HR Leads Business

Jan 17, 2020 | HRCI Team

How HR Job Titles are Evolving — And How You can Update Job Descriptions to Match Them

This 1994 snapshot  demonstrates HR’s evolution over the past three decades. In the 90’s, HR professionals recognized their position on the brink of change and forged the path ahead. More than 25 years ago, it was newsworthy for an HR representative to sit on an organization’s board of directors. Today, HR is a key strategic player in crafting future-ready workforces across the globe.

In 2020, organizations are relying on HR to do a lot of heavy lifting. According to KPMG’s Future of HR 2020 survey, HR executives must take a “pathfinding” approach to their roles. In 2020, HR practitioners will play a significant role in shaping workforces, company cultures, employee experiences and data-driven workforce insights.

The HR function is evolving, but for those changes to be viable, they will have to trickle down in small ways. Job descriptions have to reflect the strategic changes dictated by current and future work. Here’s how you can stay ahead of the curve by modifying HR job descriptions at your organization.

Blending Past and Future Functions

HR still has an administrative function to uphold while tackling new strategic responsibilities. Striking that balance has to be reflected in an HR practitioner’s job description. When approached with thought and care, job descriptions can provide a functional blueprint for HR folks to divide their time and resources. But that’s not always easy — change is frequently accompanied by resistance, says Jessica Miller-Merrell, chief innovation officer at Workology

“People in the industry are at odds with one another,” she says. “Organizations are merging traditional HR practitioners with analytics and data folks who are coming in to support the organization differently.” HR practitioners have to find a balance between continuing to perform administrative functions and branching out. Writing this into the job description, especially with a continuing education requirement, can help HR folks find the right balance in their practice.

Soft Skills for Contemporary HR

Technical skills today are outpaced almost as quickly as they are developed. With this in mind, it’s critical to identify the soft and transferable skills HR folks embody to perform their roles successfully. Doing so has to go beyond the basics, says Patrick Algrim, principal at Algrim.co.

“It’s not enough to require ‘written and verbal skills,’” he says. “Also include soft skills like adaptability, analytical skills or even quantitative skills.” Rather than just listing skills, Algrim recommends explaining how those skills should be applied. Adaptability, for example, could mean being prepared to work on several cross-functional teams, which requires interpersonal skills. Job descriptions can be functional in guiding HR practitioners to achieve their goals more effectively.

A Fluid Function Requires a Flexible Description

Crafting an all-encompassing job description is only the beginning, though. Work is changing with unprecedented velocity, and what’s considered “functional” one year may be defunct the next. Job descriptions must be updated frequently to reflect those changes, or those roles — and practitioners — will be left in a tailspin. 

“Job descriptions should be updated at least once every 24 months, especially when you have new people in the role or have added new software technologies or locations,” Miller-Merrell says. Between updates, she adds, descriptions should be frequently evaluated for relevance. When done collaboratively between managers and employees, this process ensures clarity and alignment between the HR team and the organization’s overall goals.