Prediction 9: HR teams will get a new design and a new focus on professional development

By Josh Bersin Jan 7, 2015

In the 1960s and 1970s, HR was viewed as a back-office personnel function. In the 1980s and 1990s, it became focused on service to managers and employees. In the last 10 years, it has turned into a function focused on optimizing all areas of talent. Today, HR professionals must operate as skilled consultants embedded in the business.

The highest-performing HR teams use a series of unique strategies, which Deloitte encourages all organizations to consider in 2015:

  • Reduce the number of HR generalists and replace them with a fewer number of senior HR business partners. These senior roles function as business-led consultants, working with line leaders to identify talent programs, design solutions and direct the efforts of specialists in the centers of excellence to help with recruiting, leadership development, employee relations, coaching, training, planning and more.
  • Shift the focus of “centers of expertise” to “networks of expertise,” so that specialists in recruitment, training, employee relations and other parts of HR are all connected to each other and some are embedded in the business. Many functions should be centralized—technology, leadership development, vendor management, tools and methods—but the entire specialist group should function as a “network,” not a corporate “center.”
  • Invest in research, benchmarking and professional development. Deloitte research shows that the highest-performing HR teams spend a significant amount of money in these areas, maintaining their edge and keeping their teams current on what’s going on in the outside world. This small investment can pay for itself many times over.
  • Refocus your hiring and training toward the new competencies of high-impact HR teams. Today’s HR staff must understand technology, statistics and business, as well as traditional HR. More and more HR executives say they want MBAs and business leaders on their teams. Modern HR professionals diagnose problems and push innovative solutions; they don’t just “help people” and try to make everyone happy.

2015 will bring a fast-growing economy, forcing HR teams to step up their game and provide even more value to CEOs and top-level business leaders. Resolve to take this time to refocus and re-engineer HR itself, and you’ll be happy you did.

Bonus Prediction: Think Bold

Finally, 2015 is the time to be bold, innovative and forward-thinking. Technological changes and other societal developments are rapidly transforming the workplace. Yesterday’s approaches to recruiting, performance management, training and even compensation don’t necessarily make sense today. We need to re-engineer the workplace and rethink the way we attract, engage and manage people.

I urge HR teams in 2015 to try something new and benchmark their organization against others. Visit other companies, keep up on research, and go to industry conferences. That will give you the confidence and insight to try new things and deliver bold solutions that drive your business forward.

Josh Bersin is the principal and founder of Bersin by Deloitte, a research and advisory consulting firm in enterprise learning and talent management.

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