Wednesday, May 1, 2013

With a Little Help From My Friends

The wonderful thing about the social web is how easy it is to make new acquaintances into friends. Often, all it takes is just helping each other. So that's how this guest blog happened. I met Erin Osterhaus in the usual online manner. She had a need for opinions, and I'm never short of them. In this case she was asking for predictions, which I was only too happy to offer. And here she is, returning the favor with a guest blog:


The HR Department of 2020: 3 Bold Predictions

The human resources department will disappear in a matter of years. All HR functions will be taken over by software or outsourced. At least that’s what some are saying.

They’re wrong.

Yes, software is changing how HR operates. But instead of spelling the the demise of the human resources function, experts predict these changes will allow HR professionals to grow. Software Advice interviewed industry analysts and HR practitioners to better understand what will change and why, as well as find out how HR professionals can prepare.

Prediction 1: In-house HR will downsize while outsourcing will increase.
While this prediction may seem somewhat, well, predictable, the reasons experts give for the change might surprise you.

Brian Sommer, an industry analyst and the founder of TechVentive, explains that new technologies--many of which allow for employees to participate directly in HR processes through self-service systems--will drive the shift to leaner in-house HR departments. As he says, “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.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Janice Presser, CEO of The Gabriel Institute, predicts many transaction-heavy HR jobs will be outsourced entirely to agencies or specialists, saying, “Entry-level HR jobs, as they currently exist, will all but disappear as transactional tasks are consigned to outsourced services.”

However, despite these trends the internal HR function will survive. Chip Luman, the COO of HireVue, explains that, “Given the ongoing regulatory environment, the need to pay, provide benefits, manage employee relations issues, and process information will go on.”

Prediction 2: Strategic thinking will become in-house HR’s new core competence.
The HR department that remains will need to reposition itself as a strategic partner within the business. In fact, SHRM’s 2002 report, The Future of the HR Profession predicted the trend toward leaner, strategy-focused HR departments 11 years ago.

More recently, an Economist Intelligence Unit report highlighted the need for C-level management to partner with HR departments as a prerequisite to drive growth. The experts agree, and most emphasized HR’s need to increase its strategic value to the business--or else. Dr. Presser says, “This includes 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.”

This strategy role cannot be outsourced. As Dr. Presser says, “Strategic planning requires in-house expertise.”

Prediction 3: Managing a remote workforce will be the new norm.
Companies like Yahoo and Best Buy recently ended their remote work programs. These companies are the exception, not the norm. Undoubtedly, HR will have to tackle the challenge of managing a growing remote workforce. Luman points out that companies will need “to leverage employees where and when they are most productive and impactful”--even if that means they’re halfway around the world.

But managing employees from afar isn’t a skill you can pick up on the fly. Dr. Presser cautions that, “The trend toward remote workers is a growing challenge to managers who are not effective in managing people at a distance.”

To help HR departments and line managers adjust, automation will play a large part in successful remote management. Wim de Smet, CEO of Exaserv, predicts that “New technologies will be used to analyze the work production instead of the working time. Results will become more important and business will expect HR to be producing more result-driven performance analysis.”

Preparing for 2020
With so many changes on the horizon, what can current HR professionals begin doing now to prepare? The experts endorse three key tactics: keep learning, be active in your field, and take risks.

“Get ahead of the curve,” Dr. Presser advises. “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.”

Finally, Luman encourages HR professionals to find their own voice and be active. 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 for 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. For the full article, click here.

Thanks, Erin!