Human resources has certainly come a long way from its inception in the early 1900s. For much of the 20th century, HR was largely unseen and informal. It wasn’t until the 1970s and 1980s that large companies began to realize they needed strategic ways to manage their employees.
Since then, emerging research and studies have all pointed to the importance of understanding your employees as a resource. Like every resource in your company, you must manage your human capital effectively. As HR continues to evolve, the role of the HR professional is changing too.
What are the changing roles of human resource management?
Human resource management has moved into the spotlight as more businesses come to understand the value people bring to their companies. While recruitment and training are still important, the focus has shifted to engaging employees and building relationships with them. Technology has also started to revolutionize HR, leading to great changes in the way these activities are handled.
As the idea of HR, its purpose, and its processes continues to change, so too do the roles of HR professionals. What does the HR role look like today?
The HR Professional Today
Today’s HR professional faces a fundamentally different landscape than those of the past. Professionals in the field of human resources often operated in the back room. In many ways, HR was initially understood to focus on recruiting and training.
This view of the HR professional as a recruiter or trainer has largely gone by the wayside. Today’s HR professionals are still involved in recruitment, onboarding, and training, but their roles have evolved to include many more strategic tasks.
As the understanding of human resources has expanded to include the idea of an employee lifecycle, the role of those in HR has expanded to encompass the entire employee lifecycle, from initial hire to the employee’s end date.
From Curation to Development
In the past, HR’s role was to “curate” the company’s human capital. They would search for and hire the right talent for the company.
As time went on, it became obvious HR needed to be responsible for more. It was important to understand why employees left the company. This led to a more interventionist theory of HR, which focused more on managing employees at each stage of their careers with the company.
In this capacity, HR professionals would conduct interviews and performance reviews with employees. They would help create performance plans, and they would assist employees in implementing them. They’d offer training and development opportunities.
Moving to Collaborative HR
Today’s HR practices have left behind the interventionist tone and started to focus more on employee engagement. One key role is engaging employees and ensuring positive experiences, from initial contact during the job search to the day they leave.
This approach incorporates many of HR’s older responsibilities, such as performance reviews and offering training and development plans. The focus has shifted, however, to a more collaborative approach.
Today’s HR professional is likely to encourage employees to be actively involved in managing their performance and career development. They want to engage the employee in conversation about what the employee wants from the job and how the company can deliver that.
HR is also moving to the leadership table, helping shape the company’s direction and make strategic decisions—responsibilities not seen in the past.
Getting a Helping Hand from Technology
Technology is the HR professional’s best bet in successfully implementing the more collaborative approach to human resource management.
Technology helps HR professionals automate and streamline their tasks, allowing them to spend more time focusing on employees and strategic work, and less time on the administrative paperwork HR is so often associated with.
Modern HR is changing and evolving, and the HR professional will continue to adapt to new ways of understanding and implementing human resource management.