How is the role of HR changing?

The role of the HR department is integral to any business but in recent years it has undergone a paradigm shift, becoming a much more crucial part in attracting and retaining talent and delivering business growth.

HR departments are becoming both strategic and employee-centric in their approach as they look to attract, and retain, top talent that will enable all departments to meet business objectives. So, how exactly has HR changed within businesses and where is it headed?

Traditional role of HR

Historically, the first duties of the HR department were to hire, pay and manage staff. This one-dimensional use of the HR function meant that business and executive agendas were looked after, but there was not much scope beyond that.

While the need for company policies still exist, HR departments have already begun to move away from being board-centric to become employee-centric.

HR is now about adding value

The CIPD states – “HR is about helping an organisation to create value through its people – literally providing human resources.”

HR departments are stepping away from being service-led and instead executing work with an employee-first approach. HR professionals who are looking to future-proof the success of a business will be aiming to provide a valuable experience to everyone who interacts with it – and this begins with the workforce.

We all, at some point, have had a terrible customer service experience. But have you considered whether the person providing the bad customer experience is having a terrible employee experience? It’s not always the case, of course, but it demonstrates how easily the morale of the workforce can impact the business itself.

Leading brands are beginning to create positions such as ‘chief culture officer’ or ‘chief employee experience officer’ to embed a value-led proposition or to create environments that reflect the emphasis on employee training and development.

The overarching change for HR is identifying the areas in the business where value can be added for the workforce.

Making employee experience and employer brand a priority

The experience employees undergo will be mirrored in the experience provided to customers. Along with the day-to-day employee management, the HR department is required to really bring out the ‘human’ element of human resources.

HR is driving change when it comes to employee engagement and experience because the spotlight is now being shone on the impact this has when it comes to driving business growth. HR is crucial to business growth, so it’s important the department offers innovative approaches and strategies that improve employee and candidate experience.

Of course, a great employee experience also reflects well on the business as an employer and results in increased productivity.

HR in the information age

First and foremost, HR must align with marketing teams when it comes to reflecting the employer brand online – the two departments cannot work in silo and expect to attract the desired candidates. Knowing who your target candidates are will help the two departments create a cohesive strategy.

The journey into digital doesn’t stop there. Advances in technology mean analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning are enabling HR professionals to make traditional processes more efficient, but the flip-side to this is those working within the HR department are expected to be agile and flexible when it comes to working at the pace a modern business requires. A report by KPMG found that 39% of HR managers are implementing new technology such as AI and analytics.

HR professionals must view themselves as strategic partners

Those working in HR need to understand their role no longer revolves around employee administration, but instead one that provides a valuable contribution to the development and growth of a business.

By acquiring talent that will not just fill a vacancy but will be an asset to the business and actively help it to meet its objectives, HR departments can actively contribute to the success of the company and its workforce.

Of course, the HR department will continue to work closely with the ongoing needs of the business workforce, from both perspectives. Managing employees is no longer about empty training plans that are nothing more than a tick-box exercise, or a ‘three strikes and you are out’ approach.

It’s about truly grasping that employees are only human, with personal and professional goals, a life beyond work that can provide happiness and challenges. It’s about creating personalised and robust development plans, appraisal systems, honouring reward and recognition consistently.

What does a modern HR professional look like?

The modern HR professional requires a whole host of skills and competencies to help fulfil a varied and crucial role within the business. We’ve listed some of these below:

A collaborator

Those working in HR are required to work in collaboration with many other departments within a business, with individuals from varying backgrounds and positions.

A good leader

As HR is now taking an employee-centric approach, the department requires individuals who are looking to lead the business in this direction, as well as designing a framework for other department heads or those in senior positions to do the same. They must set the standard when it comes to ethical behaviour and creating a workplace culture and environment that is inclusive and represents company values.

A visionary

The modern HR professional must possess vision and be able to effectively evaluate where value can be added and where change is required to reflect the new approach. Individuals must have the confidence to speak out to drive change and influence others within the business.

Agile and responsive

The fast-paced nature of technology requires the HR team to be innovative and agile in their approach, embracing and implementing the technology that will make their processes not only more efficient, but remove the possibility of bias from impacting any decisions.

Someone with business acumen

HR professionals need to behave as business partners. A good understanding of the business operations and financials are essential if the HR department is going to make a positive impact.

About the Author

Anne Corder

Anne Corder


Whilst still actively handling recruitment assignments, Anne specialises in Human Resources with many years of experience in that sector. She blogs on wider recruitment issues affecting both candidates and clients, commenting and offering tips and advice to help achieve the right outcomes.