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The Future of HR: Obsolete or Absolute

Is the HR profession relevant still? With emerging technology in every industry and the younger generations insisting on incorporating it into every aspect of their lives, now more than ever people are looking to the future to help guide decisions for today. But how do we prepare our future workforce for the changes in the workplace that we can't predict? As stated by Betty Thompson, CPO at Booz Allen Hamilton at the 2018 SHRM Volunteer Leader Summit, "We feel like things have never moved this fast in the work world; but the reality is, they will never move this slow again." This is an interesting challenge for the HR professional.

Human Resources, or the practice of it has been a necessary position since its inception in the early 1900s, when we were referred to as "personnel management". In fact research shows that HR practices were present in even some of the earliest civilizations. The earliest people using selection processes to elect new tribal leaders, or the Greek apprenticeship program are a few examples of this. But, with the invention of things like robot construction workers, and self-driving semi trucks, chatbots and Artificial Intelligence, you have to wonder ... will HR be necessary?

The answer,we believe is, YES! But in order to stay relevant, we must learn how to become comfortable, feeling uncomfortable. Learn to ask good questions, to speak up when necessary and to contribute our voice to the conversation.

As the world continues to develop technology, and the borders continue to shrink due to globalization, the Human Resources professional has never been more needed than today. But in order to be relevant, we need to understand the business of HR, and how to grow, adapt, and embrace the changing workforce. In other words, HOW we practice HR will look different, but not its need for it. As this article from SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) states, ‘I can envision a future where HR professionals are no longer thinking that their job is to stay on top of current HR trends, but to reposition [themselves] to become workforce advisors.’ Jill Goldstein .


The good news is, we can start to shift our focus now and be prepared for these changing dynamics as they start to unfold.

We have to start thinking that HR is not just supporting the business, it is a pivotal piece to its success. Some of the areas we see shifting now to support the future workforce include:

  • Departments working together - We can start to see different departments working alongside each other. Think marketing and HR developing processes which focus on both the external and the internal customer. Example: Branding work experiences to match the brand of the company - "ottertunities" are new positions at Otterbox, based in Fort Collins, CO.

  • Workforce and placemaking - understanding that not only are you planning for generational differences in the workforce, but you will now have the traditional worker working alongside the gig worker in your company. Both want to feel welcome and appreciated as part of the team. This matters down to even how employees work with each other, and placemaking (Placemaking - capitalizes on a local community's assets, inspiration, and potential, with the intention of creating public spaces that promote people's health, happiness, and well being) has become a big focus for future thinking employers with regard to how they build their office spaces.

  • Personalized experiences - employees are demanding personal focus. Not only do they want a company to be concerned and focused on their professional successes, but also their personal ones too! This goes beyond recognition and includes things like mentorship programs, and career mobility options - where the employee can circle between departments and learn about different positions, both helping them to understand other departments and also allowing them to "test" out different career paths.

Whether this is something you focus on or not, the evolving workforce is happening. HR has a bright future and role to play, if we prepare strategically for it and be willing to learn how to be comfortable feeling uncomfortable.

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