Top focus areas for people and HR teams in 2024

As we move into the new year, people teams everywhere will be looking at the key drivers in their area and considering how to respond. Here Opencast's people team share the changes they’re seeing come through – and how they plan to respond throughout the year.

Build more human leadership in 2024

Many people leaders (CPOs/CHROs) who I speak to are facing a common challenge – how to build more commitment, courage and confidence for leaders to pursue human leadership,” chief people officer Cate Kalson says.

“In 2023 we defined the key focus of our ‘Opencast people deal’ to positively impact how our people feel - through policies, actions and initiatives across five themes. We've delivered across these themes to maintain market-leading employee engagement and high retention.

Cate Kalson - chief people officer

“Our people expect managers and leaders to take a more human approach, leading with authenticity, empathy and adaptivity.

“As we're scaling our business, we face a leadership development challenge, as our increasing size and complexity means we need more people to step up into leadership roles, and the complexity of those roles increases.

“To create more human leaders, you need to treat leaders as humans. Leaders themselves have deeply human, emotional barriers to change and developing the difficult-to-master skills and behaviours that are required to live up to employees’ leadership expectations. We’re investing in the development of our managers and leaders to support them to grow personally and professionally, we’ve developed reflective learning sessions and coaching centred around leading yourself, leading others and leading the organisation. The personal development focused topics underpinning leading yourself are critical to development of human leadership, and we’re intentionally putting a big emphasis on these.

“We made a great start on our journey in 2023 with the launch of our personal development-focused leadership programme Amplify, with our first cohort finishing shortly. 

“In 2024 we have ambitious plans to scale the impact of this programme, and taking the learnings from 2023 to fulfil the needs that our leaders and our people have, to enable us to maintain our people-centred culture and our client impact as we scale Opencast to 600 people.”

Circular graphic with segments explaining people team focus

Collaborate with agile and data-driven insights

Lorna Madden, director of talent and workforce planning, says: “It’s important that organisations can offer a people-centred approach to strategic change. We’ll be doing this by continuing to use the agile HR methodology and leveraging our data-driven insights to plan and optimise our workforce.

“There’s a clear benefit to making sure teams are aligned and collaborate to make the most of these opportunities. During 2023 our talent engagement team joined forces with our people allocation team. We’re already seeing the benefit of this collaboration and very much looking forward to the strength this will bring to our people team offering at Opencast.

“In planning for the future, we’re putting emphasis on improving our consultant-to-project allocation process, while working with our social impact team to break down barriers in the recruitment process, and removing some of the challenges we face when hiring from underrepresented groups. In addition, we’ll be partnering with the Skills Builder Partnership, carrying out further integration of their universal skills framework into our selection processes, which will feed into our outreach to employment plans.

“Our mission is clear. Ensuring we have the right people at the right time is crucially important to Opencast – and this year’s combined people team efforts will be responsible for achieving that.”

Lorna Madden - director of talent and workforce planning

Foster a feedback and coaching culture

Statistics show that, despite there being less opportunities in the tech sector compared to a few years ago, people are not afraid to change employer if their career development needs are not being met,” says Cameron Smith, head of people experience.

“This year we will be focusing on how we can foster a feedback and coaching led culture across Opencast. A key focus is to strengthen and retain our talented people by enabling them to progress, whatever their chosen career pathway is.

“We have invested heavily in our progression pathways and processes, but we are now focusing on how self-directed reflection can enable our people to grow even further. We want to ensure everyone in the company is equipped to have amazing conversations that enable coaching and clear feedback as part of everyday life. We’re committing to nurturing the unique potential of everyone through tailored development pathways, instilled by a feedback and coaching-led culture.”

Cameron Smith - head of people experience

Take a skills-first approach

Research shows skills-first organisations are positioning themselves for long term success because it enables employees to contribute more widely, promotes collaboration and cross-functional working,” says Victoria Reilly, director of people development.

“As skill and labour shortages continue to be two key factors impacting society and economies, many organisations are investing in hiring and developing skills and focussing less on traditional hierarchical or traditional job design.

“For Opencast, there’s great work already in the skills space, with the launch of our Skills Builder Partnership in 2023 strengthening our approach. As we continue with our ambitious growth plans, the key to sustainable growth lies in focussing on how we develop the skills of our people. Our focus for 2024 is to have clarity on critical skills to enable growth and how we support our people to develop in these spaces. 

“By providing ways for our people to acquire and hone a diverse range of skills, both technical and essential skills, we not only enhance our people’s capabilities but also create a more resilient and agile organisation that can respond to the fast-changing needs of our clients.”

Victoria Reilly - director of people development

Focus on the right rewards and benefits

Lindsey Steinberg, head of people operations, says: “Taking a flexible approach to rewards and benefits is important to not just attract top talent but also keeping people engaged and satisfied.

“It's all about striking the right balance to ensure a happy, motivated, and fulfilled team, making 2024 a year where work perks match personal goals.

“In 2024, our people operations team is on a mission to prioritise meeting individual reward and benefit needs with a fresh and flexible total rewards package. We get that everyone is different, so we're shaping benefits to match diverse preferences and motivations. Our focus is on creating a workplace benefits package that feels tailor-made, accommodating various lifestyles and aspirations.”

Lindsey Steinberg, head of people operations

Progressively embed best practice on DEI

Sheena Widdowfield, head of culture, says: “The DEI landscape is consistently changing and progressive businesses everywhere will be committing to creating a place for their people to truly belong and thrive. This will be critical for us too as we grow as a business. 

“In the past year we’ve made incredible progress in having open, honest and trusted conversations in the business, enabling people to understand each other on a deeper level, providing more trust and psychological safety in working together. This work needs to continue and elevate, as we start to establish employee resource groups into Opencast. This will support our DEI work and help drive us to improve our operational practice in an inclusive way. 

“In our culture team, we aim to help people feel part of Opencast by listening, sharing, guiding and connecting. Having the company led by people who truly care about diversifying the way we operate is key to us being successful, and it will ensure we can continuously grow and evolve long term for the better of our people, our clients and end users of the solutions we build.”

Sheena Widdowfield portrait

Manage transitions with imagination and creativity

Stef Monaco, head of social impact, says: “Since the pandemic, the number one challenge for many businesses has been ‘transitions’ – how do we, individually and collectively manage simultaneous, life-altering transitions that have no clear end in sight?

“One transition that I will be focusing on in 2024 is NetZero and decoupling growth from environmental breakdown. COP28 ended with a general commitment to ‘phase out fossil fuels’, but no timeline. It’s a step in the right direction but time is of the essence.

“We have been putting a lot of focus on technology as ‘the’ solution, but we should be wary of this assumption. This is the wickedest of wicked problems – and there is no simple, single answer. We need imagination and creativity if we are to move towards regenerative economies in time to prevent catastrophic climate change.

"My hope is that in 2024, we focus more on systems-based solutions based on mutually responsible partnerships across public and private sector working with civil society.”

Stef Monaco - head of social impact

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