Human Resources Today

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Human resources (HR) used to focus on very specific processes, and had narrowly defined terms such as “personnel manager” and “payroll.” As a discipline, HR has evolved to include areas which both complement and build on one another.

What is Human Resources Today?

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HR has certainly evolved over the past 30 to 50 years, and branched out into defined areas, or sub-disciplines, within the scope of human resources. These include recruitment, employee engagement, retention, organizational development, training and development, compensation and benefits, health, safety and wellness, strategic planning, and employee relations. 

Organizations arrange these areas in a way that works for them, sometimes keeping them all within the Human Resources department, and at other times broadening the scope into an area called Corporate Resources, of which Human Resources is one part. 

Key Factors Influencing Human Resources Today

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There are several key factors that have had an enormous impact on the development of Human Resources. These include:

  • Technology: which has had, and will continue to, have significant impact on the way we design and structure work. It also challenges the workforce to keep up with significant developments while organizations decide which changes are worthwhile adopting. 
  • Globalization: as companies consider working in or expanding into foreign markets, and have employees working in different locations. 
  • Demographics: as the core numbers of the workforce age and move into retirement, and the available talent pool becomes smaller. What do the older workers need to sustain themselves? What are younger workers looking for in employment?
  •  : includes using part-time, temporary, and contract workers as a way to manage fluctuations in demand and to manage long term labor costs. One example of contingency use is companies bringing in retirees during busy periods, to cover staff vacations, and so on. 

In order to best manage the workforce as it now exists, there is significant focus on training and development. Development (the long term process that facilitates strategic thinking) capitalizes on experience and aims to reach goals. Training is provided specifically to change behaviors or attitudes in order to meet job specific requirements. 

Organizations are now focusing on developing individuals and their careers rather than addressing immediate needs of the job, which has led to an entire industry around lifelong learning. Doing so seems to encourage employee retention and allows us to stay up to date with technological changes as well as shifting demographics. 

Growth in Human Resource Management

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As human resources evolved, so have the ways that we manage our workforce. We have the ability to create and maintain workplaces that are fair, safe, and engaging by leveraging the strengths of human resources skills within the organization, and ourselves. 

As the nature of organizations change, HR practices and theories will also evolve. No matter what they become, they will continue to enrich the organizations and people that they support. 

Currently, some human resources management trends include:

  • Onboarding (the process of bringing new people into the company)
  • Proactive recruiting (beginning the recruitment process years before they will actually join the company)
  • Focus on work-life balance
  • Introduction of Lean and Six Sigma methods, which encourage sustainable improvement

Case Study

Dylan and Tatiana were discussing ways to introduce better Human Resource Management practices into their company. Dylan was relatively new to the department and was overawed by the process, but Tatiana suggested they consider some recent HR trends to help them come up with ideas for the process. Dylan agreed and was eager to learn more about the field, and discussed Onboarding with his colleague, who explained that it was a new process of bringing people into the company. They debated the efficacy of Proactive recruiting and whether starting the recruitment process early, might advance the future of the company.  Together, they laid out a plan for implementing the new trends and were excited to meet with the owner of the company and reveal their solutions the next day.