As U.S. business struggles to recover from government-ordered COVID disruptions and other forces affecting the economy, demand is at “near-epic proportions” for human relations executives with the expertise and insights to untangle increasingly complex workforce and workplace issues.
First, the shutdowns triggered the Great Resignation as employees quit their jobs in record numbers.
Then, companies suddenly had to revise healthcare and wellness policies, organize furloughs, establish work-from-home governance and cope with other mandate-related disruptions.
Now, while employees are enthusiastic about the prospect of hybrid work schedules, McKinsey & Company says, “adopting ill-conceived hybrid work models could instead speed departures, decrease inclusion, and harm performance.”
These challenges have accelerated the evolution of the human resources (HR) field to a strategic leadership role from a primarily administrative function: finding and retaining top HR talent now tops the HR agenda. Graduates of an advanced degree in human resources will understand this modern, evolving need in a hybrid-work world.
“The demand for HR executives has reached near-epic proportions,” according to Ferry Korn, an organizational consultant, adding demand HR managers has increased by more than 50% from pre-COVID levels with salaries increasing by as much as 40%.
What Are Trends Shaping the HR Role?
The impact of recent events added complexity as HR professionals must restructure everything from onboarding new employees, managing constantly changing regulatory risks and developing staffing plans to meet business objectives.
The latest trends in HR management include:
Creating a culture of sustainability
Striking the right balance of people, profit and protection is a significant factor in recruiting and retaining top talent. A growing body of evidence finds that investing in environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies lift recruiting and retention, but employees are divided on implementation. A Clockwise survey found only 5% of senior managers believed their companies’ sustainability policies were off target, compared to 11% of middle managers and 19% of front-line workers.
Preparing women for early-career promotion
While companies are focused on parity in hiring and promotion to executive roles, McKinsey & Company finds they are missing a powerful retention strategy: promoting women early in their careers. Companies that offer women wide access to professional development resources, structure a path to early promotion and establish mentoring and sponsorship programs have the advantage in labor market competition. But it notes, “retaining a woman ‘A’ player…requires out-of-the-box thinking and creativity that we are not applying today.”
Adjusting to new workforce dynamics
Millennials and Generation Z members value a workplace culture that is collaborative and not hierarchal, involves them in decision-making and offers opportunities for education and advancement. For HR, that will mean finding and keeping managers who bring strong people skills — such as emotional intelligence and interpersonal communication — and technical expertise to the job. “People don’t leave bad jobs,” Forbes warns. “They leave bad bosses.”
Managing conflict in the remote workplace
Human Resources Director recommends several HR initiatives to ensure office and regulatory policies carry over smoothly to the new work-from-home reality. Formal agreements must be re-cast to include clear expectations for behavior, performance and productivity. And, while a complaint from a remote worker may appear to lack the urgency of one filed by an onsite employee, they must be handled identically to avoid claims against the company or litigation. “Remote misconduct is no less serious than inappropriate office behaviour,” it advises.
Managing the ripple effect of change
Apple’s recent announcement that its hybrid work week will require all employees to go to the office at least three days a week caused dissent among some workers. According to Computer World, the disaffected employees who maintain the “rigid policies” will degrade the company’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity. “In this time of full employment, and indeed shortages of many workers, there is a great ability of employees to just move on if you make them unhappy,” CW notes.
These trends and other new and emerging realities complicate all business processes and elevate HR leadership into a strategic advisory role.
How Are HR Professionals Preparing for the Future?
HR professionals with a Master of Science Human Resource Management have the advantage in the competition for positions and advancement. Graduates of the University of Illinois Springfield’s online program, for instance, are prepared to:
- Articulate the strategic role of human resource management and labor relations in organizations
- Analyze organizational issues, create solutions to complex problems and evaluate results
- Master HR data analytics and information systems