Looking Ahead: Future-Proofing HR

The HR function of today is not the one of yesterday, and it certainly won’t be the one of tomorrow. So how do businesses make sure their HR departments are ready for upcoming challenges?

One of the surest ways is to put resources toward future-proofing HR—implementing policies, procedures, and technology that will enable business to keep pace with further evolution.

The 2016 Global Talent Trends Study from Mercer, the world’s largest HR consulting firm, underscores the need for businesses to redefine how they manage, develop, and incentivize talent to achieve growth. Future-proofing the HR function is key, and the study identifies five ways to do it:

  1. Build diverse talent pools. This includes creating diverse leadership teams and implementing programs to develop those leaders.
  2. Embrace the new work equation. This means harnessing the trend of a top-down approach that cultivates supportive managers who are capable of coaching—and motivating—employees to new levels of productivity.
  3. Architect a compelling career. Provide career-building opportunities that will keep employees from leaving. This entails hiring from within whenever possible and delineating a career path that allows employees to rise within the ranks. A data-entry clerk might be more willing to stay on the job, for example, if he or she believes there is a chance to become a department manager.
  4. 4. Simplify talent processes. The study recommends that businesses conduct an audit of legacy processes to see which technologies are slowing things down. Yes—that means out with the old and in with the new!
  5. Redefine the value of HR. In response to Mercer’s study, only five percent of the HR leaders report that their organizations see HR as a strategic partner. This brings to light the need to cultivate a leaner, more innovative HR function that focuses on developing and championing programs that support the changing needs of employees. You can better your organization’s chances for success with continued training and education for HR professionals and investments in cutting-edge technology.

A Long-Term Transformation

The HR function has evolved significantly over the past couple decades. In the old days, businesses didn’t even use the term “human resources. “ Instead, companies had “personnel departments,” and employee interaction with this department typically revolved around mundane matters like payroll deductions, vacation policies, sick days, and retirement plan allocations. Furthermore, there was a clear detachment of the personnel staff from the work being done elsewhere in the company.

Today’s HR departments tend to be more integrated with the overall organization. HR is involved in employee recruitment and hiring, training and professional development, performance reviews and assessments, workplace wellness, and employee engagement, as well as in the defining and disseminating of the corporate culture.

Noteworthy technical and digital transformations drive many of the changes in human resources. Today’s HR departments use these technological resources to recruit new hires, casting a wider net with online job sites than was ever possible with classified ads in newspapers. HR professionals now use cost-effective webinars and online videos to onboard, train, and educate employees. They are also able to keep abreast of changing employment laws on a timelier basis through HR websites, e-newsletters, and videoconferences.

A Future-Proofing Strategy

One certainty about the future is that more change is on the way. Companies need to prepare themselves for further evolution. Those who do not put resources toward future-proofing HR will be just as detached from their employees as the personnel departments of yesterday.

Here are some additional suggestions for ways to accomplish future-proofing:

  • Evaluate your workforce. Look for strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement in your current staff. Emily Dusablon, an HR Advisor at Insperity, recommends assessing what additional training or certifications your employees may need with an eye toward the roles they may be able to fill in the future.
  • Create a culture of flexibility. Resist the “we’ve always done it this way” mindset and instead encourage new ideas and new solutions. Make it easy for your teams to implement—and embrace—change.
  • Inspire professional development. Encourage attendance at conferences and webinars, allow time for networking with peers through professional associations, and establish mentor relationships.
  • Make sure employees are on the same page with talent development. Engage employees in the process of preparing for their own futures. To accomplish this, consider Insperity’s recommendation to work with your employees to develop employee development plans. For example, you can host employee workshops that enable them to set goals and create action plans to accomplish them, then provide feedback to employees as they implement those plans.
  • Continue to engage talent via online job sites. Keep abreast of the ever-changing job qualifications for key positions, such as the level of proficiency needed for emerging software programs and other technologies.
  • Compile and analyze data. Use data to determine what parts of your recruitment strategy are working and what may need to be overhauled.

The future will arrive regardless of whether you’re ready for it. Ensure your HR team can meet the challenges by cultivating a knowledgeable, engaged workforce that is ready to embrace it.

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