5 Forces Shaping the Future of HR

By John Boudreau

What economic, social and workplace forces will be most pivotal in affecting the future of talent management and HR?

In September, more than 30 top human resources officers and leaders volunteered to map the future of the profession, along with how to meet its future potential.

At the end the leaders were convinced that HR required a step-change in its evolution to achieve its potential and meet accelerating organizational demands. The discovery spawned CHREATE, or The Global Consortium to Reimagine HR, Employment Alternatives, Talent and the Enterprise. The leaders set their sights on the year 2025, a 10-year horizon that futurists suggest is sufficiently distant to break from the inertia of tradition, yet still sufficiently close to be envisioned.

These leaders knew that a future vision cannot perfectly describe the challenges. So they set out to provide an outline that talent leaders might use to identify how these trends and implications might define their organization in 2025.

Exponential Technology Change

Technological breakthroughs produce exponential disruptions in markets and business. The rapid adoption of robots, autonomous vehicles, commoditized sensors, artificial intelligence and global collaboration that renews the rethinking of work and global commerce are all poised to have influence in 2025.

Organizations and talent leaders may respond by engaging flexible, distributed and transient workforces that adapt to rapid cycles of business reinvention while also becoming more accurate in choosing big long-term bets and more flexible when predictions are uncertain. Workers must successfully engage with automation and adapt to transitions with more frequent job loss and rapid skills obsolescence.

Social, Organizational Reconfiguration

Increased democratization of work will likely shift organizational forms toward more power-balanced organizations and communities with more project-based relationships. Talent is likely to increasingly engage based on aligned purpose. Organizations and talent leaders may respond with networks replacing hierarchies and social and external collaborations as vital elements of product and service development. Leadership becomes horizontal, shared and collective. Talent sourcing and engagement happens through diverse models.

A Truly Connected World

Human connections are poised to increase through inexpensive mobile devices, wearables and other personal interfaces. New media enables global and real-time communications to accelerate ideation, product development and go-to-market strategies.  Organizations, their operations and their effect are likely to be globally transparent to a variety of communities of stakeholders. Work is sourced from anywhere at any time, and organizations and talent leaders respond with extremely short product development and release cycles with immediate feedback.

All-Inclusive Global Talent Market

Work in 2025 is likely to be seamlessly distributed around the globe with 24/7 operations. Greater longevity allows mature talent to work longer. Women and nonwhite ethnicities become talent market majorities.  Social policies evolve to support boundaryless work relationships. Organizations and talent leaders respond by increasingly segmenting work and directing it through virtual collaboration.

Leaders engage and address highly varied and differentiated cultural preferences in policies, practices, work designs, pay and benefits, and manage a workforce that extends beyond regular full-time employees. Workers choose organizations with environmental and social impact, purpose and the opinions of socially connected peers and opinion leaders in mind.

Human-Machine Collaboration

Analytics, algorithms, big data and automation are likely to enhance productivity and decision-making, but smarter computing also automates and abolishes tasks previously performed by humans. Organizations and talent leaders respond by migrating tasks to machines or robots and mastering big data. They maintain external partnerships to augment capabilities beyond their regular employees and create workforce transitions that maintain their reputation as a fair and attractive place to work.

As a result, talent and organization leaders must form strong social and community relationships and master the ethics of collaboration with far more varied constituents.

 How will these trends affect you and your organization?