‘Allow them to thrive’: Here are 2024’s talent retention realities

Last year the Great Resignation left many employers to deal with sky-high turnover as the rate of workers quitting their jobs peaked, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Over the past six months though, that staff churn has settled, returning to pre-pandemic levels. And with fewer (and less appealing) job opportunities elsewhere, workers are expected to stay put in the roles they have for much longer through 2024.

This trend (dubbed the “Big Stay” in an attempt to make it as catchy a term as its predecessor the Great Resignation), will raise different pressures for employers in 2024. While companies may no longer need to worry about a mass exodus of talent, they will need to meet workers’ higher expectations around internal career growth opportunities, to keep them engaged and motivated and avoid burnout and quiet quitting.

“You have people now who two years ago could go out if they weren’t getting great performance reviews or weren’t necessarily loving their jobs, they can leave and go find something pretty easily. Now that’s not happening,” said Shayna Royal, director of talent acquisition at HR software firm Paycor. To ensure staff stay valuable to the company, and feel that way about themselves, “managers will have to find better ways to improve people’s performance,” she said.

Part of that will involve ensuring there are ample learning and development opportunities, while care should be taken to ensure there is healthy internal mobility and the prospect of promotions is within reach, to ensure staff stay engaged, she said. “It’s going to be really important for a company to invest in and really put a lot of emphasis on their internal hiring practices,” she said.

Refining how generative AI is used in hiring

Generative AI has been available to the public for more than a year now, and rapidly adopted by job candidates to help them craft their application materials. Almost half of job seekers used AI to help write resumes, cover letters and even potential answers to interview questions this year, an August survey of 3,500 job hunters from Gartner found.

Employers are now having to adapt with limited tools to discern if candidates are using AI and how accurately they are truly representing themselves when applying. “Really few organizations have the right mechanisms in place to screen for generative AI use,” said Caroline Ogawa, director for research for Gartner’s HR practice. “It’s exploding right now and it’s still kind of early, and I think organization-wide responses to it are quite early as well,” she said. 

Company leaders are divided on whether or not candidates’ use of AI tools in their applications for jobs is beneficial in the long run or not. Those in the first camp think candidates are being resourceful using the tools when applying, and that using AI will increasingly become a part of their own jobs. Those in the other camp are now worried about their ability to determine who is really a high-quality candidate. The onus may be on recruiters to more deeply scrutinize how candidates answer interview questions and follow-ups, and lean heavily on the more human aspects of the hiring process, experts say. 

Meanwhile, recruiters have become adept at using predictive and generative AI on their end of the hiring spectrum, and those tools can help them to better hone their approach and attract the right talent, said Bryan Hancock, a partner at management consultancy McKinsey. Generative AI can help recruiters write optimal job requirements to field the best candidates, streamline and personalize communications throughout the hiring process, he said. 

“Some of the biggest applications here are actually in the candidate experience and improving the outreach we have to candidates, and once we’ve got them applying, improve how we engage with them throughout the process,” he said.

Balancing in-office productivity and remote flexibility

Demand for remote roles among job seekers may not have fallen over the past year, but the availability of them has swiftly declined as companies increasingly push to get butts back on seats in the office. That means jobs that offer remote work, or more flexible working arrangements, will be much easier to fill than those with more stringent in-office requirements.

But companies are still figuring out their exact arrangements and what flexibility means to them, like exactly how many days staff are requested back and who to make exceptions for

“The pandemic emphasized the long-term importance of flexibility in the workplace, as well as a broader need for employees to be valued and appreciated,” said Gaëlle de la Fosse, president of talent solutions provider LHH.

“With remote or hybrid work becoming the norm for many, organizations are exploring different ways to return to the office, and that’s going to continue to be the case in 2024,” she said. 

Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to returning to the office, and that’s what makes it so challenging.

“The most successful leaders during this time period are building work cultures that attract employees back and allow them to thrive,” said de la Fosse “…and companies that are most attractive to job seekers will identify approaches that align with individuals’ evolving needs and strike a balance between in-office productivity and remote flexibility,” she added.

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