Today’s HR department is a product of the Industrial Revolution era. Back then, factories needed supervisors to ensure that workers produced reliable, standardized results day in and day out.

In the digital age, technology has (mostly) taken over the responsibility of producing standardized results. HR departments of today have a responsibility to plan for a future of technology and humans working together to accomplish business goals. This means thinking about how to best develop your workforce with both the capabilities of your tech and employees in mind.

But what does that look like for HR professionals in practice? Taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the trends we’re seeing. So with that, let’s dive into our predictions for HR priorities in the coming years and how you can prepare for the future of human resources.

Prediction 1: Managing a blended workforce will become the norm

By now it feels like common knowledge that employees value the flexibility that working remotely during the pandemic has offered. In a recent Software Advice survey, we found out that 86% of employees currently working from home want to continue to work remotely at least part of the time post-pandemic. (Learn more about our survey methodology).

In fact, Gartner predicts that almost twice as many employees will work remotely full time post-pandemic as did pre-pandemic (full content available to clients).

chart showing the percentage of employees working remotely before and after the covid-19 pandemic

The opportunity: Create a people-centric culture that translates in-person and virtually

The advantages of remote work are undeniable; It offers flexibility without sacrificing productivity, and businesses who commit to a fully remote workforce significantly lower their real estate costs.

Even still, it isn’t a one-to-one comparison to working in the office. David Garcia, CEO of ScoutLogic, explains it like this: “[We’ve] improved productivity. We are completely paperless. But we miss each other.

Whether your organization decides to come back to the office in full force, go completely remote, or adopt a blended work environment, it will take time to adjust to a new routine. HR should be a steady force throughout the transitions to come, with a focus on creating a people-centric work culture that’s present online and in-person.

Prepare yourself for blended work with these resources:

Prediction 2: There will be a new focus on improving the employee experience

Improving the employee experience has always been a priority for HR departments, but it’s become increasingly more important for retaining and attracting quality talent. That’s why we predict that HR leaders will start thinking about improving the employee experience with the same consideration used to improve the customer experience.

Statistic emphasizing the importance of the employee experience

The opportunity: Invest in tools that help improve the employee experience at your organization

Most HR departments already have means of assessing employee needs, such as employee engagement software, surveys, exit interviews, or employee suggestion boxes. Typically, information gathered through these avenues is used to recommend initiatives that improve the employee experience.

While brainstorming initiatives, HR leaders should look for ways to address these employee experience gaps through technology. For example, if exit survey data reveals that employees are leaving your organization because of a lack of development opportunities, explore investing in a learning management system (LMS) to create development pathways for your workforce.

Here are some other examples of tech investments that improve the employee experience:

Prediction 3: Upskilling needs to happen everywhere (including within the HR function itself)

The skills gap has been a concern for HR for years. If you’re unfamiliar, here’s a high-level summary: There’s a misalignment between the skills employees have and the ones businesses need to succeed.

Last year, most businesses were focused on staying afloat, leaving skills development initiatives to fall by the wayside.

The opportunity: Set upskilling in motion by starting with your own HR department

When it comes to planning out upskilling initiatives, HR holds a lion’s share of the responsibility. Ironically, HR is rarely the first business function that comes to mind when it comes to skills development. But if your HR team isn’t developing any new critical skills, you’re doing your organization a disservice. As work culture and technology evolve, your team needs to, too.

Skill needs vary from organization to organization. Your HR team might need to learn how to interpret analytics, while another may need to study up on how to best support non-traditional teams. As with any department, the best place to start is with a skills gap analysis to identify what learning areas your HR team could invest in that would most benefit your organization.

We recommend taking a look at SHRM’s HR competency model. This model breaks down what it takes to be a successful HR professional around the world and across all career levels, roles, and job functions. With that foundational skill set in mind, you should also look at the skills they believe HR professionals should be developing right now. Spoiler alert: AI and analytics are on the list.

Prediction 4: Employee benefits will change.

With an office full of people, perks like commuter benefits, on-site daycare, free lunches, and a fridge full of snacks are a great part of the employee value proposition (EVP). Now, as leading corporations commit to a fully remote workforce and small businesses carry on with over a third of their workers at home, the value of these benefits falls flat.

More and more organizations are switching up their benefits offerings to include things like mental health support, home office equipment, and wellness programs.

The opportunity: Reassess your benefits and offer perks your employees want.

Benefits administration software can help you monitor your benefits expenses, as well as which employees are signed up for what plan—helpful information when you’re making decisions about what changes to make.

You probably know what we’re going to say next: The best way to determine what new benefits you should offer your employees is to ask them what they’d value the most. You can accomplish this by running an employee survey.

Prediction 5: HR will need to find the uniquely human place in this data- and AI-driven world.

Data analytics and artificial intelligence aren’t going anywhere, and their continued integration into everyday life will impact how HR works (along with every other area of business).

30% of organizations will use AI-based solutions in the HR function

Like we mentioned at the start, the challenge for HR teams moving forward is finding the balance between technology and people. Along with keeping up with technology and learning new skills such as data analysis, HR leaders need to find where people can bring the most value to the business.

The opportunity: Prepare for a future of intelligent, data-driven HR

The first step HR managers should take is embracing AI and becoming data-savvy. If your gut reaction to that is reluctance, don’t worry. Most of the AI-powered tools on the market are built to analyze HR data for us, so you’re free to focus on the reason you entered this field in the first place: the people.

The second step for HR leaders is to find the places where people thrive in their organizations. Technology can’t replace humans’ creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving skills. These are the areas where the people in your org can add real value, so it makes sense to recruit or develop employees who are strong in these areas so your workforce is doing more of the things that technology can’t.

Invest in your future today with HR analytics software

The future of human resources will include using data to make strategic decisions when it comes to workforce planning.

HR analytics software is built to collect, process, and analyze data from all of the moving parts within your HR tech stack. You can use these tools to identify meaningful trends such as how employee training impacts your bottom line, why turnover is higher than usual, or what applicant qualities lead to future top performers.

If you need help finding the right HR analytics software for your business, you’re in good hands. Click here to chat with one of our HR software advisors. All you have to do is tell them your feature needs and budget, and they’ll recommend five top-rated systems that work best for your unique criteria—free of charge.

Survey methodology

The Software Advice HR in the New Era Survey 2021 was conducted in January 2021. We surveyed workers at U.S. small businesses with two to 500 employees. The responses are a representative sample (by age and gender) of the U.S. population. We worded the questions to ensure that each respondent fully understood the meaning and the topic at hand.

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