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The future of the HR function

The future of the HR function is changing rapidly. As a society, we are in the middle of a digital transformation and during the Corona crisis we have seen how many businesses rapidly have created digital workspaces and found new ways to cooperate. Simultaneously, we are looking into a change in workforce demography and employees who have ever increasing expectations for their work life. These changes mean that the role of the modern HR function has changed dramatically in the last few years – and will keep changing. Tomorrow’s HR profiles will have to think in wider perspectives, understand business development more deeply and continually adapt to both businesses and the surrounding society.

Even though it is difficult to predict the future, this article offers 3 perspectives on how HR’s role can develop in the future. Scenarios which are relevant for HR departments and employees to reflect on, and through reflection begin to prepare for the future.


High degree of automatization and a digital agenda

Ambitions, availability and development has entailed that businesses have invested heavily in new technologies. These new technologies and the automatization of complex tasks moves quickly, and an ever-increasing number of tasks and jobs are being replaced by machines and robots. The remaining jobs will become challenging and will require width and depth in employee competences, and the ability to quickly acquire new knowledge will be essential.

Parallel to this development, the job market is now heavily infused by “millennials” who are used to a constantly updated information flow through smart phones and computers. A generation who is always online and who has demands of their place of employment – from the businesses’ online presence to which employee benefits are included in compensation packages. For this reason, many large companies are currently focusing on digital HR tools. Microsoft is betting on LinkedIn, IBM on Watson, Google on Google Jobs, Facebook on Workplace etc.

It is clear that the future of HR will be characterized by increased automatization and digitalization, and this should influence how we think about HR in terms of organization, re-schooling of HR employees and making strategic choices in recruitment processes.


A continued focus on people

To embrace the breakthrough that HR is facing does not mean taking people out of the equation. In fact, increases in the use of technology can result in HR having more dedicated time to focus on the individual – which is essential in both recruitment and retention. With a rapidly changing market there is constant competition for the best talents. At the same time, it is easier for candidates to find interesting and exciting jobs. Jobs that can be executed across large distances which in turn expands the radius of the job market itself.

As such, the HR function should give both present and potential employees a reason to work for their company. In other words, companies must create environments that employees enjoy being in – and cannot imaging replacing with something else – and this has to be visible externally too.


Understanding the key to creating successful businesses

If HR is to have influence and make impactful differences in the future, it is important to not only focus on HR itself. HR has to understand the businesses’ strategic direction and the financial and social environment in which the business operates. HR must anticipate and prepare for changes in the market, the competition and as such, the workforce. Only then can HR effectively work with human capital and adapt HR initiatives to the goals of the organization. It is about more and other than HR strategy. It is about how HR, with a starting point in present and future employees, in the best possible way can affect the parameters that are vital to the company’s vision, mission and financial success.

In any way you relate to the future of HR, there is wide consensus that any given company’s success depends on the skills and knowledge inherent in that organization and as such, on the employees and managers that you can attract. As such, it must be expected that HR will play a key role in the future of companies that wish to develop their business.

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