HR is changing, evolving, and right in front of our very eyes! The traditional functions of HR to place ads for jobs, interview and qualify candidates, manage labor relations, and deal with employee issues are rapidly morphing into something else, largely as a response to the workforce disruptions of recent years and demographic pressures from new waves of younger workers joining the force. The impact of economic turmoil and the pandemic confronted HR Departments with challenges they have not faced in many decades. Layoffs and restructuring of organizations to trim down in the face of threats to company profitability is a factor. Remote working, demands for more flexible work arrangements, increased use of contract employees, impacts of “gig” workers, and technological advancements all are significant contributors as well. So, let’s explore where the HR Department may be headed.

The “Great Resignation” of recent years has taken a heavy toll on HR staffers. With the pain of forced layoffs to administer, HR staff have had to grapple with workers changing jobs at a high pace. Citing some key points from an excellent article by Greg Iacurci of CNBC:

  • About 50.5 million people quit their jobs in 2022, besting 2021, according to the federal JOLTS report.
  • The pandemic-era trend of elevated voluntary departures came to be known as the Great Resignation.
  • Most people quit to take new jobs, not to leave the workforce altogether.
  • Ample job prospects, higher wages and remote work helped fuel the tr

 

Indicators are that HR professionals are stressed and burned out like much of the work force. SHRM notes that “53% of HR professionals are burned out and 48% are looking for a new job.” A survey of LinkedIn chatter shows diverging opinions on the future of HR Departments with people saying HR is no longer an integral part of company’s management. But HR is not going away! Samuel Clemens may have commented: “The rumors of the demise of HR are greatly exaggerated.” So, what will it look like?

How people look at the function of HR is changing rapidly. WP ERP (wperp.com) notes that “The shift toward skills-based hiring will accelerate in 2023 as skills emerge as the currency of the labor market.” The shift includes the flexibility to choose one’s work schedule. According to a Chief Executive survey, the majority of CEOs want their HR Departments ”to spend more time finding, retraining, and up-skilling great employees … finding and hiring them isn’t enough.” Workhuman.com notes the new trends in HR: “The new trends are navigating the great resignation, reskilling and up-skilling, people analytics and automation, and working with equity, equality, and inclusion.”

Looking back at the labor unrest in the nineteenth century caused by the introduction of new technology embodied by the Jacquard Loom we saw many workers displaced by the new technology, but also saw the rise of a new class of highly skilled technicians required to keep the looms running. What headaches for the HR Departments of the nineteenth century!

HR will have to learn to work with new technology, although it will never be replaced by AI. Without a doubt, robot use will increase, but humans will still be needed. New classes of more highly skilled workers will be required to service the changed paradigm. However, according to WP ERP, ‘technology will not replace … HR leaders … in resolving pressing people challenges.” Suneet Dua of PwC, a network of Price Waterhouse Coopers International consultants, states that “HR leaders are stuck in yesterday’s world.” It is no longer HR trying to hire someone. The new generation wants more than a paycheck. They want to see their values and want to speak out on issues.

Summing up, HR Departments are here to stay, albeit with a new face and new roles. The HR folks will ultimately adapt their organizations to the new challenges and continue to be the company’s connection to the workforce. We can look forward to a bright, but different scenario for THE FUTURE OF HR.

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NAPS Harold B. Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award Winner