“It is predicted that by 2020 the HR department will become a non-existent entity. The reason for this is because the HR function as a whole and HR professional, in particular, will predictably be replaced by software.” No doubt, this hypothesis is wrong, but it is not baseless. Software is changing the way many departments in the corporate world are functioning today. However, these changes will only provide growth opportunities for us as HR professionals.
The writing on the wall is evident, and there will be a significant time downsizing of the HR department as most of its activities will get outsourced. Routine jobs such as maintaining data will have increased employee participation owing to the advent of newer technologies. For example, employees will have to fill in their data into Employee Self-Service portals. Similarly, most of the entry-level jobs in HR will wane as transactional tasks are outsourced to partners. Another major area that will be impacted is 'Employee Benefits.' With the increasing complexities in the administration of benefits on account of government regulations and a globalized workforce, there will be a significant shift in this area. Most of the companies will look for experts to help them steer their way out to manage employee’s benefits.
Changing government regulations around employment laws and benefits compliance will make the employment landscape more complex. Also, to focus on business strategy HR department will require specialized expertise. As a result, the pendulum will once again swing back to a specialist from the current preferred mode of a generalist. The term HR generalists may disappear as there will be more and more specialized roles being evolved.
The most crucial change in the offing is that we, as HR professionals, will have to develop strategic thinking as our core competency. From the current role of HR business partners, we will have to transform ourselves as HR Business professionals. In our new ‘avatar’ we will be required to drive business growth. This means we will have to develop the ability to make accurate forecasts based on the understanding of business goals. We need to use metrics that help businesses make timely decisions. For example, how much time it will take to fill current vacancies or the per-person cost of an employee before they become productive etc. This brings us good news; since strategic planning requires an in-depth understanding of the business scenario and expertise in-house HR department will not only exist, but it will flourish.
Needless to mention that to become HR Business Professionals, we will have to clinch on to ‘Analytics’ and ‘Big Data’ to be able to add value to ourselves and the organization and drive positive change by using the information derived from the analysis. New HR metrics such as the average time for an employee to be ready for promotion or percentage of Hi-POs to be hired may replace the importance of existing metrics, e.g. turnover ratios and employee engagement levels, etc. With increasing globalization, another major challenge that will require our attention is how to manage a remote workforce. Organizations and leaders will have to learn how to leverage employees where and when they are most productive and impactful. Managing people from a distance is a new skill today’s managers and leaders will have to develop. The future HR department will have to become an enabler to support executives both by training and providing automation/tools.
One of the most critical changes that will emerge is in the way we recruit today. In time to come, recruiting will become more like marketing. Just like marketers identify niche areas to position their products, we will have to identify specific micro-segments of job seekers/incumbents, which need to be targeted for bringing them in. However, the need for us as HR Business Professionals to think like marketers will not be limited to recruitment. Still, areas such as Talent branding through social marketing coordination and brand ownership will require increased focus. To attract talent, we will have to market our organization as the ‘Potentially best place to work.
Needless to mention, to prepare ourselves for the challenges mentioned above as HR Business Professionals, we will have to keep learning, taking a calculated risk, and networking. We need to realize that whatever we consider today as ‘best practices’ were evolved under very different business conditions. Since business conditions have changed drastically, most of the so-called ‘best practices’ will become obsolete soon. To be able to rightfully called as HR Business Professionals we need to get ahead of the curve by learning the tricks of the trade fast, i.e. Industry, Competitors, and the Legislation that affects business operations, etc.)
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