S5 E1: Peering into HR’s Crystal Ball: 2024 and Beyond


Podcast March 21, 2024

What should HR professionals be thinking about from a compliance/best practice standpoint for 2024?

In the fast-paced world of HR, juggling today’s challenges while anticipating tomorrow’s trends is crucial. This week, we cut through the noise, offering a blend of expert predictions and actionable insights. Kyle Pardo and Tom Jones join Pete Wright to tackle everything from the intricacies of current compliance issues, such as FLSA and leave laws, to the emerging trends of AI, skills-based hiring, and the transformative power of mindful leadership.


Links & Notes

Transcript:

Pete Wright:
Welcome to Human Solutions: Simplifying HR for People who Love HR from AIM HR Solutions on TruStory FM. I’m Pete Wright. In the fast-paced world of HR, juggling today’s challenges while anticipating tomorrow’s trends is crucial. This week, we’re going to cut through the noise with a blend of expert predictions and actionable insights. Kyle Pardo and Tom Jones join me to tackle everything from the intricacies of current compliance issues, such as FLSA and leave laws, to the emerging trends of AI, skills-based hiring, and the transformative power of mindful leadership. What should HR pros be thinking about for 2024? That’s this week on Human Solutions.
Kyle Pardo, Tom Jones, it’s been so long. Welcome to the first episode of our season. Let the parade begin.

Kyle Pardo:
It’s nice to be back.

Tom Jones:
Yeah, thanks, Pete. Happy New Year and all that.

Pete Wright:
Happy New Year and all that. I am really excited about this show. Judging by the outline, we’re going to be talking about a lot of things. And I think, why else do HR people show up to this show? We have to start with compliance. What do we have to look forward to in terms of compliance, legal changes for 2024?

Kyle Pardo:
I can start the topic, but let Tom jump in with the detail. So compensation, compliance, that is the big one, and it’s big for a couple of reasons. It’s big on the federal level because we’re looking at potential changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act, which haven’t been changed in a while. So people really need to keep an eye on that to make sure they remain in compliance. And it’s big on a state level because regardless of the state you’re in, there’s a trend towards pay transparency. So some states are already there, they already have legislation in this area, and other states are thinking about it and will be coming soon. So that means making sure you have pay ranges, making sure you have really solid compensation structures that you could share with your applicants and with your employees. So, those two areas alone I think are really going to keep a focus on compensation in 2024.

Pete Wright:
Where does Massachusetts stand in terms of leading the … Massachusetts is always leading the way in some sort of compliance change, right? So where does Massachusetts sit right now?

Tom Jones:
There’s pay compliance in the legislature in Massachusetts, but it’s yet to be put on the governor’s desk. So it’s gone through both the House and Senate. It’s in a conference committee. I was doing actually some looking the other day. A lot of states are in this little limbo area. They’re moving legislation forward, but they haven’t finalized it yet. Some states have. And it seems to be all over the place as to what level of compliance. There’s like how many employees you have to have in order to be subject to the law. So it’s an ongoing process where Kyle and I thought it was going to happen sooner in Massachusetts than it did, but it got delayed for a couple of reasons in the legislature. So we’re anticipating that it’ll happen soon, but we’re not sure exactly when yet.

Pete Wright:
Well, it leads us to leave management, right? Where do we stand on leave management in 2024?

Kyle Pardo:
So leave laws are here. We have all the different variety of letters there, paid family medical leave and family medical leave, and Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, you name it. There’s all sorts of different types of leave. That’s not going away. So what’s here to stay is companies figuring out how to manage it, how to track it, how to enforce it, how to communicate it to your employees to know whatever the situation is, how long are you going to be out, where are you getting your compensation from, is the company holding the job open for you? So depending on the industry and the number of employees, it can be a real challenge for HR people. So I don’t know that we’re going to see a change in leave management 2024, but just an acceptance that it’s here to stay and really trying to get those systems in place to manage it.

Pete Wright:
Sure.

