There’s no denying that HR has gone through a tremendous transformation over the last several decades, largely due to the rise of software applications and related technologies. What we see now is much less time being devoted to task-oriented work, and more involvement with strategic planning for the company overall. But this evolution isn’t happening evenly across all organizations, and when we look toward what the future holds for HR and technology, it is defined by several dominant trends and emerging technologies.
The most significant change in HR—and one that’s still transforming—is the shift in roles and responsibilities for HR staff. The days HR staff spent enmeshed in employee activities and spending time tracking and recording tasks are long gone. Software and analytics tools can now manage these tasks, which frees up the time for many HR professionals to engage in more value-added activities, such as leadership coaching, workplace advising, data analysis, and strategic planning.
In past years, an activity such as strategic planning would have definitely been considered outside the realm of expertise for an HR professional. This simply isn’t true any longer. With artificial intelligence and predictive analytics taking over many of the mundane daily HR functions, HR leaders can now pave the way for strategic company growth by impacting decisions made about recruitment, compensation, performance management, talent management, and training. Their expertise isn’t only welcomed, but is increasingly expected in regard to providing guidance and leadership on matters that impact the very nature of the workplace.
Leading HR departments understand that harnessing this technology and leveraging it to benefit the company is the key to success today and in the coming years and decades. Digital applications and technologies aren’t merely reserved for the workplace any longer; they permeate every aspect of culture—including how companies find and connect with their customers. Successfully incorporating these technologies requires skill and knowledge, but it also requires thinking about the impact on workplace culture, which is an area that HR staff can greatly influence.
In truth, one of the biggest challenges most companies will face when implementing new technologies is attracting potential employees with the right skill sets Technology is changing so quickly that keeping pace with this change and maintaining a workforce prepared to engage with tomorrow’s technologies will undoubtedly be one of the top concerns for HR leaders in the coming years—which is where leadership coaching and mentoring functions come into play. Today’s HR professionals can prepare their companies for the continuing technological evolution by playing a more prominent role in talent development and shaping employee career-development opportunities.
Another key change in the role of modern HR professionals lies in their relationship with analytics and data. We can capture and track data on a scale never seen before, which also allows us to identify trends early on and plan much more strategically. While some statistics have always been central to HR functions, such as turnover rate, we’ll see many other data points rise in prominence, such as employee engagement rates and very detailed productivity data. All of this data will come into play during high-level strategic planning sessions, as it impacts the future projections for growth and can also help the company identify any emerging skills they need to prepare their workforce to embrace.
When looking at trends in HR—and specifically concerning technology—two things become abundantly clear. First, the role of HR professionals has changed substantially to include a far broader skill set than has been necessary in the past. These individuals are no longer simply responsible for managing current employees and ensuring compliance. Today’s HR professionals are also expected to coach and mentor employees, guide strategic recruitment efforts, and deliver feedback based on complex data analysis. And secondly, technology will continue to reshape the modern workplace in ways that will provide new challenges for HR professionals. Ongoing success will likely be directly related to one’s ability to adapt quickly to these changing workplaces.
Finding the Right Fit
It’s clear that finding a competent and capable HR person will be tremendously important, as they’ll play an ever-increasing role in shaping the success of the company—so the question becomes how to find the right fit? Often, this means looking beyond a standard skill set and seeking someone who has personality traits that will allow them to excel in a rapidly changing workplace.
First and foremost, this requires business acumen. HR professionals will need to understand the strategic direction of the business and they’ll need to know how to contribute to the vision, mission, and financial success of the company overall. This process requires taking a hard look at the big-picture state of the company and then developing an HR plan that will support the company’s goals and assist with its success.
Another key trait for a modern HR professional will be their ability to stay focused on the individuals who make up the corporation. This area is one way in which HR hasn’t changed much—the job has always placed an emphasis on people and this will remain true no matter how much technology may evolve. Despite this, the role of HR will likely continue to move toward a model that requires more time mentoring and leading employee talent development efforts than it has in the past. HR professionals also have the opportunity to play a larger role in strategic recruiting, which is another area in which they can make a high-level impact on a company’s ability to thrive in a technology-based market. These skills, along with the ability to manage and adapt to rapid change, update processes quickly and efficiently, and maintain compliance are going to be crucial core competencies for HR staff, both now and in the years to come. While finding a good fit for your company can prove to be challenging during a hyper-competitive job market, it’s worth taking the time to find the right person; as you can see, they’ll play an instrumental role in shaping the future, and hopefully the success, of your company.