In the early days of HR, paperwork was the name of the game, and the onslaught of administrative tasks often prevented HR professionals from ever thinking strategically. Now, however, companies expect more from HR professionals, and they’re starting to recognize HR as one of their most valuable programs. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for HR professionals is higher than the national job growth average for all other professions.
Given how drastically the HR industry is evolving and the increasing demand for quality HR professionals as of late, what can we expect in 2016? Here are 6 HR themes that will prevail in the year ahead:
1. HR technology will automate administrative tasks and enable strategic initiatives.
Thanks to the recent momentum in new HR technology, the role of an HR person is becoming less administrative and more strategic. In 2016, companies will begin to recognize their HR programs as being less about paperwork and more about proactive initiatives. High growth technology companies, in particular, will expect high outputs from their HR department, and they’ll require solutions for increasingly complex problems from their HR programs.
At BetterCloud, we recently started using HR software Zenefits. Implementing this technology has been akin to hiring a part-time HR coordinator, and it’s allowed me to move away from reactive, administrative work and focus more on long term planning and new initiatives. For instance, I now have the bandwidth to design new HR programs and ramp up our management training processes. By automating tasks like payroll and onboarding, Zenefits has allowed me to focus more on development, performance management and recruitment strategy, and my company now expects that higher, more strategic output from HR.
2. HR professionals will evolve from generalists to specialists.
With the automation of administrative tasks made possible by HR technology, HR professionals will continue to become more specialized in 2016. They’ll be able to shift from handling everything HR-related to focusing their time and intellect on more specialized areas like employee development and manager training.
As the sole HR person at my company, I’m responsible for handling anything and everything HR. But despite being a department of one, I’ve been able to specialize thanks to HR technology. By outsourcing some of my tasks to Zenefits, I’ve been able to narrow my focus and become an expert in employee development. Rather than lecturing new hires on benefits information and constantly worrying about compliance regulations, I’m able to spend the majority of my time finding and recognizing top talent. I have the bandwidth to meet with every manager at my company each month, and I’m able to focus on each employee’s development and proactively pinpoint where they might be struggling.
3. Big data will alleviate the subjectivity of HR.
The impact of HR people and HR programs, in general, can be hard to measure. But by collecting data from HR initiatives and using it to objectively evaluate their effectiveness, some of the subjectivity around HR can be removed. This practice will become more commonplace in 2016, and good news: leveraging big data in HR doesn’t require a massive budget or an in-house data scientist.
In order to better measure the success of HR at BetterCloud, we have managers rate their employees’ job satisfaction and contribution levels every month for our “Health Index.” As a result, I receive concrete data on every employee every month, and I can use that data to map trends for each team and employee. For instance, I can use our “Health Index” data to determine how a recent promotion impacted an employee’s contribution levels, or how turnover affected overall employee satisfaction. I’m also able to use this data to determine if one-on-one meetings with employees and their managers are driving higher employee contribution levels. This is a particularly crucial metric for HR, because it allows you to objectively track the impact of your program as well as your relationships with managers.
4. The millennial talent war will heat up.
Next year, it’s projected that more than a fourth of millennial workers will become managers, because over 3.6 million baby boomers are slated to retire. As such, 2016 will be a crucial time for HR professionals to focus on millennial management. It also means that there will be greater opportunity for top millennial talent to grow into leadership roles. (In fact, a recent WorkplaceTrends.com study found that 91% of millennials aspire to be leaders).
At BetterCloud, 85% of our team is comprised of millennials, and as a result, we’ve had to recognize and prioritize their different wants and needs. For instance, ownership is paramount to millennials, and they want both positive feedback and constructive, personalized criticism. In order to recruit and retain millennials in our highly competitive market, we’re continually revising our recruitment strategies to ensure that topics like ownership, transparency, flat management structures and collaborative environments are clearly communicated.
5. Recruitment will increasingly resemble marketing.
Over the past few years, candidates have held all the power in the recruitment process, and with the strength of the market right now, recruitment will continue to be about seeking out people who aren’t necessarily looking for a job. Given this reality, it will be crucial to move past legacy recruitment strategies in 2016 and instead focus on the marketing of your company and employer brand.
For example, at BetterCloud, we rented a billboard in downtown Atlanta to advertise our open positions. We also regularly hold events to attract local professionals in our industry and introduce them to our company. In fact, the advertising alone of events like these has become a huge part of building the BetterCloud employer brand. Content creation and thought leadership will also play important roles in 2016 recruitment strategies, and by working closely with your internal marketing team, those efforts can be more impactful.
6. HR communication strategies will be a priority for growing companies.
For high growth companies, HR communication will be a dominant theme in 2016, because with the growth of a company comes additional layers of management and larger teams of employees. As a company grows, important company messages can lose their clarity, and communicating to employees can often resemble a game of telephone. It’s crucial to determine each manager’s span of control and decide how key messages will be communicated across larger companies.
My company’s employee count has grown significantly in just the past few months, so we’ve had to redesign our HR communication to scale along with that growth. For starters, we moved away from having our CEO as the sole communicator. Managers can now disseminate company updates to their teams as they wish, and we’ve enabled employees to submit anonymous questions that are discussed at company-wide meetings. We’re also constantly evaluating the manager-to-employee relationship to ensure everyone feels comfortable communicating and asking questions at any time.
HR has come a long way, and in 2016, it will continue to evolve into a highly strategic, specialized and in-demand industry. Technology will automate much of the administrative work and enable HR professionals to be more proactive, big data will help measure the efficacy of HR, millennial management and recruitment marketing will be a crucial focus, and high growth companies will continually optimize their HR communication strategies as they scale. Personally, I can’t wait for the year ahead. For HR professionals, it’s sure to be a promising one.