Human resources (HR) has been riding a wave of transformation in recent times, brought on by changes in technology, an evolution of organizational structures, and a new generation of audience, among other influential factors. Most traditional support functions of HR, such as attendance, scheduling and payroll are progressing at breathtaking pace, and innovations are adding up to redefine the HR role.
Analysts are predicting that the next few years will see seismic changes in the rapidly advancing workplace, thanks in huge part to the collaboration of HR professionals with other business sectors, such as marketing, finance, strategy and IT. The influx of millennials into the workforce is also driving change, and they’re predicted to make up 75 percent of HR staff by 2020. HR has to embrace these and other significant emerging trends to keep at par with business and employee demands.
This article lays out some key areas of human resources that are expected to change the most in the coming years, and how professionals can prepare and adapt.
1. Increased use of technology and automation
Technology in the workplace is as prevalent as ever, enabling staff from all forms of business, and at all levels of management to work virtually, collaborate efficiently and share ideas not only among themselves but with outsiders as well.
Cloud and mobile computing, artificial intelligence, and big data have been at the forefront in transforming all aspects of business, and HR heads are using them to deliver an employee experience that is personalized, compelling and memorable. A recent study conducted by Forrester reveals that 47 percent of business executives expect digital innovations to have an impact on more than half their sales by 2020. As we advance towards that time, more professionals will embrace modern technology in making human resources agile and progressive.
The HR teams of tomorrow will need to use heavily automated tools to collect, store, interpret and understand data from their existing and prospective employees, and also build strategies that will communicate effectively to present and future clients. New hires will, therefore, be required to accommodate the increased use of automation to make projections and drive positive change in company operations.
2. Emphasis on employee experience
Organizational culture, engagement, and employee proposition are top priorities in the current business world, and they will continue to be crucial aspects even in the future. Progressive companies have been coming to terms with the role that employee experience plays in attracting and retaining top talent, encouraging teamwork, and upholding customer satisfaction. As a result, HR departments are increasingly reaching out to heads of Real Estate, Marketing, IT and Internal Communications to enhance engagement and company culture.
The work environment is becoming more complex with every new year, and many companies are finding it hard to maintain certain standards of employee experience. Soon, HR departments will be forced to update their strategies to engage employees and understand what they expect and value in employment. While most professionals are currently focused on “point-in-time engagement,” factors like performance management, goal setting diversity, inclusion, workplace design, and leadership will also take center stage in the future.
3. Outsourcing vs. in-house HR
Businesses are asking a lot more from HR professionals this year than they did the last one, and this trend is expected to persist further down the road. However, as new technologies emerge to streamline the employee management process, it’s likely that future companies will shift to smaller in-house HR departments.
Brands are already insisting that other staff members contribute to HR processes by, for instance, filling attendance, scheduling, performance and payment data into self-service systems. Better automation techniques will facilitate this self-reliance even further.
As companies strip down in-house HR departments, outsourcing transaction-heavy jobs to field agencies will be the norm. With regulations surrounding employment, particularly regarding salaries and benefits, becoming more and more intricate, the future will likely see a more globalized HR workforce separate from client companies, as opposed to individual in-house departments.
4. Remote workers
Thanks to modern gadgets and improved communication networks, the current office setup is steadily shifting from the traditional desk-and-swiveling-chair layout and embracing the power of digital connectivity. Powerful business laptops and high-end handsets have mitigated the need for employees to be physically present to attend meetings, collaborate on projects or pitch ideas in some companies thanks to advances in software that can handle virtual meetings and online communication. The workforce is increasingly becoming remote, and companies will need to reevaluate their HR structures to leverage employees where they’re most impactful and productive, even if it’s halfway around the world.
Remote management is a growing challenge for HR professionals and is one that future companies will have to address thoroughly. Perhaps the first step will be to incorporate performance analysis techniques that are based more on work production and results than the time employees spend working.
5. HR and marketing
When it comes to company operations, human resources and marketing are often preempted to be on opposite sides of the coin. While one is concerned about making the brand desirable to in-house and prospective employees, the other is invested in making it appealing to present and future clients. Nevertheless, disregarding the technical disparities, the two departments work somewhat similarly. Recruiters identify specific segments of job seekers and job holders and work towards bringing them into the firm, just as marketers do with potential customers.
As competition among companies increases, however, the need for companies to blend HR and marketing will expand beyond recruiting. In addition to “buying” talent into the brand, HR professionals will also engage in social marketing and brand ownership strategies to grow a company’s reputation as a dynamic and progressive employer.
Preparing for the future
Knowing what to expect is one thing, but HR leaders will also need to figure out how to not get left in the sand when the tide shifts. The tactics that will help the most are continuous learning, risk-taking, and networking. Many of today’s so-called “best HR practices” were largely unknown just a few years ago, and may well become obsolete in the next decade. HR professionals must, therefore, take extra steps to learn as much as possible about their industry and their competitors, as well as the legislations that affect their operations.
Additionally, HR training in colleges and universities will need to keep the pace. Gone are the days when human resources largely consisted of individuals that just happened upon the profession. The future practitioner will have to be thoroughly trained to make an impact in HR.
Lastly, professionals should strive to develop their brand by remaining competent and active in HR and the business sector as a whole. As a practitioner, try as much as you can to work with other professionals and network inside and outside your field. Only those that are willing to push themselves out of their comfort zones will survive the future.