thinking about the potential to improve our working lives. 

81% of HR leaders have looked into using AI in their organisation, with 76% worried their organisation will fall behind if they don’t. There’s a real appetite to work smarter by using these new tools – though there are still some concerns to consider.

What we can learn: 

Relying on AI for things like recruitment, for example, has risks regarding bias – as technology draws on historical data where this bias is implicit. Then there’s other concerns about the data, regarding intellectual property and accuracy, which means some caution is needed. 

For HR leaders, these concerns aren’t stopping their take-up of AI technology. The key thing is leveraging it meaningfully and mindfully. That is, reviewing the output and using it for appropriate tasks. For example, our platform analyses written text using machine learning – that’s hugely time-saving, so you can quickly see the most-discussed topics, and use your experience to decide next steps. 

3. Cost-of-living crisis 

What happened this year:

This winter, 52% of employees are struggling to pay their bills – rising to 58% for women, and 67% for disabled staff. Everyone is feeling stretched. It’s at the point where 40% say their employment doesn’t even keep them out of debt, and 51% couldn’t handle an unexpected cost of £300.

This has an impact on organisations too. 33% of workers say financial issues impact their work, with increases in stress and inability concentrating rising since winter 2022 too. And it’s the middle earners – with salaries of £20-39k – that have felt the pinch the most. 

 What we can learn:

It’s important to remember that external factors exist, if you’re seeing issues in an employee’s performance or how they’re presenting themselves. Be mindful of what’s going on in the world, and how that might play a part. 

And while there’s not always scope to raise salaries or offer bonuses, there are other practical steps that HR leaders can take – like reducing commuting and eating-out costs by offering more remote working, pointing them to useful financial resources, and being upfront about what’s happening in the organisation financially, too.  

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