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Employment Outlook in 2024: Upskilling needed as tech reshapes workplaces

OPINION: The past year has been a chaotic one, navigating an economic recession, devastating weather events and election disruption – however, it is my true belief that we are gearing up for a year of major workplace transformation. While this will be exciting, it won’t be smooth sailing just yet.

We discovered, in our recent New Zealand Employment Outlook Survey, that while the business community’s outlook for 2024 is optimistic – with eight in ten respondents forecasting stability and confidence that the economy will improve – the employment market is expected to remain competitive. For example, candidates upskilled in the latest technologies like data analytics and artificial intelligence remain highly sought after and continue to be at the top of many hiring managers’ wish lists.

More than one-third of talent leaders are finding it difficult to keep up with the rapid pace of technology developments and the resulting impact on their workforce. However, it will not be enough to rely on our current talent pool or short-term fixes to close the gap. Both businesses and employees will need to invest in areas like training and upskilling to remain competitive as technology continues to advance at an exponential rate, influencing the future of work dramatically.

In fact, a combined 69 percent of companies anticipate increasing their hiring needs in 2024, our survey finds. In addition, human resources (30 percent), accounting and finance (29 percent), and sales and relationship management (28 percent) are expected to be the most difficult sectors to fill. These roles are essential to help businesses deal with an increasingly complex talent and cost environment while gaining access to new revenue streams that will help businesses perform while they transform.

Additionally, we’re entering a new wave of disruption across industries, driven by the advancement and impact of generative AI (GAI). Already, the impact of GAI and technology transformation is evident, with organisations preparing by hiring new skills (62.5 percent) and reskilling impacted employees (48 percent). GAI is expected to significantly impact the job landscape by changing, replacing, and creating new roles. 

As businesses transition, it’s important to understand how GAI-powered tools work and determine how they can be applied to real-world problems to drive ongoing organisational value. Talent who are prepared to re-skill and upskill will thrive and drive organisations forward.

We know now that the future will continue to be flexible. While business leaders acknowledge the need for physical connection and engagement, demand from employees is driving the need to support flexible and hybrid work environments. The ability to work from anywhere has gone from a ‘nice to have’ to expected. Employers not prepared to offer this option could expect a backlash from disgruntled employees and face difficulties attracting the talent they need. The challenge for leadership becomes getting the balance right between chasing productivity gains while also remaining people centric. 

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While ongoing changes may seem daunting to employers and employees alike, opportunities will abound for those that are up for the challenge. As we look forward, here’s my pick of key workplace trends for 2024:

Trend one: Increased investment in reskilling to close talent gap

Public spending might see reductions given the change in government; however, the requirement for tech-savvy professionals is expected to remain strong. The survey spotlighted technology skills as the most in demand skill, according to almost 57 percent of respondents. Despite the record number of work-ready migrants available, the real issue is whether or not these workers have the right skills New Zealand needs to bridge the gap. Organisations will need to invest in training and development programmes with a focus on technology and digital skills to close their talent gaps.   

Trend two: The rise of AI as a tool for talent management  

AI has taken the digital world by storm and its impact on technology transformation is evident as more recruiters embed AI tools into their hiring processes. AI is expected to modify the job landscape by evolving current roles, replacing and even creating new roles. Organisations will need to stay ahead of the curve by continually assessing technological trends and aligning their workforce planning strategies accordingly.

Richard Kennedy.

Trend three: Wage inflation leads to new employment incentives

Continued cost-of-living and labour market pressures are likely to influence the way employers look to compensate employees. With an anticipated increase in talent costs by up to 61 percent, expect that companies will be exploring new compensation structures and performance-linked incentives to balance employee satisfaction with organisational agility and sustainability.

Trend four: Balancing the two-way street of remote work  

While remote working became a necessity during the Covid-19 pandemic, workers continue to demand it and we expect this to continue to be a non-negotiable remuneration benefit for many job seekers in 2024. Organisations that withdraw the option for remote working may experience a backlash, finding their ability to attract and retain top talent at risk. Instead, employers must seek ways to get the balance right within hybrid working models to enable employees to enjoy the flexibility while maintaining productivity and workplace culture.

Trend five: Increased focus on employee value proposition to attract top talent

Organisations are starting to understand the importance of ensuring that workers are satisfied across the board, rather than just adequately remunerated. With the war for talent persisting, companies must also maintain focus on their Employee Value Proposition (EVP) and demonstrate a genuine commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) to attract and retain top talent. Leaders will need to hone their management skills, focusing on aspects like mental well-being, onboarding and fostering an inclusive environment.

Richard Kennedy is Country Director at Randstad New Zealand and he is responsible for leading its continued market growth. Randstad’s ambition is to be the most equitable, specialist talent company in New Zealand. Under Richard’s leadership, Randstad partners with clients to deliver end-to-end talent solutions from recruitment to skilling, advisory, coaching and outplacement.

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