In early 2020, we commuted to offices completely unaware of the “new normal” to come. By 2021, companies were fully committed to work from home arrangements, and in 2022 60 percent of workers who could do so intended to WFH all or the majority of the time. But now, in 2024, the majority of organizations are overseeing a return to office transition, with 90 percent expected to RTO by the end of the year.
Around roughly the same time frame, ongoing advancements in artificial intelligence have redefined how employees get the job done, with 28 percent of them currently using generative AI and 32 percent planning to do so soon. These tools present efficient shortcuts, yet invite troublesome ethical and even safety issues into the workplace.
Here are three top trends to consider in the year ahead, and what leaders can do to participate and get ahead.
3 ways to support your team in 2024
- Prioritize making the return to office for parents as smooth and stress-free as possible.
- Remember the human element in recruiting despite new AI-enabled HR tech.
- Create a framework AI policy to guide ethical practices company wide.
1. Stay Flexible Through RTO
RTO is the biggest workplace shift of the last several years. Companies are struggling with achieving the same outcomes that in-office work supported: mentorship, manager development, camaraderie building and human connection, to name a few.
At my company, we’re not immune to the challenge of achieving these outcomes in a WFH world, and have made the decision to start centralizing people in hub locations to address some of these gaps. This is complex, and managers cannot take a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, they must collaborate with diverse sets of employees in a practical but empathetic manner.
This especially applies to women professionals with children. Mothers of children 12 years old and younger lost nearly 2.2 million jobs in the initial months of the pandemic — 2.5 times more than the jobs lost among fathers of small children. Women professionals have had no choice but to develop strategic methods and routines to ensure they are balancing their home and work life. Asking working parents to go back to an onsite schedule, even if only a couple days a week, involves a significant degree of planning and adjusting.
The best managers will work with team members who are parents to make for a smooth and relatively stress-free return to the office. For instance, where I work, we’ve been intentional about cultivating awareness and dialogue in our women’s employee resource group, create spaces for other ways to find support — like our kids’ art Slack channel — offering flexibility in the hours employees work and encouraging employees to protect their parent boundaries while offline or even using calendar invites.
2. Remember the Human Element in Recruiting
Two thirds of recruiters are already using AI, and they anticipate that the technology will play a lead role in searching for candidates, screening them and even conducting initial interviews. Around 68 percent of recruiters believe AI will help them remove unintentional bias in the hiring process.
As tech organizations amplify the deployment of AI in recruiting and hiring, they should take steps to include human insights and input at all stages. Let’s face it: AI follows a binary code, and hiring a human is anything but black-and-white. We must maintain the human element within the recruitment process. In addition, businesses that bring in smaller resume pools may want to assess whether they need to use AI at all.
For now, the recruiters at my company screen every inbound resume with their own eyes, and we are thoughtful about which parts of the interview process we use AI and automate. We also ask candidates who are completing a job exercise to stray away from using tools like ChatGPT so we can see how they creatively approach a problem. AI will never replace a human recruiter, but the companies that use AI effectively are the ones that will win the war for talent.
3. Set Boundaries for AI Use
With a majority of employees using or planning to use generative AI on the job, ethical dilemmas are emerging. Within the U.S. tech industry — according to the Salesforce study linked above — 58 percent of global team members have used unapproved generative AI tools, and 57 percent have even used tools that their companies have banned.
Clearly, there’s potential to unleash a Pandora’s box of unintended consequences if organizations fail to develop and enforce guidelines regarding the proper deployment of AI in the workplace. At the recruitment stage, hiring managers should determine if candidates are already dependent on AI for their day-to-day assignments, and if this continued use would be acceptable for the open position.
At the same time, tech managers and their teams should determine together a set of ethical policies for proper AI practices, such as fact checking, vetting AI-generated content/information and thoroughly reviewing AI products for possible cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Every manager should evaluate how their team could effectively and ethically use AI and roll out policies to guide that behavior.
For instance, my company has not only published a framework AI policy to guide ethical practices company wide, but also assembled a charter of employees from around the business to discuss real time practical concerns and field questions from employees over time.
In order to keep up with change, tech managers must collaborate with their employees to oversee a successful RTO plan, develop ethical policies and enforce best practices when using AI. This allows organizations to best position themselves for a productive year ahead with a motivated, engaged workforce.