The way we work has changed tremendously over the last 10 years, and out of necessity HR has changed with it. Gone are the days when human resources was largely an administrative, paper-pushing department that served as the gatekeeper for job applications and benefits enrollment.

HR has evolved into a fundamental asset for any successful business, one utilizing sophisticated resources and technology to help companies operate more efficiently and strategically.

The change was quick, and it can be easy to overlook the catalysts of this HR revolution and the resulting positive impacts on businesses and employees. Here are the most influential trends that have impacted human resources over the last decade:

  1. The economy

Younger employees, who didn’t live through the economic downturn of 2008, may not understand the difficulties of job markets during a recession.

Ten years ago, hiring freezes, pay freezes and widespread layoffs meant companies could extract concessions from workers, often lowering pay and reducing benefits. Turnover slowed to a snail’s pace since there were few, or no, options if you didn’t like your boss or were ready for more responsibility.

Conversely, a rapidly expanding economy often means a plethora of new career opportunities. Amid strong economic conditions, companies often can’t find enough qualified workers. This leads to businesses increasing pay and offering a wide variety of benefits to attract and retain staff.

It’s important to remember that the economy works in cycles. The good times never last, but neither do the bad times.

  1. Self-service HR technology

Advances in HR technology mean that employees can change their own address, enroll in and change their benefits, and perform other functions that once required an HR specialist to handle the paperwork.

Self-service HR technology allows companies to increase headcount without necessarily needing to add HR staff. It also leaves HR personnel free to handle more advanced work, such as training and development, compliance management and data analysis. A reputable HR services provider should have the technology resources to help you with this.

  1. Evolution of social media

Ten years ago, most companies had firm rules and technology in place that limited or forbade employees from shopping online or accessing social media during work hours. How things have changed.

Gradually, businesses recognized that employee social media activity was something to be harnessed for the company’s good, and social media policies began to change.

Today, most companies encourage employees to share the company’s social media messages on their personal accounts to help magnify the company’s reach. Businesses recognize that employees can help recruit job candidates and bring legitimacy to a company’s brand through their participation in the company’s social media activity.

In another sign of change, businesses are also adopting workplace productivity applications, such as Slack and Jira, to improve team collaboration and efficiency.

  1. Targeted online recruiting

Remember the good old days of trying to find job candidates by posting print or online “help wanted” ads and then waiting for the résumés to flow in?

Now, recruitment strategies include scanning LinkedIn for prospects, managing internal databases to track the résumés of current and past employees, and collecting hundreds of résumés for each job – thanks to online job boards such as CareerBuilder and ZipRecruiter.

Specialty online job sites also make it easier for companies to find and hire engineers, nurses and others with specialized skill sets.

  1. Remote work

A decade ago, few employees could easily work from a remote location, whether that was home, a client’s office or a coffee shop. Now, technology makes it easy for remote workers to securely and efficiently perform their jobs from pretty much any place with a Wi-Fi connection.

In fact, offsite work has become such a part of the business landscape that many companies are implementing shared desks, reducing square footage devoted to offices and partnering with co-working spaces.

Another advantage to the increase in remote work? Companies have the option of hiring employees who live outside their local area, vastly expanding their ability to fill difficult-to-hire positions.

  1. Interactive multimedia training and development

Technology has swept out the old static PowerPoint presentations delivered to big groups in classroom settings. Left in its wake is easily accessible, online, self-paced learning.

These days, large chunks of knowledge can be divided into more manageable portions in a process called micro-learning. This allows employees to absorb and use just the information required for their job at that moment. Training has become immediately relevant to the individual needs of both employees and their companies.

Other advances, such as the gamification of education, have helped make professional learning more fun, while virtual reality helps employees improve their job skills in life-like situations.

  1. Generational differences

It wasn’t too long ago that the workforce was made up of mostly baby oomers and a few Gen Xers. Now, millennials make up the largest chunk of the workforce.

As a result, companies are changing the basics of people management, from the way performance reviews are handled to incorporating flexible work arrangements.

Another challenge for HR? For the first time in modern history, most companies have four to five different generations working together at once, including the silent generation, baby boomers, Gen X, millennials, and now Gen Z.

All have their own generational personalities and expectations that must be acknowledged, appreciated and managed so that companies are able to continuously improve performance and leverage the creativity and experiences of their entire workforce.

  1. Tragedy readiness

Circumstances of the last decade have necessitated what is probably the saddest change in human resources: the frequent necessity to support employees after a tragedy.

Whether the event is weather-related devastation or a mass shooting, HR teams everywhere have to be ready to provide near-immediate assistance to affected staff members.

Many HR departments keep email and web page templates up to date that can be posted at a moment’s notice should their workforce need reminders about security procedures, employee assistance programs and opportunities to help fellow employees or their community.

  1. Temp workers

The trend of hiring temporary and contract workers continues to grow and change the way companies and HR departments operate. Also called contingent workers, such self-employed contractors generally work on a per-project basis.

These employees reduce the company’s staffing expenses but don’t necessarily relieve HR of any duties. There are still contracts and non-disclosure agreements to be managed and secure access to company IT systems to be authorized.

  1. Government intervention

Regulations from federal, state and local governments continue to grow year-over-year, creating new compliance concerns for companies. Whether a new rule governs pay, health care benefits, sexual harassment policy or safety, human resources must respond and help their company remain compliant or risk penalties, business disruption and bad publicity.

Emerging trends to watch

It’s worth noting that five of the top 10 trends listed are a direct result of advances in technology. And technology, government oversight and demographic changes will continue to shape how HR operates. Some emerging trends to watch over the next few years include:

  • Blind hiring: Employment laws such as ban-the-box and blind hiring practices that shield names and salary histories from hiring managers continue to grow and change recruitment practices.
  • Workplace civility: Ridding the workplace of bullying and unconscious bias are new frontiers in workforce management. As businesses face ever-tougher competition, the winners will be companies that find a way to help all employees feel respected and safe.
  • Data analysis: HR professionals increasingly need data skills to help their organization leverage the information gathered about employees and their productivity. Data will help companies improve everything from recruitment to health and safety to team performance.

Not sure how to harness these HR changes to help your company become more productive? Download our free e-book: HR outsourcing: A step-by-step guide to professional employer organizations (PEOs).

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