Tom Jones:
The one thing I think companies have to be on the alert for is, if they operate in Massachusetts and another state, they want to make sure that that other jurisdiction adopts a leave law, which I was looking back in 2019, eight states had some sort of paid leave law. In 2024, 13 states have, so five more picked it up. So conceivably, another five could in the rest of this decade. So if that’s the case, you’ve got to always be alert as to what the law is going to change in a different state and what the interplay might be.
If you’re going to run state law, federal law concurrently as much as possible, then you want to be alert to notifying employees, like Kyle said, making sure that there’s a written record as to what you’re doing so that nobody can come back later and say, “Hey, I was never told about what the benefit was for this other benefit.” So it’s going to take a lot of management time. In smaller companies, that’s a real challenge because they don’t always have that much time around to work on all these different things.

Pete Wright:
It’s interesting to hear you talk about that. When you say just over the last five years, five more states have jumped on that particular bandwagon, that actually seems slow to me, Tom. It feels like we’re seeing so much in the news about the resurgence or the reemergence of labor as a force to reckon with for employers, that we might see that pick up the pace, these acts in favor of paid leave.

Tom Jones:
It could. I mean, I think part of it was the pandemic really made things run to a different-

Pete Wright:
Slow down.

Tom Jones:
… schedule over the last few years. So the legislatures weren’t as busy. They may have been more mindful of not wanting to put new costs on business at a particular time.

Pete Wright:
Yeah.

Tom Jones:
Hard to know, for sure. But it just was a trend that I had picked up and seen different parts of the country pushing much more. I mean, maybe unions are going to try and negotiate at different workplaces too. So it won’t matter whether the state has a law if the union puts a contract together that is sufficient, that may be enough.

Pete Wright:
One of the things I always look forward to in every season is our ongoing conversation with Jen Moff on mindfulness, mindful leaders, taking care of yourself. We do have some soft skills on the horizon for 2024. Kyle, what are we learning about ourselves?

Kyle Pardo:
Yeah, really taking care of the whole employee. Similar to what you just said, I feel like we’ve talked about this before, right? It’s really coming and making its way into the workplace. We hear regularly from companies are saying, “Our supervisors need mindful leadership training. We need to focus on emotional intelligence. We need to think about the new workers coming into the workplace.” And I’m not even just talking about the entry-level workers that are coming in, but how the pandemic has changed the shape of the workforce and what people expect out of it. We know that some combination of hybrid work has really made its way into workplace, but we’ve seen more companies requiring people to come back into the workplace more days than they had previously. So employees are struggling with that and trying to figure out what that looks like and how it balances with their life. But just in terms of external forces, stresses at home, things like that, and companies being aware of it, managers learning how to deal with it, that continues to be a big focus in the workplace.

Pete Wright:
One of the things that we spoke about last season, which I thought was a really interesting vector for an approach to what companies are on the lookout for in supporting employees, is this growing trend of supporting all kinds of different medical and emotional needs, substance abuse needs, those sorts of things. Are you seeing any further trends toward how employees can be cared for in that area by their employers? Is that something we’re going to see change in ’24?

Tom Jones:
It’s certainly something that more employers are talking about, and I think it’s, again, this sort of balancing that a lot of companies are engaging in with thinking about how much effort do I have to put into being aware of what the needs are for employees outside of work or out in their lives versus it’s work. So we don’t always drift into trying to balance that and not going too deeply into people’s lives.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. What kind of culture do we want to create, right? This sort of pervasive culture wherein you’re at work, we’re in your home?

Tom Jones:
I know, versus you want support for people.

Pete Wright:
Right.

Kyle Pardo:
Yeah. We’ve talked about the podcast before, financial wellness, we’ve talked about caregiving.

Pete Wright:
Brilliant.

Kyle Pardo:
So it’s really all those types of areas in addition to mental health and employee assistance programs.

Pete Wright:
So we wrapped up last season with a pair of conversations on AI, AI at work. It is probably an understatement to say we’re still going to be thinking about AI this year.

