10 HR Trends That Are Shaking Up the Industry

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If you think of industries experiencing rapid and revolutionary change, you probably wouldn’t think of human resources (HR). But social change, technology and shifting laws are changing the field of HR in powerful ways. Because these big changes in HR tend to impact the average employee’s life—these developments ripple through the whole workforce.

Some of the big changes HR professionals see on the horizon are already making landfall now. Some are too far off to be truly felt—right now, they’re only the slightest shift in the weather.

“Having a career in HR is always about improvement and how to make things better,” says Liza Andersin, HR director at Find Courses. “Today that improvement is continuous. Everyone is looking at raising the bar and moving people and processes to the next level.”

In a time of speedy growth, human resources is both an exciting and confusing career destination. To help you forecast this exciting field, we asked HR pros to weigh in on the HR trends they’re noticing.

10 Trends in Human Resources worth keeping tabs on

Part of being a professional in any field is keeping up with emerging practices and new trends. While not every trend listed may be here to stay for the long term, being aware of what might be coming in your field of expertise allows you to plan ahead and possibly spark an innovation of your own. Take a look at what’s on the horizon.

1. AI in recruitment

“One trend I have noticed lately is the increasing use of automation and AI,” Andersin says. As advances in these areas continue, companies are finding new ways to utilize the technology to improve HR tasks like recruiting.

“AI can be used to analyze the web and scroll through thousands of candidates in seconds to produce automatic short-lists,” Andersin says. This change can save HR employees lots of time digging through stacks of applicants and create more room for other tasks.

2. Continuous employee feedback

“In the past, employers have relied on periodic performance reviews, surveys, and other outdated methods to receive feedback from employees,” says Vivek Kumar, CEO of Qlicket. “However, these methods have many flaws.” Kumar points out that performance reviews are hardly a good opportunity for employees to speak up or raise concerns, since they are often tied to bonuses. And surveys are time-consuming and rote, barring employees from offering honest feedback.

“Today, the cutting edge is continuous employee feedback; in the next decade, human resources departments will rely upon technologically-enabled data collection to understand worker sentiments, motivations and pain points,” Kumar says. When this feedback occurs regularly and voluntarily through the year, employers can expect a much better understanding of their employees.

3. Rethinking performance management

Along similar lines, Andersin sees the traditional performance management model disappearing in the future. “The current approach to performance management—ratings, annual reviews and feedback—fails to reward or encourage consistent high achievement while simultaneously failing to solve low performance.” Instead, Andersin believes continuous coaching and feedback will become the norm, integrating development and training into everyday work.

4. Emphasizing hiring employees with ‘grit’

“In the past, a candidate might not have included part-time jobs like construction, hourly retail or restaurant work on their professional resume,” says Carol Wood, director of people operations at Homebase. But many employers now look for candidates who show work experience that reflects a serious work ethic and an indication that they know how to adapt to tasks.

“When we hired our VP of Sales, we noticed his first job was selling cars. This was an exciting bonus and pushed his profile to our top choice of candidates,” Wood says.

5. A focus on ‘people operations’

“Today ‘Human Resources’ has evolved to the newly coined ‘People Operations,’” Wood says, explaining that the shift in terminology is about the industry seeing people more holistically and less like robots to be managed and obsessively measured. “The guiding philosophy is: how do we better manage our people as humans to help the company achieve its goals, rather than a business expense to minimize?”

In part, this is possible because of recent technology that can take time-consuming tasks like paperwork off an HR professional’s plate, according to Wood. “You get to work directly with employees more than ever, and help resolve conflict, advocate, and in general do the interesting work that technology can’t to help employees grow and help the organization flourish.”

“Nobody truly gets into human resources because they love running payroll or filling out tax withholding forms,” Wood says. “These days that can be only a minor part of the job.”

6. Worker-friendly scheduling for hourly staff

When it comes to hourly staff, Henry Updegrave, head of marketing at Nowsta, expects to see more accommodations from the world of HR on the horizon.

“I think we’ll see more businesses adopt more flexible, worker-friendly scheduling policies for hourly staff. This includes giving staff good faith estimates of the number of hours they can expect in a given month, further advance notice of upcoming scheduled hours and shift swapping policies that let staff trade upcoming hours with one another.”

