Much may have changed that has shaped the industry over the last decade or so, but HR are still the most sober people at company parties and have the pleasure of pouring over-indulged employees into various cabs/partners’ cars to ensure they get home safely.
Many HR professionals who have worked in the sector for a while will remember a time when everything had to be done according to the magical HR rules book – not stepping outside of this regardless of the situation. But people don’t work like that. While process and structure remain important, HR has transitioned to putting people at the centre of decisions and practices.
Therefore, HR has moved away from the ‘tea and sympathy’ style approach to a value-added function that works in partnership with the business. Rather than the traditional reactive, short-term approach, HR is now about proactive longer-term people and organisational design planning. This means it’s less about admin, and managing risk by using process and policy, and more about authentically engaging with employees to create high-performing teams.
Monumental shifts in the HR world
This evolution can be attributed to several reasons. A significant change in workforce needs has emerged since the COVID pandemic, which has reminded everyone that humans are social beings that need support, rather than autonomous workers to get things done.
Due to this, culture, engagement, and employee wellbeing are now top priorities for organisations as they have realised the commercial advantage a business can have by having highly engaged teams through a positive workplace culture. HR is now leading the way on this and continues to find ways to support its people emotionally and mentally.
Technology is also a significant game changer in the HR industry. It has advanced so quickly in the last few years that it has allowed HR to evolve by embracing tech that can pick up the administrative elements of the role providing time for more strategic focus. Tech will undoubtedly continue to be part of the HR evolution.
It’s important to note that more changes are on the horizon, with social media and its power as something that HR professionals need to navigate carefully in years to come, as it’s completely changed how we communicate, access and share information.
Changes in skills and qualities
20 years ago, tea, tissues and sympathy were characterisations of the ‘personnel’ function. But HR has always been a bit of a dark art – the department is a must but no one truly understood what HR professionals did.
Now, HR’s collective skill set has changed from an administrative, risk management, and back office function, to one that is at the decision-making table and able to contribute commercially and creatively where the people’s agenda is concerned.
Therefore, qualities like resilience, empathy and agility are key. It can be a challenging role to fulfill being the conduit between the people and the decision makers. It’s a role where you need to connect with people on a human level, and also have the ability to move and change thinking quickly with the needs of the business.
The economic and business environments HR works in aren’t straight lines, or straightforward anymore, and it’s important to demonstrate flexibility with our people’s practices and thinking. However, HR professionals also have to think creatively and commercially, depending on the situation. Sometimes they might need to be able to operate outside of practice or policy to do what’s right for the business or employees.
Therefore, HR can’t rely on the frameworks they did 10 years ago. For example, the way of attracting, retaining and developing teams has become more complex and nuanced, therefore, it requires a creative brain to keep ahead of people’s needs.
Problem-solving, conflict resolution and emotional intelligence are other qualities needed today. Working in HR is not easy, let’s be honest when people call HR, something has already gone wrong. The working landscape is an ever-changing environment and requires the tenacity and the skills to manage changes and people on a daily basis.
The modern HR landscape
Today, it’s simple. HR is about bringing the people and the business together to deliver on the business strategy. This means HR helps to build inclusive, diverse and highly engaged cultures.
HR is capable of facilitating great change, increasing productivity and creating an environment for their people to be successful and realise their ambitions.