Kyle Pardo:
Well, I think we’re going to see, as you said, AI is going to continue in a variety of ways, and I don’t even know if we can imagine what that looks like. So in the policy sense, I think companies are going to need to maybe start thinking about what’s allowable or not allowable in the workplace. Do you need a policy around it? And maybe that’s just whether people can use ChatGPT or not. But it could go into things like applicant tracking systems which become smarter and smarter and have the capacity to start learning your patterns. So if you start to hire certain types of individuals, AI is involved and could say, “Okay, this sounds like a type of employee that you’d like to hire.” And there’s cause of concern there for discrimination and other areas. So I think as much as AI can be helpful, companies are going to really need to think about it and think about whether they need a company policy in terms of how they use it.

Tom Jones:
On a regular basis, we’re seeing law firms get burned over using AI to cite cases that don’t exist.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, I mean, it’s just getting funnier, Tom. I don’t know how not to look at this as comedy, unintentional comedy.

Tom Jones:
I know. Well, it isn’t, but Kyle’s right. I mean, companies are going to use this and it’s going to be very, very successful and very impactful doing certain functions. The trick will be, who’s going to reign that in? Who’s going to be your AI manager, your AI … What did we talk about the other day? You’ll need a C-level person for AI potentially?

Pete Wright:
Yeah, possibly. There’s an interesting angle on this. So 20 years ago, this was the Google problem where people would go home and they would use Google and they would search and find resources that they need, and they would come to work and their on-premises work search was terrible. They could never find what they wanted. So their personal lives started to dictate what their systems folks were doing to try and improve services for them. I think we’re probably on the cusp of the same thing here. People are going to start using these assistance to do more and more at home and be frustrated and surprised when they can’t do those things at work. So I think to your point, Kyle, figuring out what those policies are, that’s the word of 2024.

Kyle Pardo:
Yeah. I mean, we know it’s going to be helpful, right? There are going to be definitely ways that it’s going to save time for companies, that is going to streamline systems, might reduce some positions that no longer need to be available, but I think there really still needs to be the thought process behind what’s real and what’s not.

Pete Wright:
Let’s talk about skills-based hiring. What are we talking about? We can start with Massachusetts, right? What’s governor up to?

Tom Jones:
Well, the governor recently announced … Was it earlier this year? I think she recently-

Kyle Pardo:
January. Yep.

Tom Jones:
They were looking into this idea of trying to eliminate college degree requirements from as many jobs as possible in the state system to open up to a broader labor pool. It’s interesting, there’s a recent article in the Wall Street Journal about saying 62% of all Americans do not have a college degree or they maybe have a couple semesters, a little bit of time, but they certainly have skills and they’re capable of learning and they’re capable of being good workers, and you want to open the door for those people because if there’s such a labor shortage, which we always hear about, then this is the potential for filling some of those positions. But the governor’s looking to do that in Massachusetts. I think hopefully she’s trying to be a model for other employers and get them to think about it too.

Pete Wright:
Mm-hmm. I mean, are there implications of this that we should be considerate of, Kyle?

Kyle Pardo:
Yeah, I mean, I’d say from an HR perspective, start by looking at your job descriptions. If you don’t have the capacity to look at every job description, certainly look at a job description each time you’re going to post a new position and take a look at it. Is a college degree really required for that role or would you take similar experience or certifications or some other combination of skills for it? And then beyond that, once you start taking a look at your job descriptions and potentially changing those requirements, that could impact pay equity. So the ball starts rolling a little bit from there. What position do you considering comparable in your organization? And are you paying them comparably based off of really what’s required? But as Tom said, I do think it will open up your channels for hiring people and people that maybe previously might’ve looked over that now could be potential applicants for your positions.

Tom Jones:
Speaking of the pay equity issue, but thinking about that, another area where there may be a concern where the government would have to respond quickly is the FLSA, the Fair Labor Standards Act. The professional category is always, say, you must have a college degree. And maybe you don’t. They’ll say, “You must be an engineer. You must be at a certified four-year university or graduate level degree.” Maybe you don’t need to be a professionally classified individual in certain positions.

Pete Wright:
You both have been doing this a long time. Doesn’t it start to feel like, at some point, in the last two decades, we just started adding college degree rather indiscriminately?

