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by Jen Leigh on October 12, 2020

The Shifting Landscape of HR in the 21st Century


This is the next generation of human resources is here and you need to rework your approach for success in the 21st Century.  The face of the workplace is changing in a way never seen before in history. Five robust generations make up the workforce for the first time in history, with age groups spanning everyone from millennials to baby boomers working together to achieve your corporate goals. 

This unprecedented commingling  of age groups presents employers with unique challenges in attracting, retaining and maximizing diverse personnel. It also presents unique opportunities for the growth and transformation of human resources (HR) as a practice. Professionals in this area are becoming an ever more critical resource to mold your company into the organization that it needs to be, both to accommodate this seismic shift in human capital and to flourish with the exceptional, rich diversity of perspectives and inputs it offers.

Three factors, in particular, broadly characterize today's workplace and the challenges it sets forth for employers. Let's take a brief look at each of these challenges and the enlightened responses that HR can make to turn them into opportunities for growth.

The democratization, decentralization, and decomposition of work

We're in the middle of an overarching movement toward a remote working, which is intertwined with the gig economy - "an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with workers for short-term engagements." The last generation who expected that they might work their entire career at one company is in the midst of retiring. It's predicted that by 2020, 40 percent of U.S. workers will be freelancers or independent contractors.

This trend comes as a result of the needs of the workforce. Older workers whose generation was long the backbone of most companies generally tended to be highly motivated by their work and built their lives around it. As they age out of the workforce, their replacements tend to be workers from younger generations with a more fulfillment-seeking mindset. The personnel mix contains a blend of everything in between, and the HR department must stretch to meet the needs of each of these groups to keep the entire organization running smoothly.

The good news is that technology is a tremendous aid in this respect, making it completely pain-free to administer workers in many different configurations within the compensation spectrum. Offer and ensure compliance with salaried, shift and even freelance work as well as benefits such as earned paid time off and comp time. These are important to workers seeking that all-important work-life balance or looking for extra time away from work to volunteer or travel.

The adoption of context-based technology in the workplace

Speaking of technology, it's becoming more adaptive in meeting our needs - and that includes in the workplace. By decentralizing power into the hands of employees, the digital revolution has modernized operations and paved the way for collaborative networking and wholly digital workplaces to replace conventional corporate modes of operating.

New call-to-actionAs such, this explosion of employee-facing technology can either transform your workplace with the ability to work in a more agile and efficient manner or it can paralyze your personnel with an overabundance of options. Focus on achieving "digital dexterity, an agile enterprise in which people are empowered to deal effectively with dynamic, non-routine work," says Gartner's David F. Carr.

One caveat: Sometimes this method of working does mean that employees will introduce their own solutions into the software mix, and that's okay. However, it's a good idea to put processes in place to govern off-network downloads to ensure that your system remains secure. This is an area in which HR and information technology can work together to set out best practices tailored to the new environment.

The next generation's option-driven decision-making

The graying of the baby boomer generation means that companies won't be able to wait any longer to optimize their talent tactics toward younger generations. This constituency puts a high priority on options when making choices to accept and stay in a job. For example, a recent survey ranked flexible work options as the number one retention tactic.

Interestingly, CEOs widely report that their main concerns with moving in the direction of more options lie in the area of HR: Can HR adapt to the curveballs thrown to them and the demands placed upon their function by adding new options on offer? By breaking out of time-worn paradigms, accepting that standards are unquestionably changing, and putting technology to use to aid in the transition, the answer back from HR should be a firm yes.

In reviewing your own organization's preparedness to step up to the challenges put forth by 21st-century human capital management, it's imperative to take advantage of all the resources that you can possibly bring to bear to evaluate and calibrate your situation.

To that end, we'd like to provide you with this free white paper, The Reinvention of HR: Managing HCM Trends and the Evolving Workforce, that goes into more depth on the changes currently afoot and how you can configure your organization to best respond to them. Once you've read it over, we'd love to talk with you about how we can equip you so that you're not working for change; change is working for you. Give us a call.

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Jen Leigh

Jen Leigh is a Senior Product Specialist with Inflection HR's Cloud Based HR and Workforce Management Solutions. Connect with Jenni and the rest of the Inflection HR Team on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.