5 Workforce Talent Trends for 2024

Part of a series  |  2024 HR Trends Series

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The years-long, rapidly changing recruiting and retention landscape has kept employers on edge. The new year will bring continued evolution of worker expectations and retooled employer offerings.

We identified the top five talent trends affecting the workforce and businesses in 2024. Developing strategies now that can help you and your organization's talent and HR professionals navigate these trends will be the key to unlocking your talent's potential in the coming months.

To find out about trends impacting other areas of the workforce, check out the 10 HR Trends to Follow in 2024 and the 2024 HR Trends Series.

1. Skill may be the secret to the labor shortage

You've either experienced it firsthand, or you've heard other employers complain about the difficulty of finding qualified candidates. It can be perplexing when there are 6.36 million unemployed workers in the labor market, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (U.S. DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Factors like bias and discrimination can make it difficult for workers to find roles, especially those in underrepresented groups. However, experts suspect there are additional factors at play that could be contributing to this gap between workers and open roles. With more roles requiring skills in new technologies, it could be that the skills of available talent do not match the skills needed for open roles. There could also be a mismatch of education with business needs or a shortfall of experienced talent. According to the ADP Research Institute, management and people skills are ranked as the top two skills needed for the future of work.

In addition, Deb Hughes, senior vice president of transformation communications and change management and HR at ADP, believes soft skills will play a big part in the future of work. "We've been undersold the importance of soft skills in the workplace — they're not as flashy. But empathy and connection are hard to teach. Companies that amplify the skills we once thought of as 'soft' are going to be the ones that succeed."

To help bridge the skills gap, employers may consider a focus on building the right skills in existing employees and looking for the right skills when hiring workers. Ongoing skills development for existing employees can train workers for crossover and multifunctional roles. Another possibility is for talent professionals to shift their focus away from identifying the perfect skills match to identifying transferable skills. This requires a new approach to evaluation and may even unlock access to candidates that have been previously overlooked.

2. The traditional career path is evolving

A non-linear trajectory marks the new career journey, along with non-traditional education options and increased mobility from role to role.

Fewer employers require a bachelor's degree for mid-skill and even some higher-skill roles, as per a study released by The Burning Glass Institute. And with a 33 percent drop in U.S. adults aged 18 to 29 who view college education as very important, according to a Gallup poll, you can see just how significant this shift is. Traditional education is no longer viewed as the singular gateway to the workforce.

Hughes ascribes this shift partly to higher education's rising costs and falling perceived value. "As higher education costs continue to rise, some workers question the return on investment of obtaining a degree. Now, as some industries beginning to place more emphasis on experience rather than degrees to open up the talent pipeline for hard-to-fill roles, some individuals are considering whether earning a degree would be worth the investment depending on their desired job role and industry."

Leaders may consider leaning into the evolution of career paths to support employees moving through a nonlinear career journey. While education is still important for some roles, employers can also consider offering credentialing programs for their employees as alternative education.

3. Pay transparency and pay equity are becoming table-stakes

It's not news that people care about fair pay. This trend — if we can even call it a trend — is not going anywhere. It will only continue increasing in importance for current and prospective employees. Though some states have yet to enact pay transparency laws, many employers are jumping on the bandwagon of listing pay ranges on job postings simply because it's proving more effective in getting applicants. Indeed reports a 30 percent increase in applicants for roles that have pay listed.

Amy Leschke-Kahle, vice president of talent insights and innovation at ADP, encourages employers not to put off prioritizing their pay strategy. "You either invest in your pay strategy to address pay equity in the near term, or you can put it off until someone or something forces you to do it. Most organizations will be well served to address this critical component of work on their own terms and their own timeline."

Employers are encouraged to close any unexplained pay gaps and practice pay transparency even if they are not in a jurisdiction that requires pay transparency. For more on managing pay equity and transparency, visit the ADP Pay Transparency Resource Center.

4. Generational movement is changing the landscape of work

Is your organization ready for an entire generation of people to phase out of the workforce? The Bureau of Labor Force Statistics projects that in 2024, one-quarter of the workforce will be comprised of workers aged 55 or older, which is up from 21.7 percent in 2014. Generation Z has already started making waves in the workplace. Are you prioritizing knowledge sharing between your multi-generational workers?

Kiran Contractor, director of talent acquisition at ADP, believes staying abreast of what employees want is crucial for managing the shift. "The generational shift in the workforce is happening, and it's happening fast. Organizations that are embracing this change should also keep an eye out for what drives their employees, and what's important to them," says Contractor. "In a multigenerational workforce, you can't assume everyone wants or is motivated by the same things. Meet your employees where they are in the different phases of their professional and personal lives."

As the makeup of the workforce changes, employers may consider prioritizing ways to stay engaged with employees to learn what they value and how they can meet their needs. Since the values and needs of a Generation Z worker could drastically differ from those of a Generation X or Baby Boomer worker, guesswork won't cut it. Surveys are an excellent way for employers to stay in touch with what their workers want and ask honest and strategic questions to capture employees' thoughts, feelings and needs.

5. Organizations continue to realize the importance of the employee experience

The employee experience — what employees see, hear, think and feel about the organization they're a part of and how they experience working — is becoming more important for organizations looking to gain and retain talented employees. Yet, despite the growing awareness of its importance, most organizations don't have a role entirely or even partially devoted to making sure that their employee experience is positive. If the overall employee experience isn't positive, this could become problematic for organizations looking to retain employees and save on onboarding costs.

Leschke-Kahle encourages leaders to learn about how employees are experiencing work inside their teams and the organization. "Leaders should become students of their organization and employees to eliminate barriers and create a work experience where workers feel respected for their contributions."

As employees place more emphasis and priority on their mental, physical and financial health, they will gravitate toward employers that create avenues for them to achieve their goals in those areas. Leaders should try to provide employees with engaging and authentic experiences as well as provide them with benefits they genuinely value.

The wrap-up

As the workforce continues to evolve, leaders would be wise to execute a strategic talent strategy in 2024 and consider how these talent trends might already affect their workers. Talent professionals aren't the only ones who can positively impact talent in an organization. An organization's leadership team would do best by staying connected with employees to keep their finger on the pulse of what makes up the beating heart of their organization — the people.

Dive deeper

Download the 2024 HR trends guide