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4 trends in human resources and what they mean for grads

Emmanuel Payne

Human resources is a dynamic industry — we highlight four trends affecting human resources and how they impact on graduate careers in Australia.

The human resources profession is regularly affected by changes in areas such as employee preferences, breakthroughs in workplace technology, and the changing goals and strategies of the organisations that most frequently hire HR personnel. As a result, it’s an unusually dynamic field, in which HR professionals are frequently required to adapt their ways of working to new trends. Below, we’ve summarised four of the trends set to affect HR practices in 2018, and considered how they might impact on graduates who start their career in the field.

Workforces are becoming more mobile

It would be impossible to overstate the impact that the rapid diffusion of mobile devices has had on modern workplaces and workers. Smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices are now an integral part of social and professional culture—approximately half of all mobile device owners check them within fifteen minutes of waking up in the morning, and within five minutes of going to sleep at night.

Interestingly, this has placed unique demands on HR professionals. For example, consider that mobile devices have led approximately one third of Australian workers to begin working from home some of the time, with 15 percent saying that they would work fewer hours if remote work weren’t an option. Furthermore, some 80 percent of job seekers under the age of 25 use mobile devices to search for new positions.

Given that HR professionals are largely responsible for processing job applications and overseeing flexible work arrangements, the influx of mobile devices has created an environment in which ambitious grads in HR must be able to demonstrate a high degree of digital literacy.

Cognitive systems and data analytics are changing recruitment

Cognitive systems, like IBM Watson and Microsoft Dynamics, are artificially intelligent computer systems that perform natural cognitive processes—such as natural language processing, information retrieval, knowledge representation, and learning—at breakneck speed. This allows them to reason, interpret data, ‘communicate’, provide recommendations, and more.

Over recent years, improvements in the efficiency, accuracy, and affordability of cognitive systems has spawned a range of new applications, including the use of cognitive systems to streamline routine processes within HR. For example, cognitive systems have already powered chatbots that guide candidates through the recruitment process, and allowed HR professionals to predict staffing needs, assess candidates, and analyse video interview submissions. It’s hoped that such technologies will lead to more effective talent acquisition, which is, according to a 2017 Deloitte report, the third most important challenge faced by modern companies.

As with the section above, the growing prevalence of sophisticated technologies within HR has created a demand for graduates who are confident adapting to changing technology.

Employee experience design is increasingly essential

Traditionally, the primary way that organisations attracted, acquired, and retained talent was by offering desirable salaries and benefits. However, the possibilities offered by new technologies, including hot-desk office spaces, flexible work arrangements, and improved connectivity between colleagues, has empowered HR professionals to offer employees an integrated workplace experience.

Little wonder then that companies as varied as Adidas, Cathay Pacific, Cisco, Facebook, GE, L’Oréal, LinkedIn and Ralph Lauren now employ HR professionals in positions such as ‘Head of Employee Experience’. Their role is to motivate and retain talent by attending to the physical, cultural, and technological aspects of their professional life. This can mean anything from inviting popular speakers to give workplace presentations, to outfitting the workplace with foosball tables, sleep pods, or other tools for recreation and relaxation.

Diversity is key, and HR professionals are playing a key role in creating it

To describe workplace diversity as a trend is to risk making it sound as if it will crest and fall like other trends, which, having made their mark, become indistinguishable from the status quo. However, diversity isn’t something businesses achieve once, and with finality. Instead, it’s an ongoing goal that requires the continual effort of HR professionals, who, more than anyone else, are primarily responsible for ensuring that workplaces hire indiscriminately to create diversity of gender, ethnicity, age, background, disability and more.