This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

May 13, 1998:

Changing Role of HR

A recent survey of human resource executives conducted by Ernst and Young indicated that email has passed the telephone as their top means of workplace communications. We’ve been pushed into this seemingly impersonal communications medium by voicemail, the increasingly heavy load of work to be done by fewer people, and expanding electronic technology.

HR departments are making greater use of intranets and other means of employees communicating directly from their work stations to update personnel records, file claims, and ask questions. These approaches certainly streamline routine work, building efficiency and often speed of response. But, there’s another side.

Stronger use of technology will free HR professionals to invest more time in counseling, outreach, more careful selection, and coaching managers and front-line supervisors. Senior level human resource executives are being brought into the CEO’s office as corporate leaders recognize how critical human resource capability is to their success. This shift is significant—human resources is rapidly moving from a functional department to a vital part of the corporate strategy team.

The HR role will undergo substantial change in the near future. The process has already begun in many companies, but not with the intensity we’ll see soon. Too many HR departments are not adequate to perform in the new mode. Expect heavy pressure on HR departments to improve staffing—both in quantity and quality—through improved outreach, more assertiveness, higher accountability. Human capital is fast being seen as the most valuable resource a company has, so more employers will invest in better recruiting, training and development, and concentrated efforts to keep people who can get the job done.

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