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How Far Has HR Come in the 21st Century?

Written by Contributor, on 29th Apr 2019. Posted in General

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After many years of mostly performing the same functions in a company or organization, HR has developed considerably in the relatively recent past due largely to the changing cultures of organizations and the development of tech such as Big Data.

HR now plays a major role in many organizations in terms of helping formulate business strategy and manage staff - it was previously restricted to recruitment and general admin such as payroll and generating payments and checks for expenses and similar. 

HR’s role in shaping strategy

Previously an organization would likely formulate their direction or strategy and ask HR to find the necessary personnel or organize the training of existing people to help implement this.

It’s more prevalent now for HR to be involved in strategy planning at the outset with one or more senior HR staff involved. HR, thanks to huge levels of intelligence gained about trends and the workplace from data collection such as in trend analysis, can help forecast what type and what numbers of staff will be required in the future.

Recruiting changes

Time was when a basic round of advertising and maybe using a recruitment agency would be the basic way in which new staff were found.

Analyzing trends - nowadays recruiting is becoming more specialized and targeted based on the organization’s requirements.

By being involved in future planning activities, HR can understand the exact demands these will make of potential employees; for example, will people with a specific technical skill be required?

Again, using data in trend analysis, HR now balances staffing needs with changing trends; for instance, the march of technology may mean more skilled people will be required or, conversely, demand for staff may taper off as developing tech means less need for certain roles.

Attracting the right people - social media is playing a big part in an organization’s HR, with people engaging with potential employees and ‘doing a PR job’ in terms of attracting them. This entire way of interacting with potential staff is largely thanks to the relatively recent rise of social media and it becoming a legitimate part of commercial activities.

Staff relations

Along with recruiting, it’s important - especially in certain skill shortage environments - to retain existing staff and ensure they’re happy and motivated.

HR plays an increasingly important role in this; helping to communicate and sell the organization’s strategy and future direction to staff helps people feel involved and convince them they’re working for a progressive, ambitious concern where they can grow.

HR is also far more involved in ‘crisis management’ such as when a major upheaval affects staff: for example, when the institution of some significant new tech that impacts people’s roles happens or these are being realigned to support changing business methods.

It’s about selling the benefits of change.

People development

Along with recruiting people with the necessary skills for certain roles is the need to ensure existing staff are trained to meet changing needs.

HR, again using trend analysis, can determine where skills shortages may appear in the future based on the organization’s direction and general changes in the workplace. Using this intelligence, the appropriate training can be planned for existing staff so they’re ready to meet the demands of the future.

A true partner in management

With HR becoming more involved in an organization’s overall planning and strategy, it’s more than just ‘the department that provides staff admin and does basic recruitment’.

In the 21st century, HR plays more of a development role through the ability with Big Data and trend analysis to determine what people requirements the future holds and deliver plans to ensure their organization has staff and associated workers suitably equipped to meet the challenges.


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