Written by Nicola Gater | 30th January 2024
2023 was a difficult year for many businesses, with challenges including rising costs, an unstable and uncertain economic environment, and skills shortages in the employment market.
This looks set to continue in 2024 and many business owners will be thinking about how they can navigate these difficulties. One important focus will be their people. A talented, high performing and engaged team will ensure businesses are well placed to pull through tough times.
As you set your goals and decide priorities for 2024, here are five people-related strategies we think you should consider.
Tackling mental health and burnout
In 2023, the mental health of nearly half of UK employees (47%) suffered due to financial uncertainty linked to the rising cost of living, according to ACAS. Supporting employees should continue to be a priority for employers in 2024. Mental health, as with any health issue, will impact an employee’s performance and attendance at work, so is an important factor in business success.
Work-related burnout is another possible root cause of poor mental health. Long hours, heavy workloads lack of recognition and factors outside of work are just some of the issues that can contribute towards it. Good employers will be mindful of how working practices and pressures affect their employees’ wellbeing, and will take appropriate action to avoid burnout happening.
If employees are struggling, it should be clear to them what mental health support is available from your business, such as cost effective Employee Assistance Programmes, access to Mental Health First Aiders and Wellness Action Plans, as well as managers who are empathetic and well trained to talk about mental health, offer support and signpost other forms of professional help outside the organisation.
Talent and succession planning
Although there is much focus on short term challenges, employers also have to look to the future to ensure a sustainable business. However good the employee experience, all businesses will see some people leave at times, so it is important to have plans that will replace those people as quickly as possible, especially if those leavers are in key roles like technical experts or business leaders.
Having defined succession plans will benefit both the organisation and the employee – well planned and proactive internal development and promotion is quicker and more cost effective than recruitment, and will ensure employees across all levels to ensure people feel valued, challenged and see their own opportunities for future growth.
Dignity at Work – Ensuring a safe and comfortable place to work
All employers have a duty to provide a safe and healthy workplace. As well as avoiding injury and illness, this means employers must ensure their people are free from bullying, harassment and other inappropriate behaviours. Just as you would focus on Health and Safety policies and training for all staff, we recommend regularly refreshing your policies and training for managers and employees around Dignity at Work, so everyone knows what they can expect and what is expected of them.
New legislation coming into force on October 26 means you, as an employer, will be under a statutory duty to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, and this will require a proactive approach to ensure harassment does not happen.
Between now and then, make sure you have an effective reporting system for complaints about all forms of harassment in the workplace. This should help to detect trends and provide an opportunity to resolve any issues.
Review and refresh your Bullying and Harassment and Dignity at Work policies and re-circulate to all staff. Dignity at Work training for all should also be part of your standard employee training practices, if you are to create a safe workplace and avoid a costly tribunal claim.
As a result, your employees could seem ‘change fatigued’ – visibly tired and anxious about changes, they may resist change or completely disengage and stop asking questions.
In 2024, focus on creating a resilient workforce that can bounce back quickly from inevitable challenges and changes that occur. Ensure employees feel valued with a sense of inclusion and belonging. Involve them in decision making, and hold regular, honest conversations about any changes that allow employees to share their questions and opinions.
Harness the benefits of diverse workplaces
In 2023 we continued to see more discussion and awareness about particular issues pertinent to specific groups of the population, and of our workplaces, and 2024 is the time to turn this into action.
The impact of menopause on employees is starting to gain the attention it deserves. Equally coming into focus is the flexibility and enhanced policies needed to support employees with fertility treatments or family-related life events. Supportive inclusive workplaces which really embed and promote their approach to equality, diversity and inclusion, as well as health and wellbeing, will attract and retain a diverse team which brings so much value to the workplace.
Another area of increasing focus is support for neurodiversity. 30-40% of the population are neurodivergent according to ADHD Aware, so many organisations will already have employees with a range of neurodivergent conditions.
In 2024, you can play a crucial role in supporting neurodiversity by creating an inclusive environment that breaks down stigma and makes individuals feel valued, supported and understood. Manager and employee awareness training builds understanding of the potential difficulties and barriers these groups might face in accessing the world of work, and what support is required to overcome those challenges, so that everyone is supportive, respectful and recognises the value every person brings to the team.
This year, look out for guidance on some of the topics we have discussed above. If you have any questions or require HR support, contact our team at [email protected].