Some have said human resources is a declining field. Other have put it more dramatically, saying that the HR department is doomed.
Don’t worry. They’re wrong.
Undoubtedly software has changed how HR functions, and those changes are here to stay. But rather than mean the end of the HR department, the nine HR technology experts and practitioners that Software Advice interviewed predicted these changes will provide HR professionals with opportunities for growth. This article lays out what will change and why, as well as how HR professionals can prepare. Change, it seems, is good.
Prediction 1: In-house HR will downsize while outsourcing will increase.
This prediction might seem somewhat, well, predictable. However, the reasons our experts give for the change may surprise you.
Brian Sommer, industry analyst and founder of TechVentive, claims HR departments will become smaller as new technologies allow employees to participate directly in HR processes. He explains, “Many businesses are going to get a lot of capability done by better technology, more self-service and the employee doing a lot on their own.”
And while employees begin to shoulder a larger part of HR’s administrative duties through self-service portals, Dr. Janice Presser, CEO of The Gabriel Institute, predicts many transaction-heavy HR jobs will be outsourced entirely. In fact, Dr. Presser goes so far as to say, “Entry-level HR jobs, as they currently exist, will all but disappear as transactional tasks are consigned to outsourced services.”
But despite the shrinking size of in-house HR, the human resources function will endure. As Chip Luman, the COO of HireVue, explains, “Given the ongoing regulatory environment, the need to pay, provide benefits, manage employee relations issues, and process information will go on.”
Prediction 2: Strategic will be in-house HR’s new core competence.
The smaller HR department that remains in-house will have to reposition itself as a strategic partner within the business. In fact, over half the experts emphasized that the move toward strategic partnership must happen--or else. Dr. Presser says in-house HR will need to have, “The ability to make accurate projections based on understanding the goals of the business and using metrics that describe more than lagging indicators, such as how long it takes to fill a job or the per-employee training spend.”
The strategy role cannot be outsourced--good news for all those in-house HR folks. As Dr. Presser says, “Strategic planning requires in-house expertise.”
In fact, Brashears, the director of Human Capital Consulting at Trinet HR, predicts the swing toward more strategic roles may even drive the creation of new job titles. As she explains, “HR Professionals will likely transition into HR Business Professionals who not only understand HR implications but also business operations and strategy.”
Prediction 3: The pendulum will swing back to the specialist.
Janine Truitt, the founder of The Aristocracy of HR blog, says she has observed a generalist-specialist cycle in the HR field during her time in the industry. As she explains, “Every decade or so we fluctuate back and forth from the paradigm of the independent contributor/specialist to the generalist practitioner. We were in a ‘generalist’ mode and now I think the pendulum may be swinging back toward the specialist.”
But for Luman, there will be no future shift back toward the generalist. He states, “HR generalists as we know them will disappear.”
Brashears agrees, noting “There will be more specialized roles. I believe this to be the case as the employment landscape becomes more complex with changing regulations around employment law and benefit compliance with the Affordable Care Act.”
Preparing for 2020
As strategy becomes more important for in-house HR, and specialists become more prevalent, what can current HR professionals begin doing now to prepare? The experts all endorse one tactic: keep learning---risk-taking and networking will help, too.
Dr. Presser advises those in the field to “Get ahead of the curve. Realize that many of today’s ‘best practices’ evolved under very different business conditions, and may well become obsolete within this decade. Learn everything you can about your industry, your competitors, and pending legislation that affects your business operations. Most of all, define yourself as a businessperson and act accordingly.”
Additionally, Lynda Zugec, Founder and Chairman of The Workforce Consultants, says in this brave new world, failure should be welcomed as a learning tool. As she says, “In the changing HR landscape of today, failure is embraced because it means that you were brave enough to ‘give it a shot’ and also that you now have more information regarding what works and what doesn't work than before. Eventually, if you keep exploring different avenues, you are bound to succeed.”
Finally, Luman encourages HR practitioners and analysts to develop their own personal brand. As he says, “Network inside and outside of your field. Blog, communicate, read and help others achieve success. If you are not outside of your comfort zone, you are stagnating.”
Erin Osterhaus is the managing editor of Software Advice's HR blog,The New Talent Times. She focuses on the HR market, offering advice to industry professionals on the best recruiting, talent management and leadership techniques. You can follow her on Twitterand Google+ or, contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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