How HR Can Live Up to Its Name

Jul 21, 2014

August CoverIt seems as if we learn of a new scientific or technological breakthrough every day—something that allows us to do more, faster and with greater ease. But for HR professionals, each innovation warrants tough questions: What does it mean for my company and the people whose jobs depend on the legacy processes? And what does it mean for our profession?

Last year, two demographic researchers estimated that 47 percent of all American jobs will be replaced by machines or software in the next one to two decades. One futurist predicts that 2 billion jobs worldwide will disappear by 2030. This is a sweeping transformation for which people, businesses and even nations are not prepared.

This is the time for the HR profession to double down on the “human” in human resource management and live up to our name like never before.

Peter Drucker first introduced the term “human resources” in The Practice of Management 60 years ago. It is as obvious now as it was then: Every business needs people. But today’s businesses have alternatives in some areas. Technology can get certain tasks done faster, cheaper and without the distractions of us humans.

According to Drucker, however, humans have the unique ability to imagine. Similarly, Oxford researchers have said that for workers to “win the race,” they will have to “display creative and social skills.” The maker of one popular industrial robot put it another way: “The human workforce is getting a promotion.”

In response, we need to take a cue from the technology we know and love, and upgrade ourselves. We must develop our knowledge, skills and abilities so that we create more value in our organizations that technology can’t reproduce.

HR professionals are in the most important position to guide organizations through this change. We are the business leaders who can prepare workers for new, higher-skilled jobs through training, upskilling and re-skilling. We have the expertise to find the talent every business will need. And we know how to build cultures that unleash the unique advantages of humans.

The key: We must be ready to lead. This month’s issue of HR Magazine can help, with features on navigating the culture clashes that come with mergers, addressing problem management, using social performance management and more. The Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) HR Competency Model and new SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP certifications are other strategies you can use to succeed and grow. And you can always turn to SHRM for leading-edge resources, tools and information.

Even with the might of machines, the most important driver of business success will continue to be people—because the only truly unlimited resource we have is human potential. Unleashing that potential is what we do, and it is how the HR profession can live up to its name in the vastly different future that lies ahead.

SHRM will be there with you.


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