2023: A Tough Year, But We’ll Always Have AI

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Between a predicted recession, mass layoffs, multiple global crises, industry-wide strikes and labor shortages, 2023 was tough. Moreover, the year saw rapid digital transformation with the rise of generative AI, especially in the area of workplace and HR technology.

Throughout it all, businesses grappled with ongoing challenges: attracting and retaining workers in a competitive market, adapting to the dynamics of an ever-evolving workforce and navigating near-constant economic shifts.

Here’s what we saw in 2023:

AI in Everything

By any stretch of the imagination, 2023 wasn’t the first time ever that we saw AI, but it did mark a distinct surge in the technology’s adoption. Vendors and businesses were more than eager to create, sell, buy and use AI, with a particular emphasis on generative AI. And most all of it was driven by the need to “stay ahead of the curve” and “not get left behind.”

Recent estimates from Gartner say 81% of HR leaders have explored or implemented AI solutions to improve process efficiency within their organizations. Moreover, the Conference Board found that 56% of employees use it to complete some of their work, and one in 10 use it every day – a number which seems to be growing dramatically.

The incorporation of AI also became a ubiquitous trend among HR tech solutions providers, most of whom added AI capabilities to their product suite.

The biggest hope for these products? Time savings. Most of them promised to automate manual, everyday tasks that burden employees, giving them time back to focus on “more important issues.”

While opinions on what this all means continue to be mixed, one thing is clear: the craze for AI will not be going away anytime soon.

Lasting Employee Engagement and Well-Being

Until the fourth quarter, employee experience remained high on executives’ priority list, especially with the continued emphasis on retention and attraction of employees amid talent shortages.

During the last year, many companies invested in technology to improve employee experience, including products and benefits that keep workers’ well-being in mind. In fact, the top drivers of investment in HR and benefits technology for CEOs and CFOs were improving employee well-being (38%) and boosting experience or attraction/retention (37%), according to a report from Mercer.

The correlation between employee engagement and business success also contributed to the growing trend. Forbes found that companies with highly engaged employees are 21% more profitable. Not only that, but businesses with highly engaged employees were also 17% more productive.

What changed toward December? Forrester cites variety of technology and workforce issues, from the tsunami of AI-related challenges to business conditions that seem less-than-steady.

The Curse of Choice

An oversaturation of workplace technology has created a paradox of choice for some businesses. Many organizations found themselves grappling with the overwhelming array of options available today, struggling to select solutions that align with their needs. On top of that, limited budgets, a lack of customization, insufficient in-house expertise and the difficulty of implementation made decisions even more difficult.

It follows, then, that 58% of U.S. businesses reported regretting at least one of the software purchases they made in the last 12 to 18 months. Moreover, said Capterra, nearly a quarter, 23%, regret multiple purchases they made during that same time. That has drained IT budgets, lowered productivity and made companies less competitive overall, the company said.

This regret reflects a broader concern within organizations. According to SHRM, “Many HR and recruiting organizations now suffer from ‘tech stack bloat’ … a result of having installed too many specialized or “point” solutions that are redundant or aren’t well-integrated.”

That overflowing toolkit has subtle but draining consequences. For example, SHRM points out, too many solutions leads to too much context-switching, which forces users to jump from one application to another as they work.

What do we see in 2024? The focus will be on AI (again), flexibility and there’ll be good and bad news about experience. Here’s how we see it.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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