There is one constant in every business or organization: people. Technology and automation may have reduced the number needed to perform certain tasks or functions, but people are still required to develop, manage and operate systems and processes.
The role of the human resources professional is critical to any enterprise’s success. HR managers have oversight of the recruiting, interviewing and hiring of new staff. They are also responsible for developing and implementing workplace policies and procedures, along with employee evaluation programs and continuing education opportunities. All of this is done with the goal of creating a culture that encourages individuals and teams to function at their highest levels to achieve an organization’s mission, while adhering to complex and ever-changing employment laws and regulations.
You’ll need a combination of education and several years of related work experience, not to mention strong interpersonal skills, to become an effective HR manager. Although a bachelor’s degree is sufficient for most positions, more are requiring a master’s degree; an M.S. in Human Resources Management.
As technology evolves, so does an organization’s workforce. There are several trends that today’s HR manager
must stay on top of if they want their company to operate at its peak potential.
Why is diversity important in the workplace? Successful organizations relish diversity in their workforce, recognizing that people of different genders and ages, ethnicities and backgrounds, and values and beliefs bring varied perspectives and insights that can help shape everything from the environment of work spaces to the approach to customer service. Diversity is also a benefit to global brands, as their workforce can serve international clients with an understanding and appreciation for the cultures and norms, relative to countries and regions.
The diversity in age—as baby boomers interact with millennials and now Generation Z, or the iGen—is among the greatest. Each has an expectation of how their workplace should be, how they should be treated and what opportunities exist for their personal and professional growth.
While older workers may appreciate the structured order of an office setting and steady progression in salary and responsibility, the next generations prefer to work remotely and on a schedule that accommodates their lifestyle, including choosing to work early in the morning or late at night. They often care less about take home pay and more about whether companies care about their well-being and match their values. According to the most recent Deloitte Millennial Survey, millennials want roles that offer purpose and the opportunity to change their personal and professional environment. Managing these expectations while maintaining congruent policies and procedures will test even the most experienced HR manager.
At the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) 2016 Annual Conference, SHRM president Henry Jackson noted that the rise of freelance workers and the gig economy effect on HR was one of the top five biggest employment trends.
More companies are using contract workers in the course of their regular operations. These on-demand freelancers, who work on time or outcome specific projects or “gigs” as they are commonly called, benefit the company by providing specific skills that complement a team’s work. As the cost of hiring and retaining full-time employees increases, these workers also help reduce overhead as they often work at remote offices, are not covered by company-sponsored health insurance and don’t receive employee benefits.
A study by Fieldglass predicts that in 2017 the share of contract and freelance workers will encompass 25 percent of the workforce and only 41 percent will be traditional, full-time employees. The remainder will be part-time workers or interns. HR managers will be challenged to integrate this new collective into their organization’s cultures and provide them with the digitally connected tools needed to collaborate successfully.
Just a few years ago, candidates submitted their applications and résumés via email to an HR department and the HR manager reviewed the information personally, writing notes and deciding, through their subjective view, whether the candidate advanced to an interview. Today, the information is scanned by advanced software that searches for keywords and phrases that automatically flag the applicant for continued communication or a kindly worded letter of rejection.
From the application, through the hiring and onboarding process, and into the performance of their roles and subsequent evaluations, technology follows an employee every step of the way. With a growing marketplace of teaching platforms, wellness and fitness apps, and integrated employee self-service tools, the impact of technology in human resources can benefit both the employee and the employer.
IBM, for example, now has an artificial intelligence application that helps employees do their own onboarding, finds nearby employees as mentors, and addresses the top 200 questions employees ask in any new position. The entire experience is driven by a natural language bot and has proven successful in driving employee engagement.
Soon, over half of the global workforce will be made up of millennials and Gen Z. These are employees who have grown up on technology and expect it to be at the core of both the execution of their roles and in learning opportunities. Successful HR managers today must embrace technology and its role in supporting their employees.
Human resources management is the art and science of managing an organization’s people to achieve specific business objectives, such as high engagement, low turnover, employee satisfaction and other important goals. It does so through the use of people, process and technology geared toward the internal operations of the organization, rather than its external strategies, goals and objectives.
Continuous learning is critical for business success, and companies know that providing opportunities for employees to learn new skills allows them to take on greater leadership roles and new management responsibilities.
The organization of the future is one that delivers learning that is always on and always available over a range of digital platforms. It also moves from a hierarchal review process to one of continuous coaching and mentoring.
AT&T now offers a wide range of online learning opportunities and encourages employees to find new jobs, seek out mentors and learn new technologies. To make the transition as easy as possible, the company has partnered with universities to provide online courses in the skills it needs. As Bill Blase, head of HR, explains, “It’s a new bargain—one that, done well, benefits both the organization and the employees who learn new skills to advance their careers.”
Traditional, annual employee reviews and ratings (4.0, 3.5, etc.) are being replaced with ongoing performance consulting. HR professionals are encouraging managers to help their employees grow and find their place in an organization by providing regular feedback and identifying opportunities to hone skills that can improve their performance. Establishing a coaching culture creates respect among managers and their subordinates, gives employees real-time input on their strengths and areas for improvement, and teaches teams how to self-coach each other to achieve goals.
As the cost of health insurance continues to rise, and with the realization that the physical and psychological states of their employees impact performance and outcomes, HR managers value a healthy workforce. Many are integrating technology to assist them in monitoring the wellness of their employees.
Core platform providers, such as Oracle, SAP SuccessFactors, Workday and others, have developed built-in analytics that inform a company about what people are doing, how happy they are and how well they are taking care of themselves. These can provide an integrated view of employee wellness and give workers insights and advice on ways to better care for themselves.
Knowing that a healthy workforce can result in increased productivity and less days lost due to illness, many companies also are offering memberships to fitness centers as a component of their compensation packages and offering on-site exercise classes and nutrition programs that promote a healthy lifestyle. They are transforming the traditional, sterile cafeteria setting to more resemble a casual dining restaurant or bistro, and food selections are being expanded to include organic and vegan meal choices. Others are providing clinics and pharmacies on their campuses, allowing employees to conveniently schedule regular health evaluations, monitor medical conditions and fill prescriptions without having to take time away from work. These programs promoting health and wellness in the workplace have had very positive results.
The “human” in human resources management drives hiring practices, training programs and retention efforts. No longer is analytics about finding interesting bits of information and sharing an overview with a company’s leadership. It’s now being used to understand every part of business operations, with analytics embedded into real-time applications to measure employees’ work and results. Understanding how individuals are prone to act, react and respond to situations and events, and how they’ll interact with fellow employees and management are now being assessed using myriad analytical tools.
HR managers are using predictive HR analytics, using culture surveys to identify candidates and evaluate whether that person will be the right fit for their company’s organizational structure. Once an individual has been hired, analytics can be used to measure employee satisfaction, engagement levels within teams and the potential for advancement.
Analytics are also being used to evaluate corporate cultures, executive leadership performance and employee capabilities and capacities. Applications that analyze workforce wellness, engagement and sentiment feed into data that tracks company or departmental goals and objectives to improve the work environment. Even staff turnover is analyzed to determine what steps can be taken to improve retention.
Today’s HR managers are adding mobile applications, analytic software and on-demand services to provide their employees and themselves with the tools and information necessary to perform their jobs and improve their employment experience.