Preparing for the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation is the key focus for HR professionals gearing up for the start of a new calendar year, research has revealed.
The study by Edenred found that while investing in training and skills to enable employers to cope with the effects of AI tops the list of priorities for 55% of respondents, they still expect to be dealing with the fallout of the cost-of-living crisis on staff performance through the first half of 2024.
According to the digital platform’s People Barometer 2023, the second and third areas of business investment will be in employee wellbeing and engagement, cited by 43% and 36% respectively.
Almost two in three (64%) of employers admitted they were struggling with staff retention, while a similar perecentage (62%) noted employee engagement was declining.
Nearly four in 10 (39%) of HR leaders surveyed about the main issues they faced in the year ahead revealed they were receiving more requests for extra financial help, while one in three (33%) respondents said their employees were undertaking side hustles or second jobs.
Almost half (48%) cited financial wellbeing as the greatest threat to staff performance for 2024, with nearly the same percentage (51%) claiming it to be the key people concern that needed to be addressed next year.
Among the main measures employers said they had implemented to support the workforce with the cost of living were one-off payments or vouchers (68%), more pay (59%), an employee assistance programme (42%) and retail discounts (34%).
Just under one in two (47%) plan to increase pay by the end of this month (December), with a further 20% intending to offer support in the form of one-off payments.
Most HR leaders (64%) believe employers have a duty to help staff in times of difficulty, such as during the current crisis, more than half (54%) expressed a need to have compromised on the support they wanted to offer and the affordibility of it.
Commenting on the research, Edenred sales and marketing director, Andy Philpott said: “While the cost-of-living crisis is likely ease in 2024 it is clear from our research that the top priority for every employer to recognise the ongoing impact it will have on employee engagement, performance and retention. Whether you are planning a year to consolidate or change the business, high performance will be critical to success and supporting employees with financial concerns will be critical to achieve business goals.
“Start by reviewing the support you have in place to drive financial wellbeing, engagement and performance. Does it align with the way the business works or do you need to make changes? Use incentives to reinforce company values and encourage behaviour that underpins business success.”