Updegrave says businesses have traditionally run operations that don’t exactly make things easy on the average hourly employee—but with a greater focus on lowering turnover and the costs associated with it, he is seeing businesses give more consideration to keeping the job attractive.

“Many cities and states are also enacting laws to make these policies mandatory,” Updegrave adds. Laws like this would likely increase the demand for great HR professionals in businesses that have traditionally had small or nearly nonexistent departments.

7. Virtual reality in bias and sensitivity training

Many human resource departments create trainings to help their employees understand bias and navigate better conversations around diversity. But Adrienne Cooper, HR director of FitSmallBusinesssees a trend that could take that step further.

“I attended a workshop recently for a product in its beta development that uses VR for bias and sensitivity training,” Cooper says. “Because VR does make you feel like you have stepped into the shoes of someone else, it was a powerful experience and excellent tool for increasing one’s empathy.” As companies look for ways to attract and retain a diverse group of employees, assists from technology could very well become popular.

“We all have bias, and when confronted with it, people can get very uncomfortable,” Cooper says. “Figuring out how to work through the reality of our bias in a virtual reality platform is the next wave of improving our collective understanding to create diverse, inclusive and equitable workplaces.”

8. Uptick in HR data analytics

“In the next few years we will record a significant rise in demand for HR data analysts,” says Piotr Sosnowski, head of HR at ResumeLab. He explains that many HR professionals show reluctance to learn data analytics, even though employers might be interested in adopting more data-driven practices.

“Learning to extract information from data, gaining the computing skills to process such information—all these skill should be accompanied by understanding HR and business know-how,” Sosnowski says. He explains that data analytics will likely be relied upon to detect talent or leadership shortages in companies, analyze employee rotation, improve staff retention and boost engagement. “HR data analysts will be in high-demand,” Sosnowski predicts.

9. Rise of the remote worker

Remote work has really taken off as technology advancements have made it a viable option for more employees. In fact, a recent study projects that 73 percent of all teams will have remote workers.1

“This trend offers both challenges and exciting rewards to new graduates in the HR field,” says Tasia Duske, CEO at Museum Hack.

Duske explains that time management issues, for example, are a whole new ballgame when you have remote workers. “At an office, you would likely contend with employees arriving late or leaving early. Workers who are new to a remote engagement sometimes become loose in their time management skills and take extended breaks during the day or become distracted.”

On the other side of things, Duske points out that most of the traditional HR structure today was built in a time period where remote work was extremely rare. This makes a frontier for new HR leaders. “You could build a name for yourself at your organization and in the field by experimenting with and documenting methods of successful remote management,” Duske says.

10. An agile mind-set

As you can see, the workforce is undergoing some pretty big changes right now. Cooper says HR needs professionals who are nimble to both anticipated and unknown changes, which requires an agile mind-set. “The pace of innovation and market demand necessitates this. For those of us who thrive on lifelong learning, leading this mind-set shift is incredibly fulfilling.”

“Learn what an agile mind-set is, and be prepared to create an agile career,” Cooper says. “Your people skills and technical skills carry equal weight now more than ever. Follow blogs, articles, and organizations referencing HR transformation and the future of work.”

The future of work

These HR trends and projections only scratch the surface of what HR professionals can get into and work on. “I think that HR is going to be an exciting place to be as these technological and legal changes create more variables for HR pros to adjust to,” Updegrave says. “All of this makes HR a more dynamic function.”

If learning about these HR trends has your interest piqued, you’ll want to follow HR blogs that can keep you posted on all the trends and changes as they occur. Check out our article “15 Human Resources Blogs All Serious HR Professionals Should Know” for some excellent suggestions for getting started.

1Upwork Global Inc., Third Annual Future Workforce Report, [accessed May 2019] https://www.upwork.com/press/2019/03/05/third-annual-future-workforce-report/

About the author

Brianna Flavin

Brianna is a senior content manager who writes student-focused articles for Rasmussen University. She holds an MFA in poetry and worked as an English Professor before diving into the world of online content. 

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