Here Is What the Future of HR Looks Like

A wide variety of articles exist about the need for human resources to change. Often those articles talk about the need for HR to be more of a “business partner” or “strategic” or “transformational.” But rarely do we see articles that address what the future jobs in human resources will look like.


Well, a group of human resources professionals has taken on the task. Project CHREATE is the global Consortium to reimagine HR, Employment Alternatives, Talent and the Enterprise. Their initiative is to map the future of the profession. Organizations including the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), PricewaterhouseCoopers, HR People + Strategy, and the National Academy of Human Resources are involved in the effort.

One of their first deliverables was the development of five job descriptions for HR roles in the future. The titles are:

1.  Organizational Engineer

2.  Virtual Culture Architect

3.  Global Talent Scout, Convener and Coach

4.  Data, Talent & Technology Integrator

5.  Social Policy and Community Activist

You can check out the descriptions here. While I don’t know that these will actually be job titles in the future, I did see some trends that I thought were interesting. It could offer some perspective about the future of the profession.

  • Every role seemed to be a “connector.” What I mean by that is the roles connected talent with the organization, or talent with data, or the organization with the community, etc.
  • Human resources will have responsibility for corporate social responsibility (CSR.) The SHRM competency model includes CSR so expect to see more conversation about HR’s role in CSR in the future.
  • Technology, data, and analytics will be essential skills. And not just using social media. Coding, effective adoption, and influence will be front and center in the HR department of the future.
  • Work and life will not be separated. It doesn’t matter if you call it work/life balance or integration. Or if you say wellness or well-being. Bottom line: the whole employee matters. And companies must address it.

It’s very exciting to see groups like Google reWork and Project CHREATE starting to form. They’re sharing their expertise and views about the workplaces of the future. Again the idea isn’t necessarily to take their findings verbatim and implement them in your organization. It’s to think about them and ask yourself, “How would this work in our company?” and “How would we benefit if we did XX in our organization?”

But one thing is certain. Human resources is going to be relied upon heavily in the future. As HR professionals, we need to be prepared for it. Even if we’re on top of our game right now. The game is changing and we need to change with it.


Reprinted from HR BARTENDER

A Suggestion for More Effective Organizations: Abandon Job Descriptions

Job descriptions are a cornerstone feature of traditional bureaucratic organizations. They facilitate selection and placement by providing clear skill requirements; enabling equitable pay systems by allowing organizations to compare their jobs with those in other companies and determining a market value; providing a basis for measuring individual performance and making pay increase decisions; and telling individuals what they are supposed to do so that managers can perform more value-added tasks.

Despite their widespread uses, job descriptions frequently are more dysfunctional than helpful, even in traditional bureaucratic organizations. They are costly to develop and keep current. In an attempt to be clear about telling individuals what they need to do, they can be faulted for implying what they don’t need to do and providing a convenient excuse for not doing things.

When baggage handlers and flight attendants won’t help the cleaning crew clean a late arriving plane so that it can leave on schedule because it’s “not their job,” that’s a real cost.

In addition, job descriptions slow change and make it more difficult. This is not a serious problem in stable businesses because change simply doesn’t occur very often. But, in today’s dynamic world, change is a constant.

As a result, more and more organizations face situations where job descriptions become quickly outdated and need to be regularly updated; this takes time, energy, delays change and can be quite expensive. The alternative is to simply abandon them. They are an obsolete management practice that no longer fits today’s rapidly changing human capital centric world of work.

Of course, it’s not quite that simple. Given all their uses, organizations cannot just abandon job descriptions; they need to fill the void left by their absence. Let’s start with the most basic use: letting people know what work to do.

Job descriptions tell people what to do and can be used as a basis for motivating them to do it. The evidence is clear however; a combination of effective leadership and an effective goal-setting process is much more effective at motivating and guiding behavior.

When managers are aware of their organization’s strategic agenda, skilled in collaborative goal setting, able to give feedback to employees, and ensure their employees have the right skills, they can create a much more effective and adaptable organization.

Organizations such as W.L. Gore & Associates, a technology-driven global company; sportswear and equipment supplier giant Nike Inc.; and DaVita Inc., a Fortune 500 health care services company have adopted a goal-setting approach and altered their performance appraisal system.

Often, this means a quarterly or semiannual performance management process in which individuals and their supervisors develop goals and identify projects that will support strategic objectives. In many cases, this process needs to be done with teams of employees.

Often, work, particularly knowledge work, requires multiple contributors and as a result is best managed by having team goals rather than individual goals.

Without job descriptions, how can the organizations set pay rates? The answer is simple, straightforward and logical; it is to pay individuals based on the skills and competencies they have (and the organization needs) and to let them share in the value they create.

Compensating somebody based on a job description is a misleading way to determine pay. An individual’s skills and competencies have market value, not jobs.

Therefore, a better way to determine what an individual is worth is to focus on skills and to use them as a basis for developing the market value of individuals. This is already done in a number of professions and with recent graduates who are clearly hired for their skills rather than for the jobs they are taking.

Focusing on an individual’s skills and competencies enables an organization to abandon pay based on job descriptions. It also enables the organization to improve its selection and placement processes.

Organizations need to know what work needs to get done and the skills and knowledge necessary to do it. Just as the organization’s strategy informs the goal-setting process for the present and the future, it also establishes the competencies, capabilities, and skills required to reach the goals and get the work done.

This in turn should form the basis for establishing the skills and competencies used to select who works in a particular area and, as mentioned earlier, what the individuals should be paid.

Abandoning job descriptions may sound like a radical approach to many but it is in fact the way many professional service firms and knowledge work firms have been managed for decades.

It is also the way an increasingly large number of global technology organizations from Google to Netflix are managed. Simply stated, it fits a management approach that highlights agility by emphasizing adaptability and focusing on human capital as a source of competitive advantage.

For organizations, it is a step toward achieving sustainable effectiveness.

About the Authors:

Edward E. Lawler III is a distinguished professor of business at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business. He is the founder and director of the university’s Center for Effective Organizations. Christopher G. Worley holds a joint appointment as a research scientist for the Center for Effective Organizations and as a professor of management at Pepperdine University.

Reprinted from Workforce Management Online

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