Is HR Really About To Change?

Still Crazy Quote

How much has the human resources function changed since you started your career?

It obviously depends on how long you’ve worked in the profession as more change will have happened over a longer period of time, but think hard about our purpose and our core activities and they’ve stayed relatively similar for many years.

We still support employees, support recruitment, help support our employers to operate within the law, support employee relations issues and help ensure employees are trained and developed. Sure, we’ve evolved in many ways, and new specialisms have come to the fore, but our foundations remain the same. As are those in many other business functions.

So when so much gets written about what the HR function of the future is going to look like, you might think that this acerbic skeptic will start rolling his eyes and thinking ‘nothing’s really going to change’ but that’s not the case for me.

I’m being serious, I don’t roll my eyes. Okay, maybe there’s some slight eye-rolling action, but i’ve improved a lot on that front!

We are in unprecedented times. The economic challenges and post-brexit Britain (and hopefully post-Trump America), the pace of technological advancements and the emergence of evidence-based practice, make this an exciting time for our profession and one that I personally look forward to embracing. I’m genuinely more enthusiastic about what the future holds for HR now than i’ve ever been. But i’m not naive.

Our core activities aren’t really likely to change and there’s lots we can do already without waiting for the future. If our function remains similar to how it is currently, but with even more affordable and accessible technology, and with processes that are less ‘faddy’ and more likely to realise sustained improvement, then we can surely start to progress this work within our organisations now.

A quick straw poll. If you were to ask your business leaders what they wanted from a HR function of the future, how many do you think would say they want something radically different to what they get now? How many would like their HR function to be similar but with tweaks and improvements. I’d wager it’s more likely to be the latter.

Progress in HR can be achieved through marginal gains. The small, incremental improvements in all of our activities that can refine what we do, which in turn can help us become more prepared for when the big stuff happens. Because i’m very sure, the big stuff will happen.

So when you think about the future of HR, don’t be blind-sided by the fear of the unknown but be excited about what’s to come. Start preparing yourself, and your business by researching and keeping abreast of developments that are emerging. Improve your policies and keep supporting your business. Thats what our workplaces need right now, and in the future, irrespective of what comes next.

The future of HR is likely to be the awesomeness of now, but with new stuff, and with some tasks removed. There’ll be challenges, and there’ll be progress, but at the heart of it will still be us. You and me. HR Professionals with a desire to make a difference only with more interesting tools and agendas.

Doesn’t that sound exciting?

**** The quote in the picture was from memory from this excellent film with a stellar British cast. So I guess, what i’m saying is, it might be slightly different…. but you get the gist.

One thought on “Is HR Really About To Change?

  1. Mark, I’m with you. I bet some folks will label me a naive dreamer; a romantic cult-worshipper and too inexperienced “he’s never been an HR Director so how can he know?”

    And yet, I believe, like you seem to, that this is all infinitely possible and maybe even an inevitable. Will it happen overnight? No. Will there be pain along the way? Yes. Will the world of work wake up to our key part to play and let us become what some of us aspire to be? Possibly.

    I worked in IT in the 1990s. I was a user, not a technologist. It was awful. At times, embarrassing. Now it’s got its house (largely) in order and is powering the world on. Some say not so good (Google memo; Uber culture; Facebook fake news etc) but its undeniable place is in the lead of how the world is shaping up. Yet it was a shower of a function with bureaucracy all over it; poorly designed and built products and lame methodologies. Now it’s the agile, creative and dynamic force in some of the most valuable companies in the world and some of the most highly regarded people head up these enterprises or have made a mint being part of something incredible. Elon Musk is considered one of the world’s great hopes. Jeff Bezos is now looked on as a masterful business leader. Bill Gates a fighter for good. Jobs a legend. Nadella a transformer. Kurzweil an eccentric genius.

    So can HR “do an IT” and reinvent itself? Yes, it can. Will it? It may have no choice. As we converge on the possible future of a digitally dystopian way, human factors become more noticeably valuable. Where IT holds court on the code that now drives work and life; HR holds court on the code of human endeavours and their very reason for being.

    It could be that our time is now and even more so, to come. Whilst we call contemplate whether we can, should or are capable we might miss the chance. Where we infight, snark and point fingers at others, we might lose sight of the massive gifted opportunity we have.

    It might tax us less to worry about what we’re called and whether “thought leaders” are dangerous or useful, and more that we apply ourselves to what we can actually do that surprises the shit out of execs, leaders, politicos, and yes, the mass of people we purport to represent in the world of work.

    I don’t care enough or know enough about some stuff we call HR, but I care and know enough that if a group of committed, creative and clever professionals can connect to a cause most worthy, we might just pull it off.

    This manifesto-like pledge of yours will do for me:

    “The future of HR is likely to be the awesomeness of now, but with new stuff, and with some tasks removed. There’ll be challenges, and there’ll be progress, but at the heart of it will still be us. You and me. HR Professionals with a desire to make a difference only with more interesting tools and agendas.”

    I want to stand for, and be part of, a force for good that might just happen to have its roots in HR. I think we owe the people of the world who want to do some good in the world through their work, the chance to make that happen.

    Let’s you and I talk about how we can help our fellow professionals be great. And the naysayers, doom philosophers, and skeptics can do whatever they like, whilst we’re changing the world for the better. One blog post, tweet and conversation at a time. I’m more excited about our chances than I’ve ever been. It’ll take the notion of millions to hold us back.


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