As we are now racing into the second half of the year, we have gained a lot more clarity on the trends that are shaping HR in 2018. Obviously, many of these concepts well predate January and will take a lot longer than December to be considered de facto policy or structural models, but it’s helpful to consider this time frame as a snap shot of where we stand on the evolution of the industry.

1) HRBP is the New Black

All departments are being held accountable as strategic business units, and human resources is certainly not an exception to this paradigm shift. HR ‘generalists’ continue to be replaced by HR Business Partners to provide strategic and innovative insights on how to best manage and develop talent at each stage of the employee lifecycle.

In some quarters the debate bubbles on as to whether it is easier to train an HR veteran to view the landscape from a business perspective than it is to train a business leader in the nuances of human resources. The HRBP needs to be able to take highly conceptual, enterprise-wide strategies set by the Centers of Expertise and implement them at a practical level for a variety of business scenarios and demands. The ability to influence, negotiate and manage multiple stakeholders (often with competing interests and timelines for action) necessitates someone with this particular lexicon built into their communications skill set.

2) Talent is King

The many consecutive months of jobs growth has put the onus back on firms to market themselves as the best destination for top talent. This has given current CHROs a full plate of responsibilities: implement workplace policies that effectively communicate that the organization works for its employees, not the other way around; leverage productivity metrics to understand where talent is best positioned across global infrastructures; and cultivate a talent pipeline through their managers that keeps a ‘warm’ pool of candidates so they can efficiently plug capability gaps without having to start from scratch.

Millennials’ increasing demographic share of the workforce has put pressure on CHROs to create more of a ‘start up’ culture, even in blue chip MNCs. This has led to more progressive stances on remote work hours and open floor-plans for workspaces. Transparency, inspirational leadership and a direct link to top management are also aspects of the millennial wish list.

Emphasis on organizational effectiveness and organizational development puts a productivity metric on all talent and gives managers, business partners and CHROs greater precision in exactly how to wield their resources to serve the entire firm.

Another means by which these leaders are tackling productivity is using these metrics to keep a warm pool of ‘next up’ talent who have been nurtured by managers and have a pre-established understanding of what the organization values in them so that when the time comes, this talent is leveraged efficiently.

3) Human Resources Means Human Communication

It’s an exciting time to be in human resources. As organizations acquire smaller companies or enterprises, expand into new regional markets, add new products or services, and digitally transform their operations, HR is integral this change. This includes not only finding the right people for each position, but also helping to smooth over the rough surfaces that inevitably occur as a result of such a dramatic movement. At the core of this responsibility is communication.

HRBPs, Chief Talent Officers, CHROs and senior managers alike fundamentally need to be able to speak the language of many different business units. They need to be able to provide analytical data to the rest of the C-Suite and the boardroom, communicate organizational development requirements to new unit leaders and talent, and assuage overall fears that come from positional change. Harnessing the plethora of digital tools that are now available is crucial to this diverse challenge.

Social media, data metrics and machine learning assets all allow the HR leader in 2018 to put more time into interaction with the faces of their organization. At the end of the day, human resources is about humans speaking to other humans about what they need from them so that everyone can benefit. While AI has long term potential to disrupt this dynamic, in 2018 it is giving CHROs marginal wins in menial areas. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Digital tools need to be fully understood before being given carte blanche over core strategic initiatives. Today’s HR leader can celebrate the progress made on this front while still being comforted in the fact that their resources will, at least for this year, be human.

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