Top 5 HR Trends That’ll Shape the Future of Work

Ever since the pandemic, the working landscape has been shifting so drastically that it’s difficult to get the hang of it. At the frontline of these changes are HRs, juggling between hiring and retaining employees, both on-site and off-site.
What HR trends are here to stay?
And what do HRs think of these trends?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

hr trends

Illustration: L. T.

No matter the industry, for the past three years, everyone’s working habits have suffered at least some changes. Switching to remote, then switching back to office, inflation, massive layoffs, upskilling, automation… 

Employees are right to be confused, and they usually turn to HRs to explain the situation to them. 

That’s what we did, too. 

We read relevant surveys on the most important HR trends in 2023 that are most likely to influence the future of work and asked an experienced HR, Ivana Đokić from Represent System, to explain those trends to us and our readers. 

Human skills are the most wanted   

The dynamics of the job market are undergoing a profound transformation, emphasizing the pivotal role of people skills in the evolving world of work. Recent research conducted by BCG and Emsi Burning Glass underscores this shift, revealing that over one-third of the top 20 skills sought in job postings have undergone significant changes since 2016. 

As we stand on the cusp of a future where technology is set to reshape more than a billion jobs by 2030, Pearson’s ‘Power Skills’ report sheds light on the changing priorities of employers. 

Strikingly, the top five skills currently in highest demand are all intrinsically human: 

  • Communication; 
  • Customer Service; 
  • Leadership; 
  • Attention to Detail; 
  • Collaboration. 

These skills are now the crown jewels of employability. They empower individuals to navigate complex professional landscapes, foster meaningful relationships, and drive success in the workplace. 

John Rogers, Vice President of Strategic Accounts and Partnerships at Pearson, reinforces the notion that these people skills have become the ‘new hard skills,’ sought after by employers across industries. Their undeniable value lies in their resistance to automation, making them indispensable in the future of work. 

Skills-based hiring 

In 2023, HR practices are witnessing a significant shift, as reported by Forbes. Skills-based hiring has surged by 63% in the past year, emphasizing practical expertise over traditional degrees. 

This transformation benefits both employers and job seekers. Employers find that skills-based hiring widens their talent pool, speeds up recruitment, and enriches diversity in their workforce. Notably, it eliminates career and salary barriers for over two-thirds of American adults lacking a bachelor’s degree. 

The trend is accentuated by evolving job requirements in fields like computer support and software engineering, where degrees are no longer prerequisites. Data from the Burning Glass Institute shows a decline in job postings requiring degrees from 51% in 2017 to 44% in 2021. 

As we move into 2023, skills-based hiring is projected to gather momentum, with skills poised to become the new currency in the labor market. 

Flexibility in when work gets done   

In 2023, work flexibility is undergoing a transformation, extending beyond remote work to encompass various scheduling options. It no longer solely means working from home but also includes compressed workweeks, such as four or three days with extended hours. 

Executive Networks Global Research’s study, ‘The 2023 Future of Working and Learning Report,’ surveyed 1,301 employees and revealed a shift in priorities. Both knowledge workers and frontline employees now prioritize flexibility in when work is done over where it happens. 

What do the HRs say about it?
We asked Ivana Đokić, who is the Human Resources Director at Represent System, what is her opinion on flexibility in working hours: "Flexible working hours, as well as the hybrid model of work, are no longer novelties, and this year the traditional 5-day working week was also questioned. If you haven't yet discovered the magic formula for working from the office and working outside the office, do it as soon as possible, because the trend of remote work is going nowhere. On the other hand, companies report challenges in team connectivity, and employees who predominantly work remotely and asynchronous loneliness and isolation. What we can say with certainty is that there is no single solution for everyone. The idea of packing 40-weeks into 3 working days doesn't seem too humane and productive. I believe that the time has come to talk about reducing the 40h working week, at least that's what the European trends say!"

For knowledge workers, asynchronous work arrangements require a cultural shift, respecting work-life boundaries, trusting employees to perform tasks beyond the traditional 9-5 schedule, and setting guidelines for live synchronous work. 

Frontline workers are also benefiting from flexible schedules. For instance, Chick-Fil-A offers 13-14 hour shifts on three consecutive days with full-time pay, leading to improved employee retention. 

This trend emphasizes that work flexibility is in demand across all worker segments, extending beyond a response to a tight labor market. It prompts us to rethink work rhythms that can provide flexibility for all employees. 

Hybrid work is mandatory   

Hybrid working has firmly established itself as the new standard in the professional landscape. McKinsey predicts that an overwhelming nine out of ten organizations will embrace a blend of remote and on-site work in the foreseeable future. This shift is underscored by a survey conducted by ZipRecruiter, revealing that job seekers are willing to accept a 14% reduction in pay for the opportunity to work remotely. 

Tiffiney Fort, Chief Orchestration Officer for Hybrid Strategy and Team Solutions at Cisco, advises companies to establish a continuum for their hybrid work model, encompassing options like hybrid on-site first, hybrid off-site first, and hybrid mixed arrangements. Before employees embark on a hybrid work journey, agreements between workers and team leaders should define the workspaces, technology tools, team norms, core collaboration hours, and success rituals to ensure inclusivity. 

Fort emphasizes initiating conversations on hybrid work by prioritizing employee well-being, engagement, and productivity, rather than immediately delving into discussions about the number of days spent in or out of the office. 

Upgrading leaders and managers   

HR leaders are placing a premium on enhancing leader and manager effectiveness, with a resounding 60% prioritizing this crucial aspect, according to Gartner. However, a significant challenge emerges as 24% of organizations find that their existing leadership development approaches fall short in preparing leaders for the dynamic future of work. 

The shifting demands of organizations and society are redefining leadership roles, demanding greater authenticity, empathy, and adaptability from leaders. This transformation underscores the emergence of ‘human’ leadership as a pivotal imperative. 

While HR leaders strive to instill commitment, courage, and confidence in their leaders, authentic human leadership remains a relatively rare commodity. The path to effective human leadership necessitates addressing not only external challenges but also the internal emotional barriers that leaders grapple with, including doubt, fear, and uncertainty. 

To equip leaders for the demands of human leadership and ensure their readiness for the future of work, it is essential to recognize and directly confront these innate emotional hurdles. By acknowledging leaders’ humanity and addressing these emotional obstacles head-on, organizations can pave the way for a new era of leadership effectiveness.