The Future of HR Isn’t Just About Automation

The Future of HR Isn’t Just About Automation

What will HR look like in five years? It seems like every day there’s a new headline about how artificial intelligence and automation is going to pull the rug out from under us. But do the headlines really tell the whole story?

Paycor wanted to better understand how HR professionals think and feel about the future of HR, so we commissioned Harris Poll to conduct an independent nationwide study that surveyed more than 500 HR professionals and C-suite executives within small and mid-sized organizations. We asked them about the direction of their business, what they think HR will look like in five years and how organizations can prepare for what’s to come.

Here’s what they said:

While change is inevitable, one thing is certain: You can’t take the ‘human’ out of Human Resources.

The next five years will see a dramatic shift in the way HR operates. Forty-eight percent of survey respondents believe many core HR functions will be automated by 2022, and that’s a good thing. Increased automation is becoming a pivotal turning point in the evolution of HR. The tedious, administrative tasks that have so often held HR back will become automated, signaling new opportunities for HR to add greater value to the business by becoming more people-focused. We’ll see greater opportunities to mentor and educate employees and focus on career planning and development strategies which will directly impact and increase engagement and retention across the business.

Eighty-two percent of survey respondents believe developing “soft skills” will become an HR job requisite.

Employee relations will benefit from increased automation, but at the end of the day, technology can’t replace problem-solving, collaboration, communication and listening. Soft skills are becoming essential to the overall health of an organization, and HR professionals drive this home by providing a unique human element, a keen understanding of individuals that is invaluable to interacting with others, cultivating relationships and gaining trust.

By 2022, HR professionals predict their teams will be focused on three top priorities: training and development, employee morale and employee retention.

Over the next five years, HR’s diverse mix of skill sets and unique perspectives on business operations are positioned to add strategic value to the C-suite. With most respondents reporting that their department will increasingly become more strategic, more data-driven and critically focused on people development, the “HR Trendcast” survey indicates that HR leaders are gearing up for the challenge and positioning their team to be successful in a new age of HR.

Recruiting and retaining top talent will continue to pose the greatest challenges for HR.

The status quo won’t cut it any longer. As candidates seek new opportunities, employers will continue to face greater scrutiny. If you’re not continuously reviewing your benefits plans, company culture and other “it” factors that separate you from the competition, you’ll quickly fall behind. And if you’re not paying close attention to morale and engagement within your workforce, you’ll struggle to get the most out of your people. As we’ve mentioned earlier in this piece, automation will afford HR more opportunity to be on the front lines, interacting and communicating with employees to get a greater understanding of what’s working and where improvements can be made.

Performance management will offer employees more opportunity and room to grow.

Performance reviews have been the talk of the town for the last few years, and more and more organizations are changing their performance management model to increase the number of touchpoints between employees and supervisors. Our survey found that 49 percent of HR leaders provide their employees with real-time feedback more than once a year, and 38 percent say they plan to conduct more frequent review sessions with employees in the next five years.

There’s never been a better time to be in HR.

Most people embark on a career in HR to make a difference, but many get stuck in the daily rigors of manual administration. Over the next five years, the most successful HR teams will embrace technology and prioritize performance. Armed with the tools to add more strategic value, HR leaders will be able to evangelize a holistic approach to the entire employee lifecycle — from hiring and onboarding through career development, learning and training — so they can spend less time on the administrative work that has kept HR in a box and more time enhancing their company’s people power.

The future is bright.

As an HR leader in a growing company (Paycor is currently adding one thousand new employees over the next few years), I get it. Change can be stressful. But, it can also be exciting and challenging, in a good way. Now is the time to develop new skills, experiment with new ways to attract, grow and retain top talent and embrace technology as a friend, not a foe. We all got into HR to make a difference in our organizations and in the lives of our team members. There’s never been a better time to do just that.

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HR Predictions: Rethinking Employee Benefits in 2017

Paid Family Leave

Only a few weeks remain in 2016, and as we look to the next year, there is no denying it’s a truly dynamic time for HR professionals. We work in an environment that is constantly changing and filled with new opportunities to enhance the way we lead and manage our most important asset, our people.

