HR trends 2024

Reading time: 7 min

The more or less contemplative time at the end of the year is often used to look back and reflect. At the same time, many are also looking directly to the future again and using the mind games as an opportunity to venture a look ahead. This is exactly what Erik Baltrusch, HR International Manager from the automotive sector, and Lucas Senzel, Director Human Experience Management Transformation at mmmake, did.

In this article, they reveal what you should have on your HR bucket list next year.

Lucas: I would like to start with a familiar topic – strategic collaboration between HR & Business

We’ve all been there: At Christmas, you expectantly remove the shiny, valuable wrapping paper from your freshly presented gift, only to be disillusioned seconds later after unwrapping it: What? Socks? I had wished for something completely different.

Unfortunately, this or something similar is still far too often the mutual experience in the cooperation between HR and business. Both sides usually fail to adequately address the needs of the other partner. As a result, the HR department creates job advertisements that do not meet the requirements of the specialist department, which in turn takes a long time when HR has exciting profiles in the pipeline and wants to coordinate appointments for interviews. Unfortunately, there is still far too little exchange when it comes to strategic HR planning or the skills that will become more relevant for the company in the future. However, as we want this article to provide impulses that are solution-oriented and not problem-oriented, the key words are once again: ask questions, listen and actively seek feedback!

If this is successful, preferences become transparent and you can pay each other back. It is also important that HR not only sits in the driver’s seat when it comes to HR-related topics, but also boldly explores new routes. Because times on the labor market are wilder than ever – more people are actively looking for a job than ever before. At the same time, there is a tendency for corporations in particular to advertise fewer and fewer jobs or even cut jobs. Comprehensive trend conferences can help to create a balance between business and HR priorities and thus address aspects of personnel planning, performance management and general skills development in a targeted and strategic manner. Participatory formats, short coordination loops and transparent service level agreements (e.g. initial feedback to candidates within 24 hours) will make it possible to give the topic of people the priority it deserves in the long term. Analogies to approaches from sales and marketing are also helpful when it comes to thinking about HR offerings in terms of product logic and becoming creative in terms of positioning. And at best, that means: HR as a people company!

Erik: I would like to start one step earlier, namely with the optimization of HR processes . In my opinion, this is the basic building block for successful collaboration – both within and outside HR, with other departments and, above all, with employees.

The aim should still be to design end-to-end HR processes for everyone involved that enable the omnipresent transformation to be implemented at the speed that is clearly required. The reality sometimes looks different. Many HR departments have specialized in view of the growing complexity of the issues, which has led to an increase in the number of interfaces within a process. In addition, there are data protection requirements, internal compliance requirements, decision-making bodies that are too high up, etc. The frequent consequence: increasing process uncertainty, even within HR departments.

In case of doubt, one more topic is more likely to be lost than too few for “data protection reasons”. One decision too many is escalated to the next higher level and there is one more signature on every internal form. Above all, the question of responsibility within HR departments and between HR and customers is raised far too often in view of this general uncertainty. Our customers are almost always the ones who suffer.

In order to be able to accompany the transformation of other areas of the company as a strategic partner, as should be the claim of HR, a successful transformation of one’s own is an absolutely necessary prerequisite. In order to achieve this, it must be ensured that old processes are not simply processed in a new work organization. In my opinion, an agile form of organization, for example, even has a counterproductive effect if the underlying processes are not geared towards agility or if the corresponding mindset is lacking, for example to make quick decisions directly at work level.

In concrete terms, this means that in-depth, conscientious and perhaps also dry process work is required. If the transformation and digitalization of the HR department desired by all stakeholders is to succeed, it will only work if the company is willing and, above all, has the capacity to thoroughly revise existing processes and adapt them to the desired organizational forms, tools and systems that are to be used. At least if noticeable progress is to be made.

Lucas: When we think of tools and systems, we have to look far beyond the possibilities of MS Excel spreadsheets. Because only with the right tools will HR departments be able to make valid, data-based decisions in real time.

Nowadays, there is up-to-date data on virtually every topic – be it the consumer behaviour of Germans, the state of digitalization or the nicotine content of eggplants. These are then used in turn to make certain predictions or decisions.

