What does the future hold for human resources as the workforce becomes increasingly fragmented, as more people work around the clock and as "the office" ceases to be a fixed location? In two previous posts we have examined the death of the office and what these changes mean to workers themselves. This post will attempt to answer a few questions about what a changing workplace - and workforce - means for HR.

According to Aimee Groth and Max Nisen, the authors of this Future of Business series sponsored by SAP, outsourcing, an increasing use of freelancers and contract workers, the rise of global Internet adoption and ever-improving mobile tools will fundamentally change the workplace.

They say that words such as freedom, autonomy and flexibility will be spoken at all types of companies, and not just tech start-ups.

The transformational changes aren't limited to technology tools, office spaces and office hours though.

I recently gave a presentation to the Twin Cities Human Resource Association, a large chapter affiliated nationally with the Society for Human Resource Management. My topic was how to make first impressions last, and what happens when HR  pros think of themselves as sales people and a touchpoint for the brand.

[caption