People ask me about the future of HR. Am I an optimist? Am I a cynic?
I think you have to look at the past to understand the future.
Business leaders brazenly defrocked HR between 2009-2014 and invested in software, which has largely failed. Meanwhile, a talented cohort of HR professionals became disenfranchised and moved out of the function. They found jobs in marketing or sales. They started businesses. Or maybe they just stopped working.
So now the present merges with the past. What remains of HR is complicated. There’s a hodgepodge of skills combined with a market saturated with underwhelming software.
Many futurists are bullish on the future of HR as long as it’s not too feminine but simultaneously tackling problems such as happiness and engagement. Like a mom, but not too motherly or matronly. Wrap your head around that sexist crap.
Other analysts think HR is doomed. Software can’t replace your friendly neighborhood HR business partner just yet, so you have to play the hand you’re dealt.
So what does the HR talent pool look like?
* There are GenX “generalists” who can play the corporate game. They can do just about anything but have stifled their desires to help employees for fear of looking like union stewards or Hillary Clinton supporters. Thanks but no thanks. That’s too much work.
* There’s an older group of HR leaders, mostly baby boomers, who can’t believe they are still putting up with this shit. They were hit by the recession and can’t afford to retire, which sucks. That’s what you get for voting Republican.
* Then you have Gen Y and Gen Z up-and-comers who are principally specialized in “talent” and have been told that the older generation of HR sucks, thereby giving them no heroes or role models. You wonder why they like Bernie Sanders. At least he stands for something in their eyes.
I think the future of HR is like the future of anything: probably okay, perhaps disappointing at times, and mostly unimportant to the future success of your business.
If HR can provide advisory services that help companies improve performance and profitability, that’s great. But let’s not kid ourselves. If HR’s only accomplishment is that it helps make sure your workforce doesn’t bully or sexually assault one another — or that supervisors and executives don’t toy with the budgets and unfairly reward specific constituencies of workers — that’s also a win. I’ll take it.
So what I’m saying is stop worrying about the future of HR and pay attention to the future of your job. Your HR department, good or bad, will probably survive a lot longer than you will in your current role.