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Updated 29 Feb 2020


What does the future of HR look like?

We explore what an HR practitioner or HR function will look like in 10 years.


Roy Clark , 11 June 2016  Share  0 comments  Print


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I recently spoke at the GIBS HR for Corporate Innovation Seminar, a very thought-provoking morning for all involved and one that left me with both an optimistic and pessimistic view on how corporate SA is viewing HR, and the role HR has now and will have in years to come. Read more about the talk here HR for Corporate Innovation.

Leading up to the talk I had to focus my research around both HR as well as business leaders. I conducted studies to extract the right information from each party and ultimately find a solution to help both sides. One of the questions I asked HR professionals in my study waswhat will an HR practitioner or HR function look like in 10 years?

Some answers included:

  • Unpredictable
  • More automated and less people-interaction
  • Playing a more major role in all aspects of the business but also will remain a discipline with not much choice due to the rigid labour laws which will constantly change. 

However the majority of respondents answered very positively and included aspects such as:

  • To be a strategic partner in any business success
  • Drivers of relevant, HR value-adding processes that improve the competencies of all employees as well as assisting with organisational development
  • Less of a gatekeeper and more of a strategist
  • Consulting as a business right-hand, bringing vision to the business and being proactive in managing human capital.

Related: HR management best practice

This poses a fundamental question as to whether businesses will in fact need HR in the future. Being an HR professional myself I most certainly hope so. I do believe that technology and automation can enhance the HR function but the human element will always remain criticalifHR take on a more strategic and empowered role across the business.

This means that we as HR need to go from being the waterboy on the side-lines of the game to being the part of the coaching team. Involved, engaged and active in decision-making in everything human related.

How do I believe HR should look in the future? 

I like to call my ideal HR practitioner of the future a Chief Employee Experience Officer. Now I am not talking about soft skills only. These CEEO’s are the key agents of change within the business, they own everything to do with HR and they deliver customised solutions to individuals and teams to solve business problems.

They use technology, employee data analytics, virtual reality and virtual teams and gamification to understand and develop employees and ultimately drive the business to be the leader in its industry. 

So although some of the study’s respondents answered that that the future of HR will be unpredictable, automated and rigid, I don’t believe that this will be more so in future than it is now.

The transactional side of HR will all be automated and run on artificial intelligence, but the good stuff will be on the human side. Anyone can be a supporter, but not everyone can be part of the coaching team. In fact I think that these aspects can be harnessed and used to the benefit of the business.

Related: What major changes are currently evident in the HR industry?

The important aspect that businesses need to take into account here is the strategic partnership between HR and business, these need to be completely entwined and together grow the vision of the business. So to my HR professional colleagues – ‘Get off the side-line and into the game.’

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About the author


Roy Clark

Roy Clark is a leading human capital creative thinker. MD of Clarkhouse Human Capital and with more than 12 years of financial services and human capital experience under his belt, Roy’s expert knowledge in the financial and banking human capital sectors has allowed him to not only rethink the role of human capital but to reinvent it too.

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