Today, business leaders are faced with a challenge those who have come before them have never encountered – assimilating five different generations into today’s workforce and leading teams comprised of individuals with unique priorities, interests and expectations.

Generation Z is stepping foot into the workforce for the first time, millennials are settling down and starting families, and baby boomers are faced with the responsibility of caring for elderly family members. While the priorities may be different, the theme is the same: when you hire an employee, you employ the whole person, including their family, their health and their interests.

As we look to next year, the major HR trends I see will be surrounding rethinking employee benefits. Retirement benefits were en vogue across workplaces in the 80s, but today, employees are thinking less about the future and more about the now. Their mindset has shifted to how employers can help them maximize their time with family or to pursue individual experiences, as opposed to emphasizing retirement benefits and pensions.

Here’s how we anticipate that mindset shift will affect HR in 2017:

Paid Family Leave

Today, we’re realizing a gap in the family leave laws concerning who is covered and who is paid. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) offers job protection, but it is unpaid and only offered for up to 12 weeks. Currently, only 12 percent of employees (via United States Department of Labor) have access to paid leave, which tends to be offered by technology and financial services companies as well as some businesses located in California and on the east coast.

An emerging trend across organizations that is gaining increased traction is placing more emphasis on paternity and family leave. Millennials who are starting families are pushing employers to acknowledge the importance a father plays in raising and bonding with their child, and on the flipside, Generation X and Baby Boomers are caring for ill family members and require additional leave to support their time away. California was the first state to implement paid family leave, which has also spread to the corporate level. Deloitte is now offering employees up to 16 weeks fully paid of family leave to support range of life events like maternity and paternity leave, elder care and aid for sick family members and partners.

Unlimited Vacation – The Ultimate Flexible Benefit

When surveyed, many employees reveal that a top benefit they look for when considering a role is the amount of vacation offered. Surprisingly, studies have shown that while employees earn 20 days off, the majority only use 16 of those days. Employees today are using a full work week less than they did in 2000, and it’s having a major impact. Work expectations and demanding schedules are causing employees to take less time. As a result, employees miss three notable events a year and only 38 percent of employees feel supported to take time off.

A handful of employers are trying to reverse this trend by offering flexible unlimited vacation opportunities for employees. Unlimited vacation empowers employees to decide what to do with their time off while ensuring that the necessary work is completed and the absence is not damaging. Experts analyzing this trend believe that employees are motivated not to let their peers down or to damage their own career by misusing the benefit. While unlimited vacation is not for every company or environment, look for more organizations to consider this benefit.

Flexible Hours

We’ve all experienced it – sick family members, an unexpected doctor’s appointment, or an emergency home repair. Life happens and employees are looking for employers to be cognizant of responsibilities outside of the office. I can’t recall an interview where I wasn’t asked about our company’s expectations concerning work time commitments and the flexibility we offer. The question for HR is how to encourage flexibility for employees and how to teach managers to embrace flexibility to attract the best talent. Consider implementing work from home or flexible hours policies to help employees balance work and home life.

Freelance Economy

A growing trend that will affect even more businesses in 2017 is the “gig” or freelance economy. Work or “freelance gigs” are being organized into a variety of arrangements that can easily be bid on by a variety of freelance or consulting positions. One out of three millennials currently freelance, and by 2020, the Bureau of Labor predicts that 40 percent of American workers will be independent contractors. In areas of specialized skills, those types of talent are looking for freelance opportunities and organizations will be tasked with offering the same type of flexible arrangements for employees that freelance positions receive.

While many trends are affecting the HR industry, we as leaders have a real opportunity to challenge the status quo to enhance our employees’ experience. How do we disrupt the typical routine? Emerging trends are driving us to look at the employee experience in new ways and to listen to consider our people in everything we do.

About the Author:

Karen Crone is Chief HR Officer at Human Capital Management company Paycor.

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