Jim Steinlage, President & CEO of Choice Solutions,
Disruptive forces are affecting the way people live and work and businesses across the board are facing workforce challenges that until recently were unthought of. Many CHROs are now grappling with how to satisfy the traditional needs of their organization while planning for a future revolution.
HR Goes from Dull to Dynamic
What a difference a few years can make. Human Resources has long been considered one of the least exciting departments in an organization. Seismic changes in the workforce, though, are forcing companies to reimagine and reinvent HR and the value it provides. As its influence in overall business strategy and culture continues to grow, companies are relying more and more on HR to help drive strategy, with technology leading the way.
No longer the department that simply hires and fires, HR is having a huge impact on the employee experience and the future of work. Consider these before and after scenarios.
- The biggest change has come from technology. From little to no use for it in the past, HR now embraces tools like big data and analytics to expand its role. And where before the status quo and “gut feelings” were used to make decisions, internal data on all facets of an employee’s work, life, and performance is used to create new strategies and build an employee-friendly work environment.
- Rigid job requirements have been replaced by a dynamic, fluid approach. Yearly reviews have given way to real-time feedback and recognition, with employees playing a much bigger role in offering ideas for improvement and deciding what their responsibilities and goals are.
- Employees are now seen less as a resource and more as playing a vital role in the success of the organization’s mission. In many ways, HR now takes its lead from what employees want, helping them achieve the work/ life balance they demand.
While digital transformation is now getting most of the attention, one of the most important changes has come from the human side. Historically, HR was seen as “policing” employees, making and enforcing the rules of the office. Today IT mentors, coaches, and helps build future leaders. New ideas no longer spend weeks or months languishing in a resistant-to-change HR department. Instead, CHROs are shaping and leading business strategies, especially as leadership realizes the impact a positive employee experience has on growth and revenue.
How to Prepare for the Future of HR
Moving forward, HR will be much less about filling jobs and much more about unlocking human potential. Here are the trends that will likely have the deepest impact on the future workplace. Not surprisingly, much of it will have to do with advancements in technology, most notably big data and AI.
Big Data Will Get Even “Bigger”
The focus will be on human solutions, but the ability to power employee-centered strategies will come from big data. Mastering data and using it as the jumping off point for all people-related functions will be HR’s greatest opportunity. And AI and predictive analytics will become vital sources of insight. Experts predict AI will be built into all kinds of products and services including simulated conversations and digital coworkers. Chat bots will become much more common. As automation seeps into more aspects of an employee’s work and personal life, the fundamental nature of how people work will be remodeled. While some worry about automation leading to fewer jobs, others think the more interesting question is how current jobs will evolve due to the digital transformation.
Easing the Transition
Where there’s change there is usually conflict so HR will have to use its resources to make the workplace transition more successful. Collaboration with IT in choosing the company’s new technologies and building an engaging experience for employees will be vital to success.
Creating Compelling Employee Experiences
Businesses will continue to shift their mindset, seeing the world and the workplace through the eyes of their employees. Everything from the physical environment employees work in to the tools and technologies that enable them to do their jobs will be reimagined and reconfigured to create satisfying employee experiences that enrich people’s work and personal lives. A bonus is that workspaces that reflect employees needs and wants as well as the company’s culture and values are excellent magnets for attracting and retaining top talent.
The Blended Workforce
A study by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 57% of employers now allow for flex time and 62% allow for some type of telecommuting. It’s safe to say the workforce of the future will not be all full-time, on site employees. Instead you’ll see a combination of full and part-time employees, consultants, freelancers, contractors, and other contingent workers. While contingent workers currently make up somewhere from 16-30% of the workforce, new alternative work options will drive growth in this area.
There will be smaller changes, too, like redefined job titles that more accurately reflect what a person does and, more importantly, how they see their role in the company. Chief Human Resource Manager may become Talent Leader. Many companies are now adding some flair to their job titles, hoping to attract younger generations. One financial services firm changed the position of “data analyst” to “data wrangler.” It may take some getting used to, but research shows a change in job title can have a positive effect on how employees see their work and their value to the company.
The Crystal Ball
It’s impossible to accurately predict what HR’s future “new normal” will be but it’s certain to involve more personalized employee experiences powered by new technologies like AI. HR personnel will see their roles become more specialized and technical.
Change isn’t always easy, but new technologies and ways of thinking offer exciting opportunities for transforming and improving the value HR brings to the table. As the role of HR dramatically shifts over the coming years, it’s essential for organizations to look at their current structures, making changes now that will help them adapt to the shifting demands of the future workforce.