What Does the Future of Human Resources Look Like?

17746154_sWhether you’re an entry-level human resources representative fresh out of college, a one-stop HR shop in a small business, or a talent management professional for a national or global organization, your job in human resources as we know it today will change as surely as business technologies and trends are changing even as you read this. The question is not will Human Resources change, but how? And what does the future of HR look like?

HR Evolution

Human Resources has gone through some big transitions since the late 90s, fueled by technologies including applicant tracking software and Internet job boards. These in turn have evolved into better tools through integration with social media and advanced technology. We’re seeing big data impact and evolve HR even further, along with even more rapid advances in technology, including mobile and cloud technologies.

Josh Bersin, founder of Bersin by Deloitte, a research and Human Resources solutions consultancy, reports that the HR technology landscape is exploding and flooding the market with new solutions. He sees big HR disruptions to come, with vendors and developers motivated by a $15 billion HR software market. He says this is leading to big disruptions coming up fast in the Human Resources space.

Shift in Purpose of HR Technology

Bersin sees HR technology as rapidly changing from a data repository to an active engagement system. We’ve seen HRIS change from systems run by Human Resources into employee self-service processes, and applicant tracking systems change into more fully integrated one-click apply processes on career pages and mobile platforms.

The same types of transformations are being developed for performance management and workforce training and development with better design, mobile functionality, and gamification built in for engagement rather than the transactional Human Resources we know now. Right Management senior vice president Margaret-Ann Cole says Human Resources can be enhanced with technology for executive sourcing, succession planning, culture building, organizational design, employee/manager problem resolution, leadership development, and many other areas.

Mobile HR

We’ve seen the workplace shift from company-issued equipment to a bring-your-own-device environment with the proliferation of smart phone and handheld device technologies. That’s paved the way for HR apps to make things easier, faster, and more accessible for everything from mobile recruiting to time and attendance to training and development.  Recruiters are at the helm using apps today, along with vendors like Kronos and ADP according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), but a quick Google search on “HR apps” will give you an idea of just how fast HR is moving from the office to the mobile app environment.

Intelligent Analytics

Data analysis is cheaper and better than it’s ever been, and Human Resources is already using the data it collects and processes to better understand things like candidates and employees, job design, payroll expense, and learning and development. Bersin predicts that embedded analytics with benchmarking data in HR technologies will soon be used to better predict retention, identify areas of high cost, and recommend workforce learning.

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Assessment Tools and Big Data

Big Data and science-based tools to assess behavior and personality are rapidly developing in the HR technology arena. Bersin says the proliferation in data gathering and storage, along with wider adoption of cloud services, has led vendors to look at what can be done with the data they manage and how it can be leveraged. Assessment solutions and leadership development applications are heading toward using big data to analyze people’s characteristics, development, job experience, and other real-time work-related information so management can make better, science-based decisions about things like hiring, improving performance, and reducing labor costs.



Human Resources outsourcing as a way to reduce costs and improve efficiencies has been a growing trend over the lHRast few years. Companies do it to focus on strategy, improve compliance, be better able to focus on core business operations, and take advantage of advanced technologies. Almost any HR function can be outsourced, from payroll and benefits to recruiting outsourcing to employee assistance and counseling.

In “The Future of the HR Profession,” the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) talked to eight leading consulting firms about what they think will happen in HR in the next decade. Representatives from Accenture, Arthur Anderson, Hewitt Associates, William M. Mercer, Inc., PricewaterhouseCoopers, Resources Connection, Towers Perrin, and Watson Wyatt Worldwide discussed outsourcing pros and cons, with the overall agreement that to be effective, Human Resources needs to be in-house but that outsourcing brings opportunities for improvements that can’t always be achieved otherwise. They saw outsourcing as important in the future of Human Resources as a way to adjust for business cycles in affordable ways.


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