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9 Min Read

How HR Teams Can Do More with Less in 2024

George LaRocque

As we embark on a new year, people leaders are looking for guidance on how to budget and plan strategically, to meet both internal needs and market demands. While economic uncertainty has been the name of the game for the last few years, the impact has not been the same across the board. What has been consistent? The demand on HR teams to do more with less.

Whether your organization is slowing or growing this year, chances are good you’ve been tasked with achieving more ambitious goals than ever before—perhaps even with fewer people and less money.

I’m George LaRocque, Founder and Principal Analyst at WorkTech, and I recently talked about this very real challenge on 15Five’s HR Superstars Podcast. Host Adam Weber and I discussed strategies for optimizing your workforce, aligning HR with business goals, crafting a compelling business case to win over leadership, embracing an AI-powered future, and more. Read on for some key takeaways and an action plan you can put in place in 2024.

Why is HR being asked to do more with less?

If you look at how the field of HR has changed over the last 15 years or so, you’ll see how the demands have steadily increased and expanded while relevant training has remained stagnant. 

While it’s historically been an administrative function, organizations are now asking their HR people to be data analysts, marketers, behavioral science experts, productivity experts, etc. HR teams are being stretched incredibly thin while dealing with their own set of skill gaps.

Fortunately, while this mismatch in abilities and expectations has hit a fever pitch, so has the growth of HR tech and AI-powered capabilities. While there are certainly issues that must be addressed by people and process changes rather than technology, embracing AI and automation can help alleviate some of the biggest challenges HR leaders currently face—and help you build more efficient teams. 

Ready to build an effective people-first, tech-enabled HR strategy? Consider the following four steps to making it happen in 2024.

1. Allocate budget appropriately and efficiently 

Priorities and focus areas differ from company to company and year to year. You may be in a situation where your team is focused on the basic delivery of pay and benefits, or perhaps you‘re in a competitive talent environment where recruiting is the top priority. Maybe this year, engagement and retention are paramount after high regrettable turnover last year. 

Whatever those priorities are for your organization, it’s crucial to consider them upfront before you start having budget conversations. Getting together with the other leaders in the business and aligning on those priorities is step number one.

Think about the shape and demographics of your workforce. Are teams distributed? Are you largely made up of knowledge workers? Do you have frontline workers? Is there a retail or field-based organization? Think about how those factors influence your people and culture goals for 2024. 

When you think about how to bucket your HR resources, look for opportunities to be more efficient and lower costs, find any gaps that need to be filled, and uncover opportunities to deliver more value to the organization with less investment. 

Technology is simply a given now. Establish programs and processes to support your workforce and think about how your technology will enable them. Do you have the right solutions in place? Are there any tools you need to add to gain a competitive advantage? What are the risks involved? I always advise HR leaders to manage their budget like an investment portfolio—carefully consider both the upside and the potential risks when deciding where to spend your money.

2. Leverage technology with a human-first approach 

I’ve been thrilled to see the people-first movement gaining momentum in the HR industry, even as we embrace an AI-fueled future. We’ll need this balance to ensure HR people are enabled to do what they do best. While we’re still at peak hype cycle with AI, industry leaders are stressing the importance of using the technology ethically and meaningfully.

Innovative approaches and strategic allocations will allow you to do more in HR with fewer resources. You can raise the bar to tackle new challenges, achieve greater efficiencies, and elevate impacts on your organization’s bottom line.

Think about how you can apply AI and automation to help reach business goals while improving employee experience and culture. Consider how it can help your overwhelmed HR team offload tedious tasks so they can focus on human-centered work. 

AI is getting good at writing, summarizing, and research. It’s even getting better at some visual components. Think about all the communications your people are having with employees and candidates every day. All the emails sent, charts and spreadsheets created, and presentations made. How can AI assist that work and save them precious time?

When it comes to HR tech in general, in today’s climate I recommend a platform strategy. Think about your current platform or tech stack and how it meets your needs. Do you have the right platform in place? Is that company innovating to keep up with industry changes? Make sure you have a trusted tech partner that meets your current needs while incorporating modern capabilities (like AI) in smart and secure ways.

Cautions when using AI

Though I strongly recommend embracing AI technology, I would be remiss not to emphasize the importance of understanding exactly what data you’re giving these tools access to. 

For example, a limited data point (such as the salary range for an open position) is generally fine—it’s going to be posted online for all to see anyway. But private information about individual employees should always be behind a firewall, and whatever is accessing that data needs to be an internal model, with no external access points.

Consider all potential risks when using AI-enabled tools. You most likely want to minimize any risks when it comes to your payroll system, benefits, or core HR system of record. You must always think through the worst-case scenario—like your system going down completely. 

When working with AI and automation, always bring it back to the business case. What business value are you getting, what are the risks, and is it worth the investment?

3. Build a skills-based organization

Consider this: with the current rate of innovation, technical skills have a lifespan of about two and a half years. That means that, at best, many of the skills you’re using today could be irrelevant in ten years or less. To keep up with this rapid change, there’s a growing movement toward building skills-based organizations (SBOs). 

As Michael Griffiths, lead for Deloitte’s Learning Consulting practice, recently shared on Deloitte’s Capital H podcast, “Our business environment is changing so rapidly, and the skills needed to compete look so different than they did even five to seven years ago. Many of our people processes that HR as a profession has institutionalized for decades were built for a different, slower, much more stable environment. They weren’t built for the speed and agility that our businesses require from us today.”

What we’re seeing with the SBO movement is a focus on delivering a skills-based approach to recruiting, internal career pathing, retention, change management, and more. This operating model—powered by modern technology—will truly allow HR organizations to do more with less while making work more meaningful for employees.

In practice, think about how skills influence your hiring decisions. What skills are needed for a specific role today? How are these skills relevant to where you see the business going? What is the candidate’s capacity to learn and grow this skill set? Thinking this way opens you up to a more diverse pool of candidates and allows you to realistically forecast career paths that align with the future of the organization. 

4. Use data to show HR’s business value

For well over 20 years, I’ve been teaching HR leaders how to build effective business cases. When you’re asked to deliver more value with fewer resources, having data to back you up is essential to getting the resources and support you need to make it happen. 

Think about what your business is trying to achieve, the current mindset of your leadership team, and how you align your HR strategy with those goals. Demonstrating how your programs aim to impact key outcomes—like employee performance, engagement, retention, and manager effectiveness—is critical to getting the trust and support of your company leaders.

Maybe you have an executive or department head who really understands culture and engagement. Get their input and rally them to your cause! Other leaders will need to see the ROI and want to have more data-driven conversations. Know your audience. If you make the wrong argument to the wrong leader, it can fall on deaf ears. Build a strong case with both quantitative and qualitative data.

Once you have a couple of wins under your belt, you can adjust your approach. It typically becomes easier to get support from leadership when you’ve built up your credibility with a track record of success.

Get the full conversation on the HR Superstars podcast

Tune into 15Five’s HR Superstars podcast to hear from other strategic people leaders and industry experts who are making meaningful impacts in their organizations and shaping the future of work. 

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About the Author

George LaRocque is a leading work tech analyst and advisor and founder of WorkTech. He reports on innovation in HR technology and is a founding partner of Impact WorkTech Accelerator. George has launched market-leading B2B work tech brands to profitability, funding, or both, and he speaks frequently on trends impacting work, HR and work tech. He also speaks to the vendor community about taking their technology to market. In his 30+ years of general management, marketing, sales, and sales management experience, he has built companies that provide cloud-based software via Software as a Service model.