Despite a global pandemic and an economic recession, the human resources function remains in high demand, experts say. Business leaders across the globe continue to recognize how critical HR is to their company’s bottom line.
“Every year, HR is progressively becoming more and more valued,” says Sara Luther, General Manager of the National HR Search Division at Lucas Group. “We’re continuing to see a positive outlook.” According to JPMorgan Chase’s 2020 Business Leaders Outlook report, two of the top three challenges facing business leaders this year fall directly under HR’s responsibility: finding talent with the right skills and managing labor costs.
Several overall trends are shaping the demand for HR professionals right now.
The HR generalist function remains in high demand. Randstad’s 2020 Salary Guide reports that in the previous 12 months, there were more than 160,000 job announcements for HR generalists. With the rise in HR automation, the report notes, many HR generalists have chosen to specialize — narrowing the pool of generalist candidates and further increasing the demand.
This need is amplified during times of uncertainty. “There’s a bigger need for the generalist function,” Luther says. When companies are operating with limited resources, HR generalists are an incredibly valuable asset. At small and midsize companies, they are leading the HR function.
“Organizations are realizing just how important HR leaders are,” Luther points out. “Every executive is looking for a business-focused HR leader.”
Certifications are valued and respected by employers, especially for HR generalists in smaller companies, Luther says. They signal to prospective employers that certification holders can act on a vast body of general HR knowledge.
Technology and big data will continue to influence the HR job function and market. “We’re in the middle of a digital and contingent workforce transformation,” says Beth Sears, Metro Market Manager with Robert Half. HR professionals who demonstrate proficiency in analyzing and leveraging workforce data will continue to be valued.
“That data-driven, factual information will really help some of those overall operations of the company be more strategic,” Sears says. “Getting someone who is extremely tech-savvy to utilize new technologies and systems is going to be key.” A good starting point for data analysis in HR practice is the Workforce Analytics upSkill™, a micro-credential from HRCI.
Talent acquisition and management is another growing area of HR expertise. Even in a strained economy, employers pay a premium to bring on talent acquisition and management specialists, Luther says. Companies want to come out of the recession with talent in the right places to swiftly and confidently move forward. “They need strategic leaders to think about three, six and 12 months from now,” she adds.
Specialists in talent management are in demand to help the workforce adapt and remain engaged through change. “People are realizing how important employee engagement is right now,” Luther says. Higher employee engagement levels are linked to higher productivity and higher profits. Finding ways to engage the workforce as candidates and across the employee life cycle is vital.
A remote work environment only adds to the challenge. Sears notes that companies that remain entirely remote will need HR’s support in developing virtual hiring and onboarding practices. Generating high engagement at the beginning of an employee’s journey with your company will help them form stronger bonds with your culture and their co-workers, even in a remote environment.
In recent years, other functions that fall under the HR umbrella have become more critical. These include initiatives such as learning and development (L&D) and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), as well as the need to revamp compensation and benefits to support mental health and to accommodate transitions into the global market.
L&D is essential for keeping workforce skills relevant in a continually changing environment. Organizations need HR professionals who can analyze the workforce and establish pathways for reskilling current workers. Many organizations have DEI programs; however, interest in evaluating these programs’ efficacy has increased.
The global pandemic has exposed weaknesses in traditional compensation and benefit plans, especially in mental health and wellness. “Organizations are relooking at a lot of their benefits,” Sears points out. “They need benefits and compensation professionals to analyze prices to get some of those benefits added to their plans.” Historically these services have been underutilized, but more organizations are realizing the importance of good mental health across the workforce.
Companies face the challenge of managing a global workforce. They require HR professionals who can balance developing standardized global policies and implementing those policies amid regional laws and cultures. HR professionals who hold a Global Professional in Human Resources® (GPHR®) certification have the advantage of verified global HR experience.
The HR job outlook remains robust. Having a strong talent strategy is essential to business success where HR leaders continue to play a vital role in the new economy.