Three Bold Predictions for the HR Department of 2020

This is a guest post by Erin Osterhaus, the managing editor of Software Advice's HR blog, The New Talent Times. She focuses on the HR market, offering advice to industry professionals on the best recruiting, talent management and leadership techniques. You can follow her on Twitter and Google+, or contact her directly at

What will the HR department of 2020 look like? How will the HR function change and why? And what can HR professionals and HR software vendors do to prepare?

Earlier this month, Software Advice, a firm that serves as a matchmaker between HR software vendors and buyers, interviewed nine HR experts to see what they had to say in response to these questions. While some have predicted the demise of the HR function as a result of software, the experts see these changes more as an opportunity for HR professionals to expand their horizons and increase their value to the company. 

Prediction 1: In-house HR will downsize and outsourcing will increase.
This prediction may seem somewhat, well, predictable. But the reasons experts give for the change might surprise you.

Industry analyst Brian Sommer, the founder of TechVentive, claims a shift to smaller HR departments will be caused by new technologies and increased employee participation in HR processes. He says, “Many businesses are going to get a lot of capability done by better technology, more self-service and the employee doing a lot on their own.” For instance, employees will increasingly input their own data into self-service systems.

In addition, many transaction-heavy HR jobs will be outsourced entirely to HR agencies or specialists. Dr. Janice Presser, CEO of The Gabriel Institute, goes so far as to say, “Entry-level HR jobs, as they currently exist, will all but disappear as transactional tasks are consigned to outsourced services.”

However, despite these changes, the internal HR function will survive. As Chip Luman, the COO of HireVue, explains, “Given the ongoing regulatory environment, the need to pay, provide benefits, manage employee relations issues, and process information will go on.”

Prediction 2: The pendulum will swing back to the specialist.
Janine Truitt, chief innovations officer of Talent Think Innovations, says she has observed a cyclical shift in the HR field over the years. As she explains, “Every decade or so we fluctuate back and forth from the paradigm of the independent contributor/specialist to the generalist practitioner. We were in a ‘generalist’ mode, and now I think the pendulum may be swinging back toward the specialist.”

Luman puts it even more directly: “HR generalists as we know them will disappear.”

Elizabeth Brashears, the director of Human Capital Consulting at TriNet HR, agrees, and notes, “There will be more specialized roles. I believe this to be the case as the employment landscape becomes more complex with changing regulations around employment law and benefit compliance with the Affordable Care Act.”

Prediction 3: HR will need to become more like marketing.
Sommer says that “recruiting is going to become more like marketing.” In particular, he suggests recruiters begin to “identify specific micro-segments of either job seekers or job holders that you want to target to bring into your firm, just like a marketing firm would.”

Meanwhile, Scot Marcotte, Barry Hall and Steve Coco at Buck Consultants predict the entire HR department will need to think like marketers. As they say, “HR will evolve the ‘internal marketing’ role to include social marketing coordination and brand ownership, that is, outside talent ‘buying’ into the brand — the company — to potentially work in the organization.”

Advice to Prepare for 2020
What can current HR professionals and software vendors begin doing now to prepare for these predicted changes? The experts all endorse one tactic: keep learning. Trying new things and actively networking will help, too.

Dr. Presser advises those in the HR field to "get ahead of the curve." “Realize that many of today’s ‘best practices’ evolved under very different business conditions, and may well become obsolete within this decade. Learn everything you can about your industry, your competitors and pending legislation that affects your business operations. Most of all, define yourself as a businessperson and act accordingly.”

Additionally, Luman encourages HR professionals to develop their own personal brand. As he says, “Network inside and outside of your field. Blog, communicate, read and help others achieve success. If you are not outside of your comfort zone, you are stagnating.”

As for software vendors, Sommer advises expansion, and emphasizes the need for the eventual creation of a single global HR solution. As he says, “Everybody can do business with people all over the planet now, and I think tech companies have no choice but to continue to expand into more and more countries. In time we might actually see a world getting closer and closer to a single product being able to support the needs and requirements of a global workforce. We’re not there yet, and we won’t be there for probably many years — if ever — but we’re gonna get closer to that over time. ” 

The ideas in this blog post are covered in more detail in Erin Osterhaus' article "The HR Department of 2020: 6 Bold Predictions." For the full article, click here.

Labels: , ,