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HR Evolution or Revolution?

Imagine, if you will, your company without an HR function. Now suppose you’re asked to set up HR: What would you do? Would you create something similar or radically different? Would you create it at all?

We’ve arrived at a turning point in history where new technology is profoundly changing people’s way of life as well as methods of manufacturing, distributing and selling goods. The changes brought about by the Digital Revolution will have a deep impact on the way businesses are organized and people look at work. And though we expect to return to “normal” after we’ve overcome the financial crises, the “new normal” will be vastly different. The recovery will be jobless, as advancements in technology allow companies to replace manual labor by automation, robotics and artificial intelligence.

The workforce, HR’s primary focus, is changing: the future workforce will be smaller, as companies rely more on technology. The future workforce, encompassing 5 generations, wants a career lattice that caters to individual needs. They will move fluidly between companies and assignments, while the lines between their work and personal live will become blurred. Workers will bring their own devices and expect to use them in the enterprise. They will bring their own apps allowing them to complete assignments as they see fit. The future workforce will be placed all over the world, with people from different cultural and economic backgrounds working together in virtual teams.

What does the future workforce expect from HR? Start with accepting they don’t need anything at all! They expect that they will be paid on time and that their benefits are taken care of, but any service provider can handle that. The future workforce is used to doing things themselves, as the ongoing automation has cut out the middleman. Just think about how they listen to music, sign up for classes, buy insurance, book travel: they do it all online. They rely on their business leaders to coach them and help them achieve results, but they don’t expect any help from HR.

That means that the Human Resources function will have to change too: going forward, HR will be remote, mobile, social, automated, specialized and smaller than in the past. The consumerization of HR means that managers and employees expect direct access to HR on their smart devices, thereby cutting out HR as the middle man. HR must focus on how to get the best results from people while eliminating anything non-essential from their schedule.

The future of HR is not radically different from what it is today. The changes can’t compare to the big shifts that are happening in our society. Instead of a revolution, we expect an evolution. But just because it’s an evolution that does not mean the changes are small. One thing is clear: The future of HR lies outside the HR department. And if HR professionals don’t grasp that concept very soon, the future of HR will lie outside the company.

In my new white paper “The Consumerization of HR” you’ll find some of my thoughts on what this all means for the future of HR. You can either download the white paper or view the presentation on SlideShare. And please let me know what you think about the future of HR through the comments below.