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Back to the future: HR lessons from the last decade and predictions for the next one

If there’s anything we’ve learnt over the last ten years in business, it’s that as we approach the next decade, we must focus our attention on the human element of HR. 

20th Dec 2019
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I’m very proud to be able to say that the HR function has always been at the forefront of change. After all, we are early adopters and advocates of change within our organisations. This stretches all the way back from the time of Fordism, when we were referred to as the ‘personnel’ department, through to the digital era, when we became the HR department.

Now we’re on the cusp of the next decade, during which we’re set to transform into the ‘talent’ department. Over the years, we’ve tried and tested new technologies and trained our employees to use them, so they can keep pace with the latest cutting edge solutions. This ultimately enables companies to maximise their resources, namely their people.

We’re turning to technology to ensure human error is removed from our communications with employees. 

Our day-to-day jobs and responsibilities have dramatically changed over the last few decades. You may remember a time when the internet simply didn’t exist. Since those days of manually managing rooms full of filing cabinets, our role has transformed beyond recognition.

Today, we’ve adopted the tools and technology to provide reports, analytics and simulations to better manage our workforces, and all these things can be completed at the tap of a button.

Technological transformation

Technology is and will continue to be one of the main catalysts of change, especially in the workplace. Last decade, it was all about the cloud and how we hosted and processed our data off site. More recently, we’re focused on using artificial intelligence (AI) to support our customers, streamline our processes and most important of all, eliminate human bias.

As the line between work and life becomes increasingly blurred, employees are constantly connected and many of them are working longer hours. 

For instance, more and more companies are using pre-recorded videos for interviews, voice recognition software, automated notifications and processes to respond to a never-ending need to go faster and faster. The great thing about machines is they’re completely non-judgmental when it comes to things like whether someone is male or female, whether they are of colour, their age and so on. A machine simply reacts the way it has been coded to respond to various scenarios.

That’s why we rely on bots to ‘chat’ with our employees and answer their questions. We’re turning to technology to ensure human error is removed from our communications with employees. Technology also enables us to provide valuable data and input to our boards. There’s no denying that technological advancement truly is a game changer.

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The human touch

This is only one part of the story, however. With all these technological advances, our working and personal lives are becoming more and more intertwined. The relatively recent WikiLeaks scandal was a timely reminder of how easy it is to for personal information to be shared with the outside world, and that isn’t always a good thing.

It’s time to be human, acknowledge mistakes, build trust and embrace healthy dialogue with our colleagues.

For example, a disgruntled employee can cause havoc for an organisation in the online era. In fact, one of my clients had their reputation severely tarnished on some of those company recommendation websites, simply because one employee posted non-factual negative referrals. Despite the content being untrue, the company was powerless to have the damaging remarks removed or even stopped.

As the line between work and life becomes increasingly blurred, employees are constantly connected and many of them are working longer hours. This means there’s a greater risk when it comes to potential leaks or whistle-blowing claims (true or untrue).

Workforce wellbeing

The world in which we live is a world of stress. The human resources department has never been so important. The clue is in the title. Over the next decade, HR will focus on the human elements within their company.

People now realise that employee wellbeing is the key to organisational success. Wellbeing is achieved by empowering the individual. An empowered employee, as we all know, will breathe creativity, resilience, compassion and passion into his/her work life. Healthy employees will endure all the challenges that modern life throws their way.

We can no longer pretend to be superheroes with no personal drama, professional conflicts or work related crises. It’s time to be human, acknowledge mistakes, build trust and embrace healthy dialogue with our colleagues. None of these characteristics are tangible, and they certainly can’t be mirrored by a machine or a bot – not yet anyway! That’s where our competitive edge stems from. It’s the reason why machines haven’t taken over.

As HR, we have an amazing opportunity to improve people’s working lives. Delegating our first line of support to the bots, and using increasingly sophisticated software to generate reports and analytics is fine. HR must also, however, provide the right advice and guidance, while appraising staff in the right way, which is based on the culture of the organisation they’re working for.

Interested in this topic? Read The future of HR: from human resources to human revolutionaries.

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