By the numbers: HR priorities and pain points where comms can help

A closer look at what HR and comms are dealing with in 2024.

Over the last year-plus, a lot has changed in our overall concept of how the modern workplace should function. From debates over and sometimes controversial implementations of return-to-office programs to discussions over pay raises amid continued inflation concerns, there’s no shortage of debates about what employees expect from today’s work environment.

Whatever decisions make sense to address your workforce and business needs, communicating about such issues takes coordination and smart planning, and that’s where a unified front from comms and HR can come in very handy.

Ahead of our conversations with HR leaders at Ragan’s upcoming Employee Experience Conference, we looked at the data in SHRM’s State of the Workplace report and analyzed what communicators can glean from it.

Where HR is and isn’t using AI

When the work of a function deals with nuanced personal issues and sensitive information, it’s important to resist the urge to automate all the work. To this end, HR seems to be holding off on using AI. SHRM’s report found that less than half (42%) of all respondents are using AI for talent acquisition, which tracks with the glut of headlines warning of AI’s bias in the recruitment process . Even fewer HR pros are using AI for training and development (36%) and people analytics (21%).

The HR duties that are automated the least, meanwhile — leadership development (16%), employee orientation (16%), organizational culture shaping (15%), DEI (9%) and listening (6%) — all call for a level of nuance and relationship building that communicators are positioned to collaborate on and help streamline.

Recognition of inflationary pressures and non-financial benefits

If you’ve taken a trip to the grocery store and noticed how expensive a box of Cheez-It has gotten lately, you’ve seen the impacts of inflation on the economy. But the impacts of inflation are also making their way into the workplace. According to the SHRM report, 82% of hourly workers, 69% of salaried workers, and 67% of consumers indicated concern about the toll inflation is taking on work activities.

A whopping 87% of respondents reported that fair employee compensation was the top priority, suggesting this is something comms pros can continue to HR craft consistent messaging about compensation so the language is consistent everywhere that the subject surfaces – from manager conversations and employee communications, employer branding and job posts alike.

Even with that in mind, 8% of organizations surveyed said that they didn’t plan on any raises for the time being, and the vast majority of responding companies reported that they planned raises of 5% or less.

It sounds simple because it is; you need to compensate the top talent available. But let’s say that temporary budget constraints put a cap on raises in your organization. There are other ways to ensure that all-important retention and recruitment avenues stay open. When your organization invests in non-financial benefits like workplace flexibility or PTO packages, HR and comms can also collaborate on a strategy for consistently reinforcing what the organization offers through managers, allhands meetings, intranet posts and more. HR can bring the data to the conversation, while comms should shape the conversation about the findings.

People want to get paid for their work. But in the face of financial constraints, offering your people much-desired flexibility and benefits outside their paychecks means they just might stick out the tough times until the next pay bump comes.

HR priorities and building the talent pipeline

Respondents gave middling grades on the job HR was doing, particularly with respect to talent acquisition.  For their jobs in acquiring top talent, HR workers got a B- mark, HR executives got a B, and American workers as a whole got a C-. Frustration stemmed from staffing shortages that led to increased workloads for some employees.

With these insights in mind, some of HR’s top priorities for 2024 were borne out through the data. They focused heavily on maintaining morale among existing employees and getting top talent in the door.

Employees outside of HR echoed these priorities, with over 80% of non-HR respondents wanting the same above categories, in addition to proper pay and good healthcare.

For HR and comms, these numbers are a sign that people want to work in a place that values not only who they are personally, but their skills as well. Fifty-three percent of respondents to the survey agreed that upskilling should take precedence for HR pros.

Communicators and HR can also collaborate to ensure that employees have access to upskilling programs to keep their skills sharp. Employees who feel their contributions and skills are valuable to the company are more likely to stay, and those employees can then be used as great examples in the recruitment process. Professional development and advancement opportunities are a big part of what makes a company a great place to work, and HR needs to define how those look and comms needs to be able to talk about them effectively.

We’re less than halfway through 2024, but if you haven’t taken stock of how your comms and HR departments are working together, there’s no time like the present.

In a moment when 58% of HR pros report time and staffing constraints as their greatest barrier, communicators should feel empowered to take a holistic approach that helps HR connect its efforts back to your organization’s mission, vision and values and the goals you share.

Sean Devlin is an editor at Ragan Communications. In his spare time he enjoys Philly sports and hosting trivia.

Learn more about how HR and comms leaders can collaborate to drive engagement during Ragan’s Employee Experience Conference, going down Aug. 12-14 in Nashville. 

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