Tuesday, July 14, 2009

HR Trends: What is in Store Post-Recession?

I have been asked to speak to a group of up and coming HR students. The topic is, "HR Trends" for our next generation of HR professionals. WOW and YIKES!

For this first time in a long time, I have had to pause and really think about what I want to say to this group. As many of my readers know, I have been adamant about HR being strategic, and forgetting about the illusive executive table. But, with all that said, what do you say to a bunch of bright-eyed, smart young individuals who are considering HR as their career? (Especially in these crazy times).

I have posed this question many times to colleagues, and on Twitter, etc. I get answers ranging from, "They should switch majors immediately" to "they must be business savvy to be effective."

So, here is my short list (work in progress) of trends for HR post recession:

1) Compliance will be front and center-With new legislation like Lilly Ledbetter and updates to existing legislation like FMLA and ADA, HR professionals will need to focus on the impacts these changes have on the organization. Pending legislation is another area that HR should be concerned with, especially laws like EFCA.

2) Social Networking-what does this new and exciting medium mean to HR? How does it affect the way we recruit, retain and engage our workforce?

3) Perform or go home-Companies are going to be very serious about performance. Gone are the days where you could carry the dead weight/marginal performers hoping to get rid of them during the next restructuring. HR needs to lead the effort on making sure all tools are in place to make sure high performers are rewarded, identified and retained and that low performers are coached to improvement or terminated.

4) HR must measure its own performance-Instead of focusing on the usual metrics like turnover and time to fill, really start measuring items that really matter to the organization. Metrics like revenue/employee and average performance rating of new hires really get to things like efficiency and effectiveness rather than high level metrics like turnover that do not mean anything unless you know who is leaving and why.

5) HR competencies are very different today-This is not my mother's HR department!  Today HR professionals need very different skills to be effective in today's environment.  I believe business acumen, financial acumen, analytical skills, change agent, and relationship builder are a just a few competencies that  are needed.  Do you have others?  Please comment below.

This is my short list of trends, please feel free to comment and let me know what you think. I know the students will be gratetful to hear many perspectives on this topic.


Debbie King said...

Cathy: I too have been asked to speak to at a SHRM Conference this fall on this same topic. As I have been reflecting and conducting my research I have come to these issues as well as the following. I'd be interested to get your thoughts:

Business savvy - I think we all as HR professionals have to understand the business, but beyond what we make or do. I think HR has to understand and be able to react to the impact of strategies being implemented by our competition; we have to understand economics and what happens in our businesses when markets around the world experience a contraction.

Future Seekers - I think HR professionals have to be involved in dialogues and pilot demonstrations about working differently in the future - I wrote several years about an organizational structure with limited "core" employees and the rest of the organization made up of independent contractors. Might this be where we are headed with portable health care and limited "full-time" positions?

Advocates for Education - You said it - perform or go home. HR must be out there beating the drum for continuous education and gaining new skills whether the organization pays for it or the individual does. We can no longer get by thinking that out of high school, or college - great! I'm finished with school. We have to be learning something new continuously to keep up with the changing times and changing expectations of what a position is responsible for.

Thanks for engaging this topic. It will be interesting to see what others contribute.

Unknown said...


What a coincidence that we are speaking on the same subject. I agree with your points above. The business savvy piece needs to be both internal (what we do) and external (competition, economy, etc). Thanks for that feedback because that piece it terribly important.

I also like your point regarding advocates for education. Being a continous learner is critical when the world is changing as fast as it is these days.

Thanks for taking your time to share your thoughts!

Andy Spence said...

Cathy - its always interesting to get the 'crystal ball' out - especially on the future of HR. I gave a presentation at a conference in London recently on 'Future trends in HR Operating Models' and came up with very similar themes....


Unknown said...

Hi Andy:

Thanks for the link to your presentation notes. Very interesting and some similar themes in US as UK. Do you all have a lot of new or pending employmnet legislation like we do?

Andy Spence said...

There is lots of employment legislation planned and proposed in the UK! A challenge for future HR models is to get the resource mix right between more strategic HR e.g. intepreting employment law, developing talent strategies and delivering more operational/transactional HR.

Liz Guthridge said...

My wish for the new decade would be for HR professionals to be strong business professionals who understand their industry, their company challenges and the talent needs; who can communicate well (including proper grammar); and who can influence and inspire people to join them.

Compliance is not nearly as critical.

Unknown said...

Hi Liz:

Thanks for readinbg our blog. I agree with you 100%. I think we know compliance or can ask a lawyer, the other things you mentioned are now job #1.