What Comes Next in the Evolution of HR?
Human resources has experienced significant change in recent years, and the transformation is far from over. As companies continue to adapt to new ways of working and an evolving labor market, HR is expected to shift in tandem.
So, what's next for human resources? What changes await HR leaders, and what roles will they play in the future of organizations?
The Rebranding of HR
The critical importance of people in organizations has been made clear, and some argue that the term "human resources" carries a negative connotation.
"The combined words [human resources] implies that humans are a resource to an organization, thus meant to be used," said Victoria Yang, VP of people operations at Bonusly, who believes HR merits a new name.
In Yang's view, "people operations," as the department is called at her Boulder, Colo. company, is more encompassing and brings to the forefront the idea that people are the center of the business's success.
She's not alone in her view. Donald Thompson, CEO of The Diversity Movement, also believes HR is due for a rebranding. "The move from HR to 'talent and people management' is the logical step when considering inclusive leadership and the way people are at the heart of culture-centric organizations," he said.
While names may vary based on preferences, the idea is the same: the nature of the function has changed, and "human resources" no longer reflects the department's role and responsibilities.
Related Article: What Is Talent Management?
From Policy Enforcement to Employee Experience
When the department emerged centuries ago, the role was clear: to manage human capital in a manner that optimizes output for the company. In other words, allocating human resources to tasks to achieve a predetermined outcome.
Today, HR's role is much broader, having become more focused on delivering a positive employee experience that even crosses into personal well-being.
No longer is HR's role about enforcing rules and policies, said Jonny Kirk, project director at London-based ScreenCloud. "It's about improving the employee's perception and experience at the company."
The best HR teams now look at employees as customers, striving for their loyalty and satisfaction. The lens has shifted from results-driven to people-first.
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Supporting Employees and the Business
Perhaps the most significant change in the evolution of human resources is the fact that HR now has a seat at the leadership table, helping drive results by empowering the people at the company.
Long gone are the days when HR leaders spent their time looking over payroll and attendance records — these responsibilities are now most often in the capable hands of specialized payroll managers.
Today, HR leaders play a very central role in supporting employees in their day to day, developing skills and driving innovation. While all of it continues to serve the same goal — maximize output and deliver on the larger business goals — the part HR plays has shifted to also benefit employees, helping individuals improve their competencies and advance in their career.
Looking ahead, Kirk believes HR teams will grow even more focused on improving this experience for employees by addressing three key aspects of modern human resources:
- What do my people need to complete their work and be inclusive?
- How do they need to have the resources delivered?
- When do they need to have these resources and services provided?
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What's Needed for Next Steps
There's no doubt that HR's still-growing strategic role in building, managing and scaling teams requires more resources than it did in the past, both human and technological. There's no taking the "human" out of HR, but we can't deny that technology provides a next-level experience for the department.
Automation, for instance, can enable leaders to capture and analyze trends and performance issues, predict where problems may arise and find opportunities within the organization.
Companies that acknowledge the potential and upside of a strong, well-resourced HR team will know to invest accordingly in their people department. After the events of the past three years, HR teams have grown tired of accomplishing more work with fewer resources, and they need to be offered additional resources if they are expected to successfully tackle the task that awaits them in the years to come.
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