Tom Jones:
Yep.

Kyle Pardo:
Yeah. You’ll see it from many positions that when you really start to look at what the skills required, not sure that it really is needed.

Pete Wright:
Yeah.

Tom Jones:
And it made me wondered too about the incumbent people who’ve already gotten a BA or an MBA, how do they feel if all of a sudden a new bunch of people are coming in without that degree?

Pete Wright:
Yeah.

Tom Jones:
Will there be some resistance to people from that side as well that HR will have to deal with?

Pete Wright:
Fascinating. I think it’s going to make for some tumultuous relationships, especially in our higher education certification educators landscape. I think that’s going to be a really interesting thing.

Kyle Pardo:
Yeah. And I think we’ll make that point too, is that we’re not saying that college degrees aren’t important because they’re certainly important and there’s a lot of areas where they’re critical and would be certainly required. It’s just really thinking about it and thinking about, are there alternate ways to get that same skillset?

Pete Wright:
For sure. We’ve been talking about this way of cresting for 20 years. At some point, certifications, just-in-time training, these kinds of things would take precedent over traditional four-year degrees. This is the year we start to reckon with that.

Tom Jones:
Maybe something like the AI will help be a catalyst to that whole discussion, to getting people to thinking broadly about what is an appropriate qualification for working somewhere, that maybe some jobs won’t need four years of school or postgraduate degree, and some will. And that’s fine because Kyle’s right, some of them absolutely do need that extra level of education.

Pete Wright:
Sure. Well, I mean, you bring up an interesting point, Tom, and as role models to me, the both of you, how are you using AI tools to do your jobs? Have you embraced it yourselves?

Kyle Pardo:
I have, for sure, and I’ll give you an example. A very common task that HR professionals might have to do is write a letter to their employees saying that health insurance rates are increasing this year. That happens all the time. Very simple message. So we were working with a company the other day, that’s all the message was. How do I tell my employees that rates are going up again by 9% this year? I want to let them know we care about them as employees, but I have to let them know that there’s this cost increase. You can put a simple message like that into ChatGPT, it’ll give you a message back. You can say lighten the tone, make it sound however you want. Something that you might’ve languished over for half an hour, you can do now in five minutes and get a pretty good message to send to your employees.
So I think there are ways like that that you can save time on something that’s a very standard practice. I think you can use it to generate ideas, but as we’ve heard in our podcast earlier this year with attorneys, I think you really still need to be cautious beyond that. If you’re going to try to write a job description, there’s language that you want to use and language that you don’t want to use. You want to be consistent. You want to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. You’re not going to get all of that out of AI necessarily, and so that’s where I use caution. But for those regular day-to-day communications, I think there’s lots of great ways to save time.

Tom Jones:
And I think it will help with some research too. As you want to dig deeper into particular topics, the thing will pop up and say more sophisticated search or more involved search. That may be helpful too on the legal side, on compliance side, looking for new information.

Pete Wright:
But for everything, holy, you guys stop citing cases that don’t exist. Please, please stop doing that. Well, as always, a fascinating conversation with you both. Thank you, Kyle and Tom, for helping us smash the bottle over the bow of this new season’s ship. I am eager to get underway, and I think we have a lot of conversations on the calendar that dive much deeper into all of these topics. So please, please, please hang out, make sure your subscriptions are up to date. Stick with us. We’ve got a great, great season ahead.

Kyle Pardo:
I look forward to checking back at the end of the year to see how our predictions turned out.

Pete Wright:
That’s right. We should have done a bracket, you guys, some sort of a draft. We can make this interesting.

Kyle Pardo:
Yeah.

Tom Jones:
That’s right.

Pete Wright:
Thank you all for downloading and listening to this show. As always, you can find the show notes at aimhrsolutions.com. Listen to the show right there on the website, or subscribe to the show in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and anywhere else fine podcasts are served. Even YouTube now, YouTube Music, we’re in YouTube Music. Go figure. On behalf of Kyle Pardo and Tom Jones, I’m Pete Wright. We’ll see you next week right here on Human Solutions.

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