HR has been evolving a lot as a function in the last couple of years. Human resources (HR) is riding a wave of transformation. Brought on by changes in technology, generational differences, values, skills gaps, organizational structure and more, its future as an industry may vastly differ from its past. A lot of the future of HR will be decided by the investment of top leaders in some of the most serious challenges HR is facing today. In a recent survey done by the Society for Human Resource Management, HR professionals say that the three biggest challenges facing HR executives over the next 10 years are:
- Retaining and rewarding the best employees (59%)
- Developing the next generation of corporate leaders (52%)
- Creating a corporate culture that attracts the best employees (36%)
Enrica Sighinolfi, founding member and Chief People Officer at Opportunity Network says that in coming years and with the invention of A.I., robotics and other innovations, the rate of change will be even greater. There is a need to start both as individuals and as organizations, and to develop the “ability to adapt” as the core skill that will allow to thrive in a context of constant transformation.
One of the main challenges companies face is the skills gap, and it’s only going to become wider. Companies need engineers, mathematicians and data scientists to embrace innovation, but most universities’ academic programs are outdated and fail to teach the programming languages needed to power the next generation of software and hardware products.
As new technologies replace existing skill sets at an ever-increasing rate, it will be up to companies themselves to train their people, new and experienced hires alike, or face the consequences of a workforce with obsolete skills. The whole concept of human resources needs to be “reinvented”. It’s time to listen to people’s needs: flexibility, global mobility, belonging, learning. People want to matter and to make an impact, and it’s up to companies to build systems that allow them to grow and express their talent. It will not require scientists to focus on data and A.I. alone but also on the human mind in order to enable people to be key drivers of innovation. Then, and only then, can we start thinking about how we will interact with evolving A.I. and the other challenges.
As per Kristin Williams, Vice President of Human Resources at Ultra Mobile; there are two specific shifts happening that are shaping the future of the HR industry: options on how companies staff/support traditional HR functions, and talent retention in an environment where tenure is not the goal of employees. Compliance, administrative and globalization are still the landscape HR professionals need to support. He asserts that new laws and regulations on businesses in the area of healthcare, minimum wage, safety etc., make it almost impossible for an organization to have all the expertise in-house to adequately manage risk. Outsourcing HR is already underway. That’s why there is a growth of the “professional employer organization” model and a surge in consultants with HR expertise areas.
An “employee brand culture” must be defined and delivered and a series of opportunities must be provided to employees in order to achieve retention. This should speak to the goals of the current talent pool, one where they do not distinguish between work life and home life; they have one life and it’s connected 24/7. The aggregator of organizational needs and employee development goals should be the HR .
Once areas of intersection are identified, HR professionals need to design and implement the plans to achieve these objectives. As shown in the survey by SHRM, providing flexible work arrangements will be a top priority for organizations. 9 to 5 work is over, young professionals are looking for places where they can have the chance to take time off to be creative, be able to take a break without being judged, go solve administrative issues without having to take a day off, or even work from home with pre-agreed objectives.
The leaner version of HR will need to reposition itself as a strategic partner within the business. In fact, the trend toward smaller, more strategy-focused HR departments was predicted 11 years ago in SHRM’s 2002 report, The Future of the HR Profession. HR needs to increase its strategic value to the business–or else. Brashears, the director of Human Capital Consulting at TriNet HR, says HR Professionals will likely transition into HR Business Professionals who understand HR implications, business operations and strategy.
Industry analyst Brian Sommer, the founder of TechVentive, claims there will be a shift to smaller HR departments and this will be caused by new technologies and increased employee participation in HR processes.
As he claims, many businesses are going to get a lot of capability done by better technology, more self-service and the employee doing a lot on their own. Like, employees will input their own data into self-service systems more. In addition, HR agencies or specialists will get an outsourcing opportunity of many transaction-heavy HR jobs. With employees taking on increasing responsibility for their benefits, we'll see not only the administration of benefit programs but the entire benefits department become outsourced. Recent moves by companies like Yahoo and Best Buy to end their remote work programs are the exception. The challenge of managing a remote workforce will be tackled by HR. Companies will need “to leverage employees where and when they are most productive and impactful”–even if they’re halfway around the world.
According to Kelly Porter, Chief People Officer for Harmless Harvest, there is a need to speak about the values of the organization, celebrate the individuals that make the company successful, and encourage the heart of each person. HR professionals will need to create imaginative, people-centric onboarding, performance management, engagement surveys and career development practices that inspire the human spirit. It cannot continue to be one size fits all. To help in knowing people that their current employer cares deeply about their well-being “EAP opportunities” will be offered to develop skills and habits to improve their quality of life.
The greatest challenge for any HR professional in the future will centre around how they leverage the evolving world of technology and countless systems designed to improve efficiency and productivity, without losing sight of the humanity that enables people to thrive in their role. At the end of the day, employees want to know that their company recognizes them as a valuable human being, making a difference in the world, no matter how big or small. The job of HR is, and should always be, focused on how employees are treated, recognized, developed and, most importantly, listened to. The next decade is crucial for HR to evolve and become a key role in any organization. HR might no longer be a single department in the future. HR might be part of something greater. Exciting times are ahead of HR.