Dr. Peter M. Wald, a professor at Leipzig University of Applied Sciences of 10 years, contacted me for an international perspective of the future of human resources (HR). This university is Saxony’s largest University of Applied Sciences and one of the largest in Germany- more than 200 years old. Dr. Wald’s area of expertise is human resource management and his current research topics are social media (we met on Twitter!) and leadership as well as organizational issues of human resource management.
Check out the interview below, where we talk about why HR is so fiercely criticized, what needs to be changed in HR performance and service, what the main topics of HR will be in 10 years, and what students of human resources should focus on as they study.
Peter: What is your opinion of the current status or standing of HR Managers?
Anne: HR is often seen as a narrow focus on compensation and benefits. While that’s important, there is much more that HR can do to move the organization forward with human capital. For example, if HR were to use the data it has, then it could help solve the bigger problems of diversity and inclusion, as well as leverage how learning is changing.
Peter: In your opinion, why is HR Management so often and to some extent fiercely criticized today?
Anne: The scope of HR is often misunderstood. It is more than compensation, benefits, recruitment, and enforcing personnel rules. It’s also about human potential, talent development, organizational behavior and culture. That’s a lot to cover in one area. With people outside of HR having little to no understanding of those important elements, it’s easy to criticize HR. Finance is more tangible; so is IT and legal. Yet HR, full of messy, complex human systems is much harder for people to grasp. That misunderstanding is at the root of undue criticism.
Peter: Where do you anticipate specific need for change in performance/service and provision of HR Management?
Anne: As HR moves further and further into the comprehensive use of big data, I think valuing creativity is essential. Yet creativity has not been a major part of the Human Resources culture so far. Encouraging and prioritizing creativity will be transformative to HR teams, since it will bring in a more diverse set of team members with skillsets not before needed in this field. A diverse team is key to pulling all of the analytics puzzle pieces together to make a positive impact on an organization and its human capital. Data is worthless without asking the right questions. Finding the right questions to ask takes creativity. It also takes creativity to interpret data. And storytelling skills are needed to share the results of human capital analytics with leaders in such a way that it all makes sense.
Peter: What will be the main focus/topics of HR Management in 10 years?
Anne: There are dramatic changes coming to the US workforce within the next decade that everyone in HR should be prepared for. First, approximately 45% of Americans will be leaving the workforce in the next decade for new opportunities as Baby Boomers retire. Second, women are starting their own businesses in rapid speed, leaving HR and leadership up to the task of retaining female talent before they become the competition. Third, what was considered the minority will become the majority as 92 percent of U.S. population growth is attributed to ethnic groups. HR will need to work hard to mitigate bias and discrimination, or risk a diminishing talent pool and complete irrelevance. And finally, temporary worker demand is rising with predictions that 40 percent of the workforce will be freelance workers by 2020. These are huge changes and HR will be facing them head on. There is great potential in marrying data and humanity to reach talent and organization performance goals as the workforce goes through a revolution. I urge organizations to start preparing their Human Resource teams for the addition of big data, just as I urge HR professionals to become familiar with the radical transition that may be on their horizon.
Peter: Now my final question 5+1 (for advice for my alumni and students): What would you advise young HR Managers or students, who seek a career in Human Resources? What should they pay attention to? What is and what will be important?
To find out my answer to this final important question, head over to Peter’s blog here.