Future Focus


By Jennifer Schramm December 1, 2007

HR Magazine, December 2007 HR's New Contours

Developments in the HR profession as well as trends in the wider labor market are likely to influence the roles and responsibilities of the HR professional and the demographic characteristics and backgrounds of those who ultimately enter the field.

The 2007 HR Careers Survey Report, released in November by the Society for Human Resource Management, provides insight into how the demographics of HR practitioners could be changing over time and what those changes could mean for the profession in the coming decades.

For example, 80 percent of the random sample of HR professionals surveyed were women. This appears to reflect the shift that has taken place during the past 50 years in the gender balance within the profession, especially since the gender imbalance in favor of women appears to be greatest among the HR professionals in the youngest age groups.

While women appear to substantially outnumber men in HR overall, slightly more than half of the respondents at the C-suite level were women. But trends suggest that women will increase their presence throughout the ranks of HR. The vast majority of HR professionals possess at least a bachelor's degree, and broader trends in education--such as women surpassing men in college degree attainment--are likely to continue to influence the gender breakdown of the profession.

Moreover, those trends most likely will increase the numbers of female HR executives at the C-suite level. Another demographic aspect of the survey centers on differences between generations in how and when they entered the profession. Currently, the most frequently cited methods of entering HR are internal promotions or transfers. Yet younger HR professionals appear more likely to have entered the profession upon graduation from college after having studied HR.

The growing number of universities and business schools offering degrees in human resource management, coupled with the increasing awareness of human resource management as a field with expanding opportunities for career development, suggests a future where many will enter the profession after having studied HR management as an academic discipline.

The findings indicate that the HR profession is in many ways a leading indicator of broader business and education trends: It is a knowledge-based profession with an increasing need for more skilled and educated professionals as baby boomers approach retirement--a profession tapping into the growing base of women, particularly young women, with college degrees.

Jennifer Schramm is Manager of Workplace Trends and Forecasting Program at SHRM.

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