Tags: christmas carol, industry insights, HR & Development...


The nature and focus of professional roles in business are continuously changing and evolving with time. In light of Christmas fast approaching, we draw parallels from the classic story, A Christmas Carol, by examining the past, present and future of Human Resources.

The HR role of the Past

Much has changed since 1995, where HR was primarily regarded as a personnel support role, focusing on manpower planning, recruitment, job analysis, job evaluation, payroll administration, managing performance appraisals and related tasks.

HR Managers were viewed as the administrator of pay awards, the manager of disciplinary sessions, and a budget holder for training and recruitment. Nowadays many HR professionals are regarded as a strategic business partner within their organisations and distinguish themselves from the more administrative functions, adopting a more progressive and strategic Human Resources model.

In 1997, David Ulrich, a University Professor, Author and Management Consultant who has been occasionally referred to as an ‘HR guru’, published a book that turned out to be the primary driving force that changed the face of Human Resources to what it is today.

In his book, titled ‘Human Resource Management’, he outlined the three box HR model: Shared Services, Centres of Excellence and HR business partners. What made the Ulrich model so ground-breaking was that it recognised the different roles that HR professionals could deliver within an organisation. They could now be specialists in a functional area, or they could become a business partner with more strategic and business-focussed input to their organisation.

In 2013, nearly 50 percent of HR directors reported that their last job role was outside of HR. This suggests that time spent learning elsewhere in the business or rotating in and out of HR could be valuable in reaching a senior HR position.

In 2015, a survey of large UK businesses found that over 50 percent had invested in the Ulrich model for HR, with significant investment in IT and shared service centres. When measuring the performance of the model, over 90 percent of their organisations had benefitted in terms of commercial focus, alignment to strategy and greater efficiencies.

The Laws impacting HR in the Present

In 2016, the government introduced a series of employment laws that HR professionals have had to focus on. 

  • Gender pay reporting: Given recent reports of salary inequalities based on gender – particularly for working mothers – it is now compulsory for companies with 250 or more employees to publish information on their gender pay gap and gender bonus gap on an annual basis. The pay information will need to be based on payments made over the employer’s pay period every April, beginning in April 2017. The bonus information will need to cover the preceding 12-month period, beginning with the 12 months leading up to April 2017.
  • The National Living Wage: Since April 2016, this has applied to workers aged 25 or over. It is currently set at £7.20 per hour and is set to rise to £7.50 in April 2017. It is compulsary and HMRC can take employers to court for not paying it. 

The Organisation Structures of HR's Future

As we look towards the new year, HR professionals will need to take note of key trends that are likely to impact the day-to-day operations of their profession in 2017. Below are some of the key changes that are set to impact the industry, as reported by The Law Support Group:

  • Employee Retention: In 2017, lowering staff turnover will be one of the top priorities for HR teams. Some key areas that will need to be addressed are engagement with employees and relevant skills training. Both of these areas will help to keep the workforce happy and less likely to look elsewhere for work.
  • Work/Life Balance: In recent years, organisations have become increasingly more aware of the significance of employee well-being for business growth. One way to maintain workplace happiness is to provide a culture that facilitates a work to life balance. HR professionals will need to emphasis that an employees’ health must be seen as important to reduce absence and increase a positive workplace culture.
  • The next generation of management: This year 3.6 million company bosses are set to retire and the younger generation of managers will get their opportunities to run companies. Millennial managers will have a willingness to try different approaches. Their open mindedness along with their tech savviness will likely bring drastic change to HR in 2017 and beyond.
  • Temp / contract employees: An increasing graduate workforce means that many employees are less likely to take on full time roles because they prefer part-time positions or working as freelancers to accommodate academic commitments. This additional flexibility to the workforce means less stability, so HR teams will have to formulate strategies whereby they can retain staff and accommodate their working less hours for the company.
  • Automation: It is predicted that half of the jobs available today will be taken over by robots and automation within 20 years. This is worrying for employees as the threat of job losses increases with every year. However automation can have a positive effect on the workforce too. By updating offices with automation, workers will have more flexibility and convenience in their workplace. Every sector is going to be effected by automation and it’ll be down to the HR teams to manage the change effectively. Some job losses will be inevitably but they will be replaced by different roles working with the automation.
  • Digital HR and People Analytics: More and more we’re seeing businesses turn to social media to recruit employees. Less money will be spent on job adverts in the coming years as younger employers are well versed in using social media to find jobs. Data is more accessible than ever and analysis of this data is becoming easier and cheaper. Recruitment will be less about employees’ references and honesty as all data can be accessed almost instantly.

Can you keep up with the times?

Search Consultancy is a nationally acclaimed specialist industry recruitment agency, focusing on a wide range of divisions that include, but are not limited to the HR and Development sector. If you are looking to recruit a new addition to your HR team, or are looking to fill a role in HR, contact Search today. Alternatively, you can find our full list of vacancies here!