Viewpoint: 3 Trends That Have Transformed HR

By Ebony Thomas July 9, 2019
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​Let's face it, the employment landscape has changed dramatically over the past two decades. Employers, employees and job seekers have witnessed how technology and demographic shifts have changed the hiring process. New technology, the shift in needed skills and demographic changes in the population have reshaped the hiring process and human resource management.

Technology Transformation

One of the fundamental shifts in human resources is the widespread use of information technology. IT has become an integral part of how people interact, connect and communicate, so it's no surprise that IT has had a transformational effect on employment and hiring. In their Modern Job Search Report, tech recruiter iCIMS found that 92 percent of all job seekers use employer reviews as a basis of application choice. Likewise, employers now rely heavily on professional networks and social networks to fill positions. IT has contributed greatly to transparency in hiring with such online services as Payscale, Glassdoor and Indeed providing salary information for industries and employee reviews for a wide number of companies. Hence, technology-based services have become a major player in hiring and human resource management. 

Many employers have changed the way they view and use information technology. In the past 30 years, management has had a love-hate relationship with social networking. Seventy-five percent of companies banned employees from accessing social networks in 2006, including access to popular email services like Gmail, Yahoo mail and Hotmail. A decade later, only 29 percent of employers block or monitor website traffic in the workplace. Most companies now use social media to boost employee engagement and attract talent. In 2017, as much as 71 percent of U.S. companies have now gone embraced social media and instant messaging as ways of communicating with employees. More companies understand and value the importance of real-time, fluid feedback. HR professionals are finding new ways of integrating IT services in hiring processes and human resource management.

"Due to an increasingly distributed workforce, the widespread adoption of mobile technologies and a changing employee demographic, [HR]is getting reshaped and is becoming more data- and artificial-intelligence driven," said George Elfond, CEO at Rallyware, a workforce training and engagement technology company based in San Francisco.

IT also has transformed the recruitment process, simplifying how employers and job seekers connect with each other. Employers and recruiters have a plethora of ways to find the best talent to fill available positions. From professional social networks to digital staffing agencies and e-lancing websites, they now have a global reach and are no longer restricted to local talent. In the same way, recruiters are now able to contact applicants through both professional and social networks. Technology has made finding talent simpler.

The Skills Shift Phenomenon

While there are still a lot of industries that rely heavily on manual labor, much of the growth in labor demands have been in service, knowledge work, entertainment and health care.

"Skill shifts will play out differently across sectors," said Jack Bughin, HR manager at the McKinsey Global Institute. "Health care, for example, will see a rising need for physical skills, even as demand for them declines in manufacturing and other sectors." While the recent public discussion about jobs has focused on a slow decline in manufacturing employment, the tipping point from white to blue collar jobs was in 1956, the first year white-collar jobs outnumbered blue-collar jobs in America. The skills shift in American labor has been a long time coming.

The American workforce now faces a skills gap, with demand for highly skilled labor and knowledge workers greater than the number of available job seekers. Researchers Lisa Kahn and Brad Hershbein at Yale University found that the hardest hit labor markets in the country experienced the highest level of up-skilling demands. In turn, this has created a skills gap in metropolitan areas that experienced slow recovery after the Great Recession. Despite earnest efforts to protect semi-skilled and unskilled jobs, the skill shift is a labor phenomenon that will shape the labor market of the future, they say.

Demographic Changes and Millennials

Many Baby Boomers are retiring, and generational changes in the workplace deliver a wave of Millennials and Generation Z employees, who have a very different outlook and expectation of work.

Millennial job seekers seek positions that suit their professional as well as personal goals. Over 91 percent of Millennials look at their prospective employers' online reviews and online company reputations, and HR experts report a shift in the way talent is recruited as a result. A combination of the changing economy, the skills shift, the skills gap and the rise of the gig economy has led to dramatic changes in hiring, motivating, appraising, controlling and rewarding employees. Millennials have grown up in a fast-changing world and this is reflected in the way they view and approach work. More than Baby Boomers, Millennials ask for work-life balance and personal well-being. HR has adapted to provide these benefits to attract and retain this highly educated and skilled demographic.

"Companies that give Millennial workers the latitude to choose where and how to work ultimately win by retaining and keeping the best Millennial talent," said Actualize Consulting HR Director Kerry Wekelo.

The demographic shift in the American labor force has coincided with the up-skilling trend in labor. One of the effects of the Great Recession has been the growing demand for highly skilled labor. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics noted this shift in the demand for work post-2009. Most of the fastest-growing industries require highly skilled labor. Since 2007, the technology industry has grown by 296 percent and healthcare is seeing a 121 percent increase in job creation over the past three years. In many of the industries with the highest growth, up-skilling and the hiring of highly skilled workers are two common trends. The majority of Millennials have attended college and 47 percent of them have a post-secondary degree and are able to meet the requirements for highly skilled jobs.

Employers, employees and job seekers have adapted to new trends in the labor market brought about by changes in the economy, demographics and the growth of new industries. HR professionals have leveraged the same technology to create positive change and innovation in their organizations to meet the new demands and challenges of the labor market. The dynamics of the American workforce are changing and the HR profession has changed alongside it.

Ebony Thomas is the CEO of EMT Group in Charlotte, N.C., and has over 10 years of experience as a business consultant, HR manager, career coach and writer, and is a certified resume writer. 

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