For HR departments in 2024, this definitely means focusing more on the topic of people analytics and the associated data-based decisions. This is because HR data has been collected in abundance along the employee lifecycle for years. What is missing is consistent use. The possibilities go far beyond the evaluation of sick days and the analysis of possible reasons for this. Starting with recruiting, the creation of skills profiles allows statements to be made about where the organization stands in terms of relevant focus topics and which skills need to be developed in the future, for example through specific learning and training opportunities.

Succession planning can also be supported in a targeted manner by identifying talent for key positions and onboarding them in the best possible way in their new role as part of a long-term development plan. Dashboards with daily updated information on remuneration, organizational structures and management margins give HR much greater leverage on company-relevant decisions. Experience-based assessments are therefore by no means pushed into the background – on the contrary, they can be supported by data and procedures can be carried out objectively and comprehensibly.

Erik: HR will therefore not only have an analytical function in the future. For me, HR’s role as an intermediary and mediator is particularly important, especially in times of general irritation.

The tone has become harsher in recent years and in almost all areas of society. A changing culture of discussion makes it increasingly difficult to disagree and still reach a consensus with the other party in the end. We have to work hard to change this in the near future. At the same time, the economic and political situation is deteriorating rapidly.

This means that we need even more jointly supported solutions and courageous, forward-looking decisions. HR often sits at the table during these discussions, often with the avoidable bad seat between the chairs. But this is basically our position. And who, if not HR, can best close this gap between these chairs? More than ever, this gives me not the opportunity, but the duty to accompany and moderate these forward-looking discussions and decisions from a neutral role. Due to the workload and the large number of open operational issues, we HR staff have often adopted a defensive stance, at least at the working level. This tempts us to stay out of these discussions rather than playing a decision-making role.

However, we should not forget the strengths that many HR professionals already have as personality attributes: Empathy, diplomacy, negotiation skills and conversation skills. It may sound banal, but isn’t that exactly what is lacking in many places at the moment? However, this requires us to use these strengths profitably.

Lucas: This discussion shows that HR has a significant influence on the experience of employees in their day-to-day work, not only on a large scale but also on a small scale. Of course, this should be as positive as possible. This is because it can have a direct impact on the employee experience.

The employee experience is often a dangerous combination of almost unfulfillable expectations and extraordinarily high importance. Usually, a reception committee is formed on day 1, a gift is left on site and the whole team is there – and then? It is not uncommon for the emotional curve to shoot downwards as steeply as if you were on a white water ride in an amusement park. This comparison is by no means to be understood as a call to stop making central Moments that Matter such as Day 1 or the end of the trial period special. Rather, it is an appeal to also show ongoing appreciation outside of these events, in everyday working life, so to speak, and thus contribute to the issue of employee retention.

Because one thing is clear: without suitable personnel, nothing works – conveyor belts in production stand still and the MS PowerPoint slides of this world remain white – AI or not! In addition, dedicated teams are on average 20 percent more profitable for companies, which means more turnover. Authentic gratitude for the achievements and merits of employees is always worthwhile.


Conclusion: 2024 holds a mix of realignment and a return to core tasks for HR while utilizing technical potential

When it comes to HR trends in 2024, one thing stands out above all: more effective collaboration between HR and other business areas will be a key factor in creating a positive employee experience. This is the only way to break down existing divides and build bridges for the future of HR. To achieve this, the strategic alignment of business and HR must run in the same direction and be supported by tailor-made technical solutions. This collaboration will not only lay the foundations for seamless cooperation, but also the basis for the integration of HR as a mediator and facilitator within the company. HR will have to play an active role in moderating forward-looking discussions and supporting decisions in a sometimes polarizing environment. At the same time, the basis of HR work must not be neglected, as this still consists of providing HR consulting and administration. If you can make working life easier for your employees in this respect, you create more time for more effective work and thus increase the experience en passant. What does it take? The courage to address the issues openly and the willingness to actively shape the future of HR from the driver’s seat.

The author
Lucas Senzel &
Erik Baltrusch
Lucas Senzel, Director HXM-Transformation at mmmake and Erik Baltrusch, Manager in the "HR International" division from the automotive sector, are university friends who have turned their passion for HR into a career and regularly exchange views on hot topics and best practices in the HR world.
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