The future of HR: Human resource trends on the rise

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For HR leaders around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenging, complicated time, with a rapidly changing landscape and a growing list of needs and questions from employees at all levels.

Today’s human resource professionals know they need to keep evolving their skills and responsibilities, as workers continue to operate outside traditional office settings. This means that organizations need to do more than monitor or update their practices to be effective. They also need to change how they operate to attract and retain top talent, maximize productivity, and provide appropriate compensation and benefits.

With an increasing number of businesses embracing remote work opportunities or offering flexible work arrangements like telecommuting and part-time schedules, HR professionals often play a larger, and more visible role than ever before. And as work practices continue to go virtual, HR professionals are on the front lines of adopting digital-first recruitment and communication strategies. Already, job candidates are interviewing via email and video calls and signing e-documents for a more convenient hiring process.

Today’s HR departments must have a strong grasp of technological solutions that keep employee needs and preferences top of mind. Here are four ways tomorrow’s HR leaders can succeed in the months and years ahead:

Leverage new HR technology

Today’s highly effective HR departments are transforming through innovative technology, because of an increase in digitally native millennial workers in the labor pool, and growing remote work landscape demands. HR managers understand that they need to leverage new technologies or else they will fail to keep up amid an intensely competitive hiring market.

Daniel Waite, vice president of People Operations for SH Hotels and Resorts, explains that ”automation is improving human resources in every way possible.”

Technology-driven automation in recruitment already sees resumes scanned to search for keywords, automated applicant tracking systems to reduce time spent on manual data entry, and artificial intelligence making big strides in areas such as psychometric testing. Video job interviews and even chatbots are replacing traditional telephone and in-person interactions.

CV (resume) scanning, robotic recruitment, and automated applicant tracking systems are all HR processes being transformed with AI and automation technology — all while gaining consent from prospective remote employees through a digitized form of documentation, signed with an e-signature.

Build a remote-friendly company culture

According to Vox, by 2025 some 70 percent of the workforce will work remotely at least five days a month. Other companies are already offering fully remote positions for all employees. There is no doubt that remote work is changing how HR manages company culture for these employees. And companies realize that the ability to work remotely can improve employee engagement and productivity, so they are rethinking how they manage company culture.

HR personnel need to shift their focus away from decades-old workplace policies and procedures designed for managing on-site employees and create more universal, overarching policies that will influence all employees regardless of their office location. As this Forbes article points out, taking a thoughtful, systematic approach to building and maintaining an engaging company culture can help remote employees feel like they belong and are supported.

Focus on mental health

Alongside a strong work-life balance, mental health is now becoming more of a priority in the workplace. A 2021 survey conducted by The Conference Board found that 59 percent of employees named stress and burnout as their top concern for mental and psychological wellbeing at work, as they continue juggling pandemic realities and personal commitments. It is not uncommon for employees to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety and try to manage these challenges themselves. The same study reported that one-fifth of workers do not feel comfortable discussing their hardships at work without fear of negative consequences. Eliminating the stigma about mental health within the company can make it easier for employees to speak up without fear of retribution. This shift in priorities will enable HR personnel to create a culture where mental health positivity is present and valued from the top.

Invest in diversity, equality, and inclusion initiatives

For a growing number of prospective employees — especially those from younger generations — knowing that a company values diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) is an important factor when selecting a new position. As defined by The Center for Creative Leadership, the term DEI includes practices and strategies designed to give voice to historically marginalized populations and provide equal opportunity in the workplace. For those companies that want to succeed, HR processes must embody these practices going forward.

The DEI movement is gaining popularity not only because it improves the experience of employees, but also because it provides companies with an array of perspectives and ideas, which can positively impact the business. This includes improving innovation, collaboration, and retention — essential aspects that drive success in the modern workforce.

While there are many goals associated with DEI initiatives, what they all have in common is that they aim to create an environment where employees from every background feel respected and welcome. At our company, we call this Adobe for All, and our efforts to celebrate diversity and include everyone pays dividends — both for individual employees who feel respected, as well as the company, which gets its talent performing at the highest levels.

Modify benefits and sick leave appropriately

One of the most significant changes for HR professionals in the current professional climate is benefits and their distribution. Historically, most workforces were composed of people who had the same geographical location as their employer. Now with more remote workforces, this has changed employment benefits because people are often located in different counties, states and even countries. It will be up to the HR department to negotiate benefits for permanent and partially remote workers and the stipulations of the various locations they work in.

Many HR professionals are also creating new policies for sick days for remote workforces. This problem becomes even more challenging with employees who are not fully remote but work remotely for only part of the day. These employees sometimes have to decide whether they should call in sick or not since there may be times when an employee needs to go into the office for a meeting.

Ultimately, the success of a sick leave policy depends on the company’s culture and how much autonomy an employee has over their use of time. HR professionals creating new sick leave policies for remote workforces will need to rely on a combination of trust, creativity and collaboration with employees to develop what makes most sense for the business.

Keep a close eye on COVID-19.

With the onset of COVID-19, time off for illness and bereavement has largely been reevaluated and furthered the facilitation of working remotely. As a result, business owners are required to revise their policies on these areas to be in line with COVID-19 standards and precautions. The U.S. Department of Labor has put out Essential Protections During the COVID-19 Pandemic to provide critical worker protection regarding wages, hours worked, and job-protected leave.

In the wake of a crisis such as COVID-19, HR professionals will need to remain continually informed on best practices, preventive measures, and legislation that can minimize their employees’ chances of illness, secure their wages, and provide appropriate time off when needed.

For today’s HR leaders, it is indeed a challenging time — and a vital moment for the field. By focusing on the areas touched on in this article, it is possible to meet these challenges and shape successful futures for companies of all sizes, from the inside out.