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Is the HR department doomed to extinction? Not if it embraces new technologies

Matt Charney, executive editor of Recruiting Daily, made a tongue-in-cheek prediction of the end of the HR world as we know it

Although the article was intended as a light-hearted jibe at the luddite tendencies of some HR departments towards new technologies, it made some serious points about whether HR professionals will be needed in an increasingly automated workplace.

The article predicted that technology will inevitably replace back office staff in various sectors and concluded that unless HR ‘dodos’ get up to date with cutting-edge tech, they may find themselves looking for another career; however, the article also alludes to the sheer number of opportunities current HR professionals have to seize the day and transform their workplaces with new concepts that are in the pipeline.

With increasing trends towards employee self-service and automated data gathering, some have predicted that entry-level HR jobs will disappear; instead, corporations will outsource benefits and payroll to specialist providers that will develop and market generalist welfare products and services. Internal HR departments will become smaller as a result.

This does not mean that HR will lose significance within an organisation; instead, the slimline version of HR will take on a new strategic role within the business. Rather than being a peripheral sector of the workplace, HR will become integral to driving change.

Dr Janice Presser of the Gabriel Institute has urged HR professionals to pay attention to this trend. She argues that it is critical for HR staff to reposition themselves as strategic partners to the executive and for HR departments to realign themselves as business operatives. HR staff are perfectly positioned to effectively project and strategise within an organisation due to their insider expertise.

Another ramification of the trend towards outsourcing big HR functions is that, according to Janine Truitt of Talent Think Innovations, internal HR departments will evolve into specialist hubs that employ individuals who possess expertise in different areas. Gone are the days of the generic HR professional – these will be manning the external agencies. If you want to continue as an in-house HR person, start specialising now!

Dr Presser has also predicted that HR will be transformed by the increasing use of big data and analytics. HR departments will be expected to utilise talent management software solutions to make projections about workforce trends. People who are skilled in the use of these analytics, and the interpretation of their patterns and the translation of statistics into strategic initiatives, will be headhunted by the HR departments of the future.

The growing trend towards remote working will herald more changes for HR departments to adapt to if they want to survive. Managing remote working requires a very different set of skills and services to traditional people and performance management.

The key performance indicators of the future will be entirely results driven and will undergo a paradigm shift from focusing on time to focusing on change. New methods of data gathering will be able to assess people’s productivity based not on how many hours they put in but on how productive they are overall.

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