The top hiring trends for 2024: How to attract and retain tomorrow’s talent

10 min read | Elisabetta Bayliss | Article | | Market trends

How to attract and retain tomorrow’s talent

Skills-based hiring is setting the new standard, intergenerational workplaces are placing greater attention on company culture, and we must better understand how AI and other emerging technologies will shape talent attraction.

The new hiring marketplace is as unpredictable as it is complex. But when viewed through the lens of the latest market intelligence and expert leadership advice, a clearer picture starts to emerge. 

Driven by data from our 2024 UK Salary & Recruitment Trends guide, along with key recommendations from our expert leaders, we’ve outlined the top hiring trends that could make the difference when formulating your talent strategies for the year ahead. 


Trend 1: Take a skills-first approach to hiring in 2024

92% of employers faced skills shortages last year. The solution? Hire for potential rather than prescriptive skillsets. Look beyond the typical CV headline info (educational attainment, specific qualifications and technical expertise) for valuable and diverse talent channels that could yield a positive return on investment. 

Most employers are already onboard with this approach. Nearly three-quarters (73%) believe an employee’s willingness to learn is more important than their existing skillset, with nearly half (45%) not considering a degree to be an important requirement. 

While industry tenure and qualifications may look impressive on paper, they come at a cost and don’t guarantee the best fit for a role. Core skills – such as empathy and problem solving – will only grow in value as AI tools and automation shake up the workplace, and more employers look to build agile teams who can weather change. 

Harry Gooding, Director at Hays Skills, says: "The technical skills that a business wants change every year (sometimes even faster) so the most important skill a new employee can demonstrate is a willingness and ability to learn – but maybe even more important than that is a real love for learning new things." 

If you’re looking to develop a sustainable and diverse pipeline of talent, consider developing your very own skills academy, and nurture the exact talent your organisation requires from the ground up.


Trend 2: Engage new-to-market talent

The new generation of professionals have faced unprecedented challenges. The pandemic, followed by an economy in recession, caused significant disruption to both their education and access to the labour market, impacting their confidence, and resulting in changed motivations and expectations of the world of work. However, employers willing to tap into the transformational benefits of Gen Z and graduate talent have a lot to gain; proactively engaging with this cohort is vital to ensuring workforce continuity and driving innovation.

But how do you open the door for early careers? With research by Bright Network suggesting that a company’s people and culture is the most important thing for 36% of early careers candidates – and that 47% actively research your DE&I policy – the onus is on organisations to demonstrate their willingness to invest in individuals. Offering apprenticeships, internships and graduate programmes are all good starting points, but providing mentors, enabling access and engagement opportunities, and building your own bespoke development pathways can attract the best choice of fresh talent.


Trend 3: Get to grips with ethical AI recruitment

Our survey data revealed that almost three quarters (71%) of employers predict staff will use AI tools in the future. And, increasingly, the technology has shown huge potential when sourcing and assessing talent. But how?

Decrease time-to-hire by creating job descriptions and evaluating candidate suitability with the help of AI, improve the candidate experience with sophisticated chatbots and tailored feedback, and even embed DE&I values by identifying undiscovered talent. But AI’s hiring boons must be balanced with a range of ethical considerations. 

Without human supervision, AI-enhanced algorithms can bake bias and historic data into an organisation’s entire recruitment function, as demonstrated by Amazon’s ill-fated AI recruitment tool in 2018. Moreover, while AI promises an efficient way of screening high volumes of candidates, a lack of personal interaction could exclude certain candidates, such as those who thrive from face-to-face discussion.

“It’s vital to validate any AI-led decision-making, ensuring the right level of human input and piloting,” says Katherine Evans, Head of Assessment & Development at Hays. “However, hiring functions that find the right balance between people and technology could benefit both employers and candidates in the year ahead.”


Trend 4: Outsource and stay agile

Economic uncertainty and geopolitical tensions are driving the need for more agile talent solutions. Increasingly, this necessitates a complex ecosystem of diverse talent networks, cutting-edge technology and advanced analytics – while complying with shifting legislation and data policies. The reality is, though, very few organisations possess this institutional capability on their own, making partnering with an expert recruitment business an increasingly attractive prospect.

Outsourcing your recruitment process to a trusted provider allows you to scale your staffing needs at pace and with added security – whether that be to facilitate business expansion or quickly access niche skills. The right recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) solution, for example, can shoulder much of the risk associated with large-volume hiring, mitigating the chance of overspending on hiring costs or becoming overstaffed. 

Or if you’re looking to complement your permanent workforce with on-demand skills, a managed service programme can streamline your contingent workforce strategies – allowing you to pivot quickly to the next external challenge.


Trend 5: Optimise for an intergenerational workforce

Employers must now balance a workforce comprising up to five generations: the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z. This presents a key challenge for organisations: perpetuating the culture they’ve worked hard to build, while still providing an engaging experience for each generation of talent. 

Attracting and retaining the best talent across the age spectrum will require a personalised offering of benefits – such as flexible working patterns, ample career progression, and a clear organisational purpose – recognising and respecting the different values, preferences, and expectations of each generation. 

Finding this balance could be well worth the investment though. Employers able to harmonise the five generations could draw from a collective wealth of experiences, perspectives and attitudes that drive innovation across the board.


Trend 6: Solving the working from home impasse

For the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic, more people are working fully in-office than hybrid. According to our latest data, fewer than two in five (39%) now work in a hybrid pattern, whereas almost half (43%) work solely in an office setting. 

Although the tide may be changing to return-to-office (RTO), employers calling back staff to the workplace risk losing precious talent to more flexible rivals. Almost half of our surveyed professionals (43%) say they wouldn’t accept a job not offering hybrid working, and it’s clear that many still value the trust, autonomy and work-life balance afforded by flexible working practices.

Managing productivity while not losing your company’s workplace identity remains a standout challenge – one that will vary across different industries, teams, and job roles. While a professional services firm may thrive on in-person collaboration and mentorship, their development team may find greater productivity working remotely. Navigating this convergence of interests will require close communication with employees and a continued evolution of workplace models. 


For further hiring insights, including how to effectively balance economic pressures against the 'skills at any cost' mentality, take a look at the video below:



Empathy is the connecting thread

The coming year is sure to present leaders with a range of hiring challenges, but also the opportunity to stand out and do what’s right for both their organisation and the communities they serve. 

Recruitment is inherently a people-led endeavour, and perhaps above all, this is the thread that ties together this year’s hiring patterns. From taking a chance on our overlooked members of society, to appreciating and understanding the varying needs of your workforce, embracing empathy could be seen as 2024’s most important movement in talent acquisition. Don’t lose that human touch.

Want to discover how we can support your 2024 hiring strategy? Get in contact today to leverage our leading market intelligence, powerful technology, and expert consultation.


About this author

Elisabetta Bayliss, Chief Operating Officer, Enterprise Solutions at Hays UK&I

With 35 years’ experience, Elisabetta’s recruitment expertise spans the UK and overseas, private and public sectors, contingency, and contracted business. As the Chief Operating Officer for Enterprise Solutions at Hays UK&I, she is responsible for ensuring clients retain a competitive advantage in talent management through our technology-enabled MSP, RPO, CMO, SOW and Direct Sourcing solutions.

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