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2024 is Almost Here: Trends Business Owners Should Prepare For

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Early October is that time of year when the first crisp mornings appear like a shimmering mirage of a long, hot summer, and a reminder that 2023 is fast coming to a finish.

And while the Oktoberfest beer steins are still being cleaned and the Halloween candy has yet to be handed out, it’s not too early for business owners to turn their attention to 2024 and the coming new calendar year.

Don’t Wait for the Turkey to Hit the Oven to Plan for 2024

The final quarter of the year, after all, can be tricky to navigate with plenty of holiday commitments crowding the schedule, and business owners will want a full quarter to review the current year and game plan for the upcoming year.

“Brainstorm with team members, analyze your competitors and the market trends, and do a little research. Consider what pitfalls might lie ahead and plan how your business will be proactive in navigating what will come in the new year. Now is the perfect time to make sure your business will be fully equipped to meet whatever goals you set out to accomplish in the months ahead,” advises Freedom Makers Virtual Services.

As Alison Roller wrote in HRMorning earlier this month, “the sooner you can begin to plan for 2024, the better” and staying on top of the latest HR trends should be at the top of the list for 2024, especially for those business owners that are prioritizing hiring and retention in a continued tight labor market.

“HR is a constantly changing field – and the past few years have shown that’s more true than ever,’ wrote Roller. “From COVID-19 and the remote work revolution to advancements in technology making AI a reality, there have been a lot of changes to keep HR pros on their toes – and these will continue into 2024.”

Employee Engagement and Workplace Culture: Key in 2024

2024 will see the continuation of two trends from 2023 such as a continued focus on AI automation in HR as well as a ramping of a return to office across all industries, even though many employees are wary of the implications of AI technology and hesitant to give up the perks of remote work.

Of course, workplace policies and remote and hybrid work arrangements can be crucial when it comes to hiring top talent and employee retention.

Employers, and employees for that matter, need to be ready to negotiate the return to work specifics as surveys show it will be happening next year with Resume Builder finding in August that:

  • 9 in 10 companies will have returned to the office by 2024.
  • The majority currently track or will track employees to ensure in-person attendance.
  • 72 percent say return to office has improved revenue.
  • 28 percent say their company will threaten to fire employees who don’t comply with mandates.

“As a business owner, I’ve navigated the decision to require employees to return to in-person work,” Onur Kutlubay, founder of YouParcel, told Resume Builder. “We initiated a partial return, focusing on roles that benefited from on-site collaboration. The results were mixed – some employees welcomed the change, citing improved communication, while others expressed concerns about commuting and work-life balance.”

The key then in 2024 for many business owners is to highlight employee engagement and workplace culture so an environment is created that encourages workers to not only come in to work but succeed at their jobs.

“Employers will prioritize areas such as creativity, empathy, transparent communication, and collaboration as they address workplace toxicity and once again, create workplaces where employees genuinely want to return to. This is one of the most important trends that organizations should focus on in 2024, as it will set the stage for a safe, healthy workplace for 2024 and the years ahead,” Jared Pope, founder and CEO of Work Shield told Roller.

Business owners should also be aware of these other HR trends for 2024:

  • Employee well-being initiatives will help create a positive workplace culture and drive employee engagement. Another aspect of this is that some businesses may rethink “sick leave” to include mental health.

  • HR will help support employee retention by embracing continuous learning and a culture of training and upskilling.

  • As AI continues to take over roles, look for HR to increase its investment in soft skills development such as emotional intelligence, communication, interpersonal problem solving, high-level strategy, and thought leadership.

  • Data analytics will continue to provide HR professionals with insights that can help decision-making that will improve performance, engagement, and retention.

Crystal Ball: Business Trends to Watch in 2024

The Alliance to Save the American Dream, a coalition of entrepreneurs that support small business owners, says there is no escaping the drumbeat of automation, AI, and big data in 2024.

“Generative AI such as ChatGPT, and machine learning are making it possible to automate almost any process. Generative AI can now come up with marketing materials such as articles, images, and even soundtracks, delivering customer service support,” wrote Emeka Anammah for the alliance in July. “As many compare the boom of AI to the boom of the internet in the 80s and ’90s, it is a present need for businesses to explore the potential of automation and integrate it into their operations to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and simply not be left behind.”

As far as big data goes, the alliance sees businesses utilizing these analytics to help make customer interactions personalized at scale.

“Digital implementations such as purchase suggestions based on order history and birthday discounts utilize AI, making the consumer feel seen by whatever brand they interact with,” wrote Anammah. “Companies must adopt AI and big data technologies to analyze customer data and use insights to deliver personalized experiences. The businesses that can deliver personalized experiences at scale will be the ones that win customer loyalty.”

Three other business trends the alliance says small businesses need to keep an eye on for 2024 include:

  • Rising Interest Rates Cool the Economy: This is a trend that businesses have been keeping a wary eye on for more than a year as the Fed’s increase in interest rates makes it more difficult to borrow money. While the economy has chugged along this year, the interest rate increases may (finally) put a damper on business expansion and growth. Businesses must also keep an eye on customer spending, as that may curtail as the interest rates cut into American’s checkbooks.

  • Alternative Sources of Capital: Speaking of those interest rates – Bankrate says the current interest rate for a small business loan of $25,000 is (gulp) between 12.75 percent and 13.25 percent. Current Small Business Administration (SBA) maximum interest rates are set at Prime + 6.5 percent for loans under $50,000 and the prime rate in October sat at 8.5 percent. Consequently, look for business owners in 2024 to be creative when it comes to raising capital with options including crowdfunding, peer-to-peer lending, pitch competitions, bootstrapping, and venture capital and angel investment.

  • Social Media on the Rise: Platforms such as TikTok, Twitter (X), Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and others are more important than ever for businesses to succeed. The alliance says that “businesses need to plan and allocate sufficient resources to social media advertising to remain competitive.”