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DEI prioritisation and discrimin-AI-tion

In 2024, industry professionals predict that inclusivity and gender equality will move down the priority agenda. With conflicts raging across the globe resulting in the cost-of-living crisis not easing up, DE&I may be an additional victim as organisations focus on cost-cutting, with a quarter (25%) of employers citing limited resources and budget as the main reason DE&I will have less focus next year. With 47% of UK employers considering DE&I a minimal or limited priority, there’s a growing concern about organisations falling short of their DE&I commitments. While there are challenges to overcome to maintain momentum, DE&I benefits are too great to ignore, and for brands that get it wrong, the consequences can be catastrophic from a brand reputational point of view. 
Latest predictions from 900 industry professionals as part of research* reveals that DE&I will be deprioritised in 2024, AI will perpetuate discrimination, with 42% of C-Suite business leaders perceiving DE&I as a minimal priority and 71% encountering challenges with bias and discrimination issues when using AI in recruiting.

Research predicts that budget cuts driven by a poor economic climate and a volatile marketplace due to global conflicts will result in a very tough year for hiring managers.

Several pivotal trends are set to shape the way organisations approach recruitment and retention. Each trend brings with it its own set of challenges and opportunities that demand strategic foresight and proactive measures:

The Downfall of DE&I? – In 2024, industry professionals predict that inclusivity and gender equality will move down the priority agenda. With conflicts raging across the globe resulting in the cost-of-living crisis not easing up, DE&I may be an additional victim as organisations focus on cost-cutting, with a quarter (25%) of employers citing limited resources and budget as the main reason DE&I will have less focus next year. With 47% of UK employers considering DE&I a minimal or limited priority, there’s a growing concern about organisations falling short of their DE&I commitments. While there are challenges to overcome to maintain momentum, DE&I benefits are too great to ignore, and for brands that get it wrong, the consequences can be catastrophic from a brand reputational point of view.

Accessibility knowledge gaps – People with disabilities and impairments will have an issue with many UK-based employers that do not prioritise accessibility in the talent acquisition process, as they will continue to be overlooked for certain vacancies. Accessibility in recruitment is already an area of concern, with almost one-fifth (19%) of organisations in the UK lacking established accessibility initiatives. Neglecting accessibility not only hinders talent acquisition but also sends a message that inclusivity is undervalued, and this can create severe consequences in more regulated sectors such as life sciences and public services.

AI’s Dark Side – There will be increased discrimination in the talent selection process due to an overreliance on artificial intelligence. Unconscious biases in AI models are already a concern, particularly regarding diversity and inclusion efforts. This has been widely acknowledged at the recent Artificial Intelligence Summit in Bletchley Park. While 81% of hiring managers believe AI is a valuable resource, 87% acknowledge challenges with bias and discrimination. The EU’s AI Directive has placed recruitment in the highest-risk category for good reason, as the unchecked use of algorithms in hiring processes will perpetuate discrimination.

Employer Branding Horror – Regardless of how well a job ad is worded, or how much detail goes into a job description, candidates won’t attend first interviews due to being put off by employer reviews on public forums like Glassdoor, disclosing unfavourable inside information on the negative experiences of ex-employees. According to recent research from Cpl’s Talent Evolution Group, over two-thirds (69%) of ex-employees now share public-facing online reviews of former employers, with over half being of a negative nature. This number will continue to rise. The research also uncovered that 55% of employees were not invited to conduct exit interviews, and 38.2% were not asked for feedback upon resigning from their last job. These figures emphasise the importance of actively engaging departing employees for valuable insights to continually improve employer branding.

Streamlining the Approvals Process – Companies will adopt a more agile approach to talent acquisition, with more streamlined and automated processes to ensure top talent is secured and not left in onboarding limbo. In the fiercely competitive job market, slow approvals and elongated hiring processes will have a detrimental domino effect on securing top-tier talent. Prolonged hiring processes result in the loss of potential talent, as 92% of employers reported losing candidates due to lengthy processes in 2023.

Worker Misclassification Nightmares – Expect more lawsuits, financial penalties, and brand damage as organisations grapple with legal nuances between employees, workers, and self-employed individuals.

Several prominent brands have already faced consequences for failing to comply with regulations in 2023. The Government identified 200 employers who were subsequently directed to reimburse their lowest-paid employees for wages below the minimum wage.

This issue will likely worsen before it gets better, with nearly a third (31%) of hiring managers feeling unprepared for UK employment law situations. The majority (94%) stated a need for clearer legal distinctions between permanent employees and contingent workers, highlighting potential compliance challenges for 2024.

Return to the office limiting talent pools – Cpl’s Talent Evolution Group research indicates that 81% of organisations are moving away from remote work, with 30% of employees required to return to the physical workplace and 51% encouraged to do so. This shift poses challenges for HR departments. In organisations with a blended workforce, where employees work remotely, in a hybrid manner, or in-office, those working remotely are likely to feel disconnected, risking reduced attention and unclear expectations. This will result in decreased productivity, disengagement, and higher turnover.

Fear of the Talent Drought – Over-reliance on top performing talent will lead to more burnout and stress, especially in industries that rely on the latest technology and specialist skillsets. The talent landscape in 2024 brings with it the fear of a scarcity of skilled candidates, with 93% of hiring managers concerned about a talent drought going into the new year. Factors like rapid technological advancements and demographic shifts are expected to lead to a shortage of qualified professionals. Additionally, an ageing population and lack of EU workers are reducing the pool of available, experienced, and qualified workers, putting more pressure on and relying on top-tier talent.

More Agile and Cost-Effective Talent Acquisition – Outsourcing talent solutions is expected to rise, with 77% of organisations planning to outsource talent management in 2024 to maximise investment, access to talent expertise, and cutting-edge recruitment tools. Cpl’s Talent Evolution Group has witnessed firsthand the need for organisations to dial up their talent acquisition efforts to cope with increased demands and new projects. Many in-house departments aren’t equipped to succeed at upscaling at pace and therefore strategically outsource to talent specialists with access to top-tiered talent and the tools and technology to upscale and recruit at pace.

Áine Fanning, Managing Director, Talent Evolution Group, said, “As we look ahead to 2024, it’s evident that the talent acquisition landscape is evolving rapidly, presenting many challenges and opportunities for organisations.

“In light of the trends outlined, it’s clear that 2024 will demand a strategic approach from both employers and candidates alike, especially regarding the efficient use of budgets, DE&I and how we best utilise technology to support requirements.

“Ultimately, talent acquisition and retention will benefit from a proactive and adaptable approach next year. By addressing these trends head-on, we can collectively shape a more inclusive, efficient, and successful talent landscape in 2024 and beyond.”

Cpl’s Talent Evolution Group is a leading expert in Managed Service Provider (MSP) and Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) solutions. With a keen understanding of the evolving recruitment landscape, TEG offers strategic insights and data-driven solutions to help organisations across various industries including life-sciences, technology, financial services, and public sector, thrive in today’s competitive talent market.

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