The HR Department of 2020: 3 Bold Predictions

May 1st, 2013
HireVue Team
Recruiting Teams

As technology has streamlined the administrative functions of human resources in recent years, some have predicted the end of the HR profession. They’re wrong. While software is changing how HR functions, it’s provided those in the field with opportunities to grow. Software Advice interviewed HR industry analysts and practitioners to better understand what will change and why, as well as find out how HR professionals can prepare for the future.

Prediction 1: Internal HR will shrink and outsourcing will increase.

This prediction might seem somewhat, well, predictable. However, the drivers that experts identify as the cause for the shrinking HR department might surprise you. Brian Sommer, industry analyst and founder of TechVentive, claims the future shift to smaller HR departments will be caused by new technologies that allow employees to participate directly in HR processes through self-service portals. He forecasts that “Many businesses are going to get a lot of capability done by better technology, more self-service and the employee doing a lot on their own.”

For instance, employees in-putting their personal data into a company’s HRMS themselves will decrease the need for a large HR staff. In addition, Dr. Janice Presser, CEO of The Gabriel Institute, says many transaction-heavy HR jobs will be outsourced entirely to HR agencies or specialists. She even goes so far as to say that “Entry-level HR jobs, as they currently exist, will all but disappear as transactional tasks are consigned to outsourced services.”

But even as in-house HR departments downsize, the HR function will endure. As Chip Luman, the COO of HireVue, explains, “Given the ongoing regulatory environment, the need to pay, provide benefits, manage employee relations issues, and process information will go on.”

Prediction 2: We’ll return to the age of the specialist.

Janine Truitt, the Chief Innovations Officer of Talent Think Innovations has observed a cyclical shift in HR. As she explains, “Every decade or so we fluctuate back and forth from the paradigm of the independent contributor/specialist to the generalist practitioner. We were in a ‘generalist’ mode and now I think the pendulum may be swinging back toward the specialist.”

Luman puts it even more directly: “HR generalists as we know them will disappear.” Elizabeth Brashears, the director of Human Capital Consulting at TriNet HR, agrees. She notes, “There will be more specialized roles. I believe this to be the case as the employment landscape becomes more complex with changing regulations around employment law and benefit compliance with the Affordable Care Act.”

Prediction 3: Managing a remote workforce will become the new norm.

Yahoo and Best Buy recently ended their remote work programs. These companies are the exception, not the new normal. Undoubtedly, HR will have to tackle the challenge of managing a remote workforce as more organizations move to this new model. In response to this trend, Luman notes that businesses will need “to leverage employees where and when they are most productive and impactful.”

But given the relative novelty of a remote workforce, many leaders may struggle when supervising staff that might be halfway around the world. Dr. Presser cautions that, “The trend toward remote workers is a growing challenge to managers who are not effective in managing people at a distance.” Wim de Smet, CEO of Exaserv, predicts automation will be part of the solution.

As he says, “New technologies will be used to analyze the work production instead of the working time. Results will become more important and business will expect HR to be producing more result-driven performance analysis.”

Preparing for 2020 

With all these changes in store, how should current HR professionals prepare for 2020? The experts all endorse one tactic: keep learning. Risk-taking and networking will help, too. “Get ahead of the curve,” advises Dr. Presser, “Realize that many of today’s ‘best practices’ evolved under very different business conditions, and may well become obsolete within this decade. Learn everything you can about your industry, your competitors, and pending legislation that affects your business operations. Most of all, define yourself as a businessperson and act accordingly.”

Finally, Luman encourages HR professionals to develop their own personal brand —  to find their voice and be active. As he says, “Network inside and outside of your field. Blog, communicate, read and help others achieve success. If you are not outside of your comfort zone, you are stagnating.” Erin Osterhaus is the Managing Editor for Software Advice’s HR blog, The New Talent Times. She focuses on the HR market, offering advice to industry professionals on the best recruiting, talent management, and leadership techniques. Find the full article.