For most leadership teams working in the back and middle office functions of People (HR and Talent Acquisition) & Procurement, 2024 will finally be the year of change after a stop-start 2023 for most large organisations.
Last year, proactive talent acquisition strategies took a back seat in favour of layoffs and restructuring, with cost-cutting the main concern. Generative AI gets the headlines, but the reality is that most businesses - from fast-growing scaleups to large global multinationals- were - and still likely are - bloated and have been seeing productivity wane since the pandemic. Reducing operating costs to bolster profit margin again this year will bring a need for businesses to really innovate with talent strategies in order to, well, innovate. Not just let people go and hope revenues don’t stagnate or drop.
Here’s the issue, though. Good talent is burnt. Permanent employee talent is grappling with layoffs and burnout from ‘The Big Experiment’, AKA working from home and the consequent return to the office (yep, hybrid working still isn’t ‘solved’). Flexible talent has, and continues to be, burnt from poor decision-making in legal departments, leaving most contractors, it seems, payrolled on zero-hour contracts with 3rd party employment suppliers - leaving a bitter taste from unnecessary taxation. To top it off, it seems you guys and gals in People & Procurement burnt out from firefighting these issues.
Well, that was last year. This year isn’t all doom and gloom. Promise.
Ever the optimist, let’s get focussed on positive change in 2024. Let’s break the cycle and set some intentions.
Here are my three hot takes off the back of the conversations I’ve had so far this year. January has been a mad fortnight of catching up with everyone from senior leadership at client-side HR, Procurement, Talent, MSP teams at strategy and on-the-ground level, tech and staffing supplier head honchos. The comment theme of these discussions is that all are largely relieved at 2023 being over and desperately want to see the light on the horizon in 2024.
#1 Be your hiring manager (get in their shoes)
Get in your hiring teams’ shoes, wear their hats, and you'll see the friction firsthand. See firsthand how slow internal responses, paperwork for approvals, and jumping across various systems all makes for a poor experience for your permanent employees. In recent months, we’ve found that an IT notification for onboarding or a simple enough timesheet integration can cut days of confusion out of the contractor process - ultimately helping hiring teams get productive and generate revenue faster. As People & Procurement, you impact people’s everyday lives, which in the world of back office is better PR than most high-effort initiatives.
#2 Follow the money (leave no stone unturned)
In a world of outsourcing, you’ll find there are hidden layers of friction - and margin - which are actually spoiling the experience for the most important people in your organisation for all workers typing to complete their work - that’s both contractors and permanent employees. A perfect example of this is in the UK and US, where many companies are outsourcing payroll and compliance to their vendors - staffing firms - who in turn use payroll and classification (eg. IR35 tools to assess roles and then outsource it all to umbrellas to payroll. So much visibility was lost, and the experience was ruined. We're seeing a lot of companies coming to us to solve for this right now.
#3 Learn the law (or at least try to)
Keep a close eye on legislative changes, and get advised! UK IR35 offset changes and US DOL Final Rule federal policy on freelancers, platforms and independent workers DOESN'T mean burying your head in the sand, or knee-jerking into putting everyone on payroll, or worse of all, hitting the red button for a hiring freeze. Get informed, use partners – who don't have to be expensive outside law firms – look at your technology and services partners and ask if they have the in-house expertise they'd be glad to share with you.
As we step into 2024, there is a buzz of optimism of positive change for People & Procurement teams. While the talent landscape may seem burnt out, this year presents an opportunity to break the cycle and set new intentions.