If there is one concept that describes the HR department a decade from now, it is strategic talent management. Locating, hiring, developing, and retaining top-notch employees on a global basis will be under the direction of a rapidly expanding new C-suite position: the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO).

HR in 10 years will be largely focused on strategic, talent-related issues like employee engagement, leadership development, and succession planning. Automation software, once predicted to replace HR entirely in functions like compensation, benefits and administration, will instead free this department to focus on strategic concerns. Transactional routines, such as managing benefits like 401k plans, employee education, or wellness programs, have been fully automated and moved online, will be handled by workers themselves.

In addition, companies will outsource a wide range of career management functions to highly specialized third-party experts that have the skills backed by the technological capabilities to be effective. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 47 percent of U.S. companies outsource at least some HR functions.

Big data = big transformation

Another huge factor in HR 10 years in the future is the outsized and as yet mostly unknown organizational impact of big data, that unimaginably large torrent of information flooding in from Internet-connected users and machines. Big data will have an even bigger effect on organizations and HR than the social media that helps generate it.

HR itself will generate a great deal of information to add to the big data torrent, with significant political and legal issues involved, since HR-related information tends to be sensitive in nature. Companies may find other businesses aggregating data about their employees and offering to sell it back to them. Outsiders may even be able to spot a business’s vulnerabilities before it can do so.

Big data may blow wide holes in comfortable, long-held management assumptions, and HR has to be ready to handle the consequences.

A new HR core competence

With strategic thinking evolving into HR’s new core competence, other areas where the CRHO in 10 years will be deeply involved include:

  • Compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley governance standards, the Consumer Protection Act, and other laws and regulations
  • Top and mid-level succession planning
  • Managing remote workforces

Over the next decade, it will become difficult to fall into HR as a career. At one time, HR may have been “personnel” and was staffed by people who happened upon the field. The future HR professional, however, will be formally educated in the discipline. Many colleges and universities already offer HR coursework and degrees at the bachelor’s and master’s level. Digging deep into one HR specialty is advisable, and HR education and skills of the future will have to include data analysis and business strategy.

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