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The future of HR roles and how they’re evolving
In decades past, a company’s human resources (HR) department was often seen as a back-office administrative function—the pushers of paperwork and policy—rather than a strategic role crucial to organizational success. And as the way we work changes, the role of HR continues to evolve and grow even more in importance.
The future of work is a term that gets thrown around a lot, but the future of work isn’t as far away as you’d think. In reality, the day-to-day nature of how and where we work is continuously changing—requiring us all to adapt faster than ever before.
In this changing environment, a company’s HR team plays a pivotal role in the evolution of work. And in response to these workplace changes, HR departments are also undergoing significant changes of their own. HR roles are evolving to accommodate huge advances in technology, while at the same time adapting to a candidate-driven market where the employee experience sits front and center.
HR leaders are becoming increasingly strategic partners in helping their organizations adapt to the new era of work. To facilitate this, traditional HR roles are shifting and new roles are emerging—and fast. In this article, we’ll take a look at what precipitated these changes, as well as explore what the HR roles of the future may look like.
What the HR department looks like today
Today, most HR teams are in a state of transition. The traditional, office-based paradigm of work is being left behind for a more flexible, remote workplace. As a result, HR teams are having to rapidly adjust their practices. This often involves developing or refining remote interview strategies, ensuring DEIB strategies are comprehensive enough to attract top talent, and tracking recruitment metrics to optimize the recruitment funnel.
HR teams are also having to react to a job market in a state of flux. As the number of new jobs continues to soar and we’re now fully entrenched in a candidate-driven market, companies no longer have the upper hand when it comes to finding the right candidate. As a result, HR teams are having to develop new ways to position their companies as an employer of choice in order to attract and engage the best candidates.
How COVID-19 has impacted the HR industry
Two years into the global pandemic, we know two things to be true: we are all tired of the term “unprecedented times,” and the COVID-19 pandemic has provoked a dramatic shift in the HR industry. And this shift has created significant challenges. The rapid spread of coronavirus meant that many offices were closed within an incredibly short period of time, and employees suddenly found themselves working from home. HR managers quickly had to pivot to accommodate this transition to remote work—from ensuring employees had the proper resources to work from home to helping hiring teams conduct virtual interviews effectively.
As many employees started to feel that their employers didn’t value their mental health or well-being, COVID-19 also led to a huge shift in the job market known as the Great Resignation. In search of more meaning, more pay, and more balance, roughly 33 million Americans have quit their jobs since the spring of 2021. And the effects of this have been deeply felt by the HR industry, particularly over the last year. HR leaders have had to quickly adapt, with many talent acquisition teams implementing a range of new strategies designed to improve the employee and candidate experience—such as moving to video interviews and allowing flexible work arrangements.
New roles and responsibilities HR professionals can expect to see in the upcoming years
A few years ago, it may have seemed hard to imagine the HR function having a Head of Employee Experience or a Financial Wellness Manager. But those roles are now often well-established in larger companies. In HR—like in any function—roles and responsibilities are always changing to meet business needs and priorities.
In a similar vein, forward-thinking HR leaders are now considering which new roles and responsibilities they may need to add to their teams in the coming years. Within the next decade, HR’s role in the workplace will likely look significantly different than it does today.
A recent study by Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work and Future Workplace—developed with the input of over 100 HR and talent leaders—predicted the creation of 21 new HR jobs over the next decade. Below we’ve highlighted a few of these anticipated positions and duties.
Director of Well-Being
If the Great Resignation taught us anything, it’s that workplace well-being is finally getting the attention it deserves. And employees are willing to walk away from a company that doesn’t value their emotional health. As a result, 68 percent of employers are starting to implement more business strategies around well-being. The next evolution of this is for companies to hire a Director of Well-Being, who may implement a variety of performance management strategies and retention programs designed to help employees maintain healthy work-life boundaries.
Remote work is here to stay—and agile, modern companies are embracing this new way of working. With so many employees working remotely, many HR teams will be looking to add a Work-From-Home Facilitator to their team. Responsibilities could include helping remote workers access the policies and technology they need, in addition to helping foster a sense of inclusion and belonging. This is one of the HR jobs of the future many expect we’ll start to see sooner rather than later.
Culture and continuity
As the use of new technologies including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in the workplace grows, so does the potential for these to add another layer of workplace bias. For example, algorithms can sometimes inadvertently prioritize applications for the wrong reasons. A Bias Officer may monitor any AI used within HR to ensure fairness during every stage of the employee journey. Of course, humans are also subject to all kinds of unconscious bias so this role may also involve implementing ways to reduce this—like implementing inclusive interviewing strategies or video interviewing technology to ensure interviews are fair and equitable for all candidates.
Strategic HR Business Continuity Leader
The primary purpose of this role will be to promote employee safety and implement ways to maintain the smooth continuation of company operations even in the face of disruptions. This may include making sure everyone can access the correct technology no matter their location and developing organizational best practices. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many business leaders realized their emergency preparedness plans were sorely lacking. In response, many larger organizations have already started to include this new role within their HR departments.
VR Immersion Counselor
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) show huge potential when it comes to workplace training, with potential use cases spanning onboarding, safety training, coaching, and more. With the VR e-learning market predicted to explode from $65 million in 2020 to $300 million in 2028, the challenge will be how companies can effectively integrate this training tool into the workplace. The answer could be to include a VR Immersion Counselor within the HR department to optimize the use of this powerful and effective training tool.
Future of Work Leader
At times of change, agile and resilient companies see more success than those slow to react. Future of Work Leaders are predicted to become more commonplace within the next three years. They may help companies prioritize how to respond to rapid changes in the workplace and analyze which essential skills they’ll need. This role may focus on optimizing current employees’ hard and soft skills while also exploring ways to attract candidates with the skills required to help the company grow.
Looking toward a new era of HR
Who could have predicted pre-pandemic that so many of us would now be working fully remote, sometimes never even meeting our colleagues in person? The way we work has already changed beyond recognition—and it’s not slowing down anytime soon. As the stewards of culture and engagement, HR teams play a vital role in helping organizations adapt and thrive to the changing world of work.
With the number of future roles predicted to start appearing in HR departments over the next several years—including jobs like Chief Purpose Planners, HR Data Detectives, and Heads of Business Behavior—the time to start planning for the future of work is now. Which roles your company decides to embrace is up to you, but one thing is for sure: this is HR’s moment to shape the future as we move into a new era of work.
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