#WorkTrends: Preparing for the HR Perfect Storm

Think about all the transformations sweeping HR right now: AI, automation, the hottest talent market in decades. Keeping track of it can be exhausting.

But if you’re hoping for a break, I’ve got bad news for you: There’s more coming. In fact, this week’s guest, Brent Colescott, senior director of business strategy and transformation at SumTotal, says there’s a perfect storm coming for HR — and you’re going to need more than an umbrella to weather it. We sat down to discuss the changes we can expect from those storm clouds you see circling.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

What Is HR’s Perfect Storm?

Colescott says HR is facing a fundamental redefinition of its role. “HR was born in the 1940s, post-World War II,” he says. “What’s happening now is that things have changed and added to what the burden is that HR needs to do.”

HR’s responsibilities now include overseeing the use of technology in the workplace and handling an influx of talent that might not be as prepared for work as in the past. These additional responsibilities, Colescott says, mean that HR has to embrace automation so that it has the bandwidth to serve employees and the organization. “When you look at all these challenges — whether it’s the generations in the workforce, the lack of talent that’s available now because the low unemployment, or automation — it’s just all converging at the same time,” he says. “That’s really the HR perfect storm that I look at.”

HR and ‘Adulting’

Colescott says HR is facing another new challenge: the need to train younger workers on what we can only call life skills, known as “adulting.” “The talent that’s coming in — and these can be college graduates that are coming into the workforce — are having to ask HR to help them set up a bank account, to have them understand conflict management, dealing with challenging viewpoints in the office or even how to run a meeting,” he says.

For a function used to leadership development and regulation, it’s an unexpected responsibility. “When you think about the HR perfect storm, that’s a challenge that HR never had to deal with,” Colescott says. It’s a fascinating trend and a reminder that our little neck of the woods is always evolving, whether we like it or not.

The Future After the Perfect Storm

As dire as the perfect storm might sound, Colescott says he can already see sunshine in the distance. As baby boomers retire, Colescott sees organizations shifting to more agile leadership methods, and he expects the growing pains of adopting new technologies to have largely subsided. “It’s going to all be very different,” he says.

Additionally, Colescott says employees will begin to have longer tenures with organizations, thanks to an emphasis on education and training. “It’s almost like a cycle,” he says. “I had a German teacher in high school who was always out of fashion because he had clothes that were 20 years old. He said, ‘Just wait. These clothes will be back in style.’ ”

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

This episode is sponsored by SumTotal.