Several trends, including artificial intelligence and early-career hiring, will influence talent acquisition in the coming year, according to Korn Ferry’s 2024 Talent Acquisition Trend report. The organization identified six recruitment and talent trends to watch for in the upcoming year.

“With the explosion of AI in recruiting as well as the challenges of greeting a new generation of workers and grappling with when, where, and how people should work, there is a lot for talent leaders to consider when shaping the hiring and retention landscape,” Korn Ferry CEO Jeanne MacDonald said in a press statement.

The trends include:

AI and recruiters. AI will increasingly handle time-consuming recruitment tasks, such as AI-driven assessments and scheduling. The time saved by AI will enable recruiters to focus on the candidate experience and help discern how candidates match specific roles. However, 73% of leaders will closely monitor the use of AI tools for potential negative effects on their companies.

AI for candidates. AI will assist candidates by finding openings for roles they may not have considered, optimizing their résumés and cover letters and preparing them for interviews. AI will also keep the lines of communication open, as it can continually update candidates on where they stand in the recruiting process.

Early-career hiring. There is a growing battle for workers who are fresh into the professional field. Employers are interested in the new ideas they bring, and in times of economic uncertainty, it’s easier to justify bringing on people with entry-level salaries than hiring more experienced (and more expensive) workers. Some larger employers are starting to woo candidates as early as high school, and others are broadening their candidate searches beyond top-tier colleges to technical and non-traditional higher education institutions.

Hiring for skills. In 2024, it’s your skills, not the pedigree of past employers on your résumé, that count. Instead of tying hiring initiatives to long-term strategic business needs, many companies are hiring for — and paying top dollar for — the skills workers possess today, such as generative AI specialists. Job postings will focus more on specific skills, including technical and leadership skills, depending on the role, instead of qualifications such as the university the person attended.

Empathy regains importance. Many employees believe there is a decline in pandemic-era empathy from top organizational leaders. CEO-led return-to-office mandates are perceived as ignoring workers’ personal commitments. In a survey of 3,000 HR professionals at the start of 2023, a third said empathy was lacking at the top. The report shows that’s a big problem for any business that wants to hire and hold onto high-performing people. As those high performers move on, taking roles in organizations that give them greater work-life integration or more freedom to share their opinions without fear, CEOs will have to make changes.

Relocate or resign. As more leaders demand employees head back to the office, there may be a resurgence in relocating for work. While some employers already pay relocation costs for senior executives, if employers want to attract top talent at all levels of the company, they will need to start folding relocation or housing assistance into their employee incentive packages.

In a viral TikTok, a recent college graduate bemoaned the demands of a 9-to-5 work schedule.

The creator, Brielle, says she leaves for work at 7:30 a.m. and doesn’t get home until 6:15 p.m., at which point she has no energy to exercise, cook or see friends.

“I’m in-person and I’m commuting into the city ... if I was able to walk to work it’d be fine, but I’m not,” she says of her long commute.

The video was instantly polarizing, with some viewers empathizing and agreeing that the current workplace structure is unhealthy and others chastising Brielle for complaining. 

Post-pandemic, a truncated workweek has increasingly gained favor with employees. One in three workers say they’d quit their job for one with a shortened week, according to a Monster survey. During the UAW strike, a 32-hour workweek was among the initial list of demands.

Historically, there is precedence for this change, says Ben Hunnicutt, a historian who focuses on why companies abandoned shorter workdays. 

“The 40-hour workweek, from 9-to-5, is not a universal mandate from God, it’s a historical accident,” he says. 

Gen Z workers, like Brielle, might be the ones to facilitate a shift in company expectations.

“There is a tendency now in younger folks to value their time more than advancement at work,” Hunnicutt says. “Maybe that is a choice we all have to make: Time or money? Money or your life?” 

‘Work is a religion’

From the early 1800s, the peak of the Industrial Revolution, until 1940, when the 40-hour workweek became law, hours were continuously cut. Most economists predicted that this trend would continue, Hunnicutt says. 

John Maynard Keynes, known as the “father of macroeconomics” predicted that by 2030 the workweek would be only 15 hours long. Kellogg Cereal implemented a six-hour workday in 1930. 

“Nobody thought the shorter hours process would end at 40 hours,” Hunnicutt says. “There is no reason at all as to why it shouldn’t decline some more.” 

Work is religion, and any time a religion is threatened, the people who believe in that religion get really mad.
Ben Hunnicutt

The current workweek structure isn’t an economic need, he says, but a cultural value. 

“Work is what we have for condemning other people, for setting ourselves apart, for our prejudice against all those ‘lazy bums,’ for justifying racism,” he says. 

As long as Americans believe that working more increases your value as a person, people like Brielle will be judged. 

“Work is religion, and any time a religion is threatened, the people who believe in that religion get really mad,” he says. 

‘People want to work as little as possible and get the highest wage possible’

Some experts are not so sure that changing how or when we work will improve employee well-being. 

The problem isn’t the structure of the workweek but the desire to work, says Daniel Hamermesh, an economist and emeritus professor of economics at the University of Texas at Austin. One of his areas of study is the shortened workweek.

“People want to work as little as possible and get the highest wage possible,” he says. “People want more for less, but the world doesn’t work that way. I wish it did.”

Results from a six-month trial in the U.K. where employees got 100% of the pay for working 80% of the time in exchange for delivering 100% of their usual output showed that working less did improve worker satisfaction.

However, looking at data on how working 10 hours a day for four days a week affected employees in South Korea from 1973 to 2018, Hamermesh found that happiness increased very little.

These varying results, Hamermesh says, are likely due to a cognitive process called expectancy theory, which postulates that a person works harder because of an expected reward or consequence. People who desire and attain a 4-day workweek will be happy for a bit, but the positive effects of the reward will eventually wear off.

“Once they get a more desirable schedule that would be the new base point, but they would be equally as happy as they were before [getting a shorter workweek],” he says.

Plus, he says, Americans are fussy and that’s not likely to change: “Complaining is the American way — that is our strong point.”

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