How HR Has Changed Over Time

Gone are the days of listing job postings on bulletin boards and keeping thick files of paperwork on every employee. HR has gone digital and that technological shift, along with a younger workforce, has changed the role of human resources departments.

The history of human resources dates back to the late 1800s, when industrial welfare workers inspected factories and helped to regulate hours for a workforce that included children. In the early 1900s, the National Cash Register Co. created a personnel department to manage grievances following a series of strikes. This was the beginning of HR as we know it.

But how is HR different today than it was even 10-20 years ago? Here are four areas in which human resources is changing radically.

How is HR different today than it was even 10-20 years ago? Click To Tweet

HR as Strategic Business Partner

Then: HR was almost a separate entity from the rest of the company. They were there to handle payroll, benefits, and resolve conflicts when needed. The human resources department was more of a cost center than a revenue producer.

Now: More and more companies are utilizing the HR business partner model, where human resources works closely with senior management to develop goals and a strategic plan for accomplishing those goals. It’s a big-picture role that adds tangible value to the company.

Powerful human resources tools can now automate many of the tasks that used to consume HR’s time. Now, HR can focus on the tasks that add the most value, such as recruiting the best talent, developing programs to retain top in-house talent, and analyzing data to identify inefficiencies or problem areas.

Culture Building

Then: Company “culture” pretty much entailed free coffee, an Employee of the Month plaque, and the annual holiday party. HR was in the business of processing paperwork and personnel management.   

Now: Personnel management has shifted to people management. HR focuses on building a company brand that will attract the best people. Once they’ve gotten talent in the door, HR needs to ensure that those people stay engaged, feel a sense of purpose, and see a path for personal and professional growth.

A strong company brand, healthy culture, and high employment engagement are three sides of a triangle. It’s hard to be strong in one area without the other two being equally strong. And because HR is responsible for recruiting employees and fostering a positive workplace, they’re pivotal in achieving this triangle of success.

Reinventing Reviews

Then: Employees would have one or two reviews per year. They would often go into reviews not knowing whether management was happy with their performance.

Now: Companies are adopting more agile feedback and performance management processes. Regular manager-employee check-ins and real-time feedback provide opportunities for coaching, encourage employee growth, and eliminate the stress of annual reviews.

In fact, 85% of millennials say they would feel more confident if performance conversations with managers happened more frequently.

Companies are adopting more agile feedback and performance management processes. Click To Tweet

Managing the Remote Workforce

Then: Working remotely meant business trips, racking up frequent flier miles to meet with clients or visit satellite offices.

Now: Working remotely means working from the comfort of home. Or your favorite coffee shop. Or your Airbnb in Europe. Gallup research shows that 43% of American employees work remotely at least part of the time, and the ability to work from anywhere is a major selling point for recruiters. But that also means that HR needs to ensure remote workers are staying engaged and integrated in company culture.

Gallup research shows that 43% of American employees work remotely at least part of the time Click To Tweet

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