Editor’s Note: I was initially interviewed and quoted for a piece called “The HR Department of 2020: 6 Bold Predictions”. The original author at ” The New Talent Times” was kind enough to provide me with a shorter version of the original article. The link to the full article is enclosed in the author’s bio below. Enjoy!

The HR Department of 2020: 3 Bold Predictions

Some have speculated that HR is a business function without a future. They say software will replace the entire HR department.

They’re wrong.

While software is changing how HR performs, it won’t eliminate the HR department. Instead, experts predict a renaissance period–a chance for HR professionals to transform their roles. Software Advice interviewed several experts to get their take on the HR department of 2020. Here, she lays out the changes they predict, as well as how HR professionals can prepare.

Prediction 1: In-house HR will downsize and outsourcing will increase.

This prediction might seem, well, predictable. However, the reasons the experts provide for the change might surprise you.

Industry analyst Brian Sommer, the founder of TechVentive, claims HR departments will shrink due to new technologies that not only perform many data entry tasks, but also allow for increased employee participation in HR processes. As he says, “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.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Janice Presser, CEO of The Gabriel Institute, predicts that many transaction-heavy HR jobs will be outsourced entirely to HR agencies or specialists. She even goes so far as to say, “Entry-level HR jobs, as they currently exist, will all but disappear as transactional tasks are consigned to outsourced services.”

But don’t despair! The internal HR function will survive. 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: Strategic thinking will become in-house HR’s new core competence.

The remaining in-house version of HR will be leaner. And to thrive it needs to reposition itself as a strategic partner within the business. In fact, over half the experts Software Advice consulted advised HR departments to increase their strategic value to the business–or else.

Dr. Presser says, “This includes the ability to make accurate projections based on understanding the goals of the business and using metrics that describe more than lagging indicators, such as how long it takes to fill a job or the per-employee training spend.” Importantly, this strategy role cannot be outsourced. As she says, “Strategic planning requires in-house expertise.”

Prediction 3: The pendulum will swing back to the specialist.

Janine Truitt, Chief Innovations Officer of Talent Think Innovations,LLC, sees a cyclical shift in the HR field. As she says, “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.”

Or, as Luman puts it: “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.

Preparing for 2020

What can current HR professionals begin doing now to prepare for these predicted changes? 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.”

Truitt advises pursuing additional training or formal education. As she observes:

One difference that we will see clearly in the next decade is that people will not be able to merely fall into HR. Long ago, when HR was ‘personnel,’ the profession was largely made up of individuals that happened upon the profession…it seems that the future HR practitioner will likely have to be formally educated in this discipline to be gainfully employed in HR.

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. For the full article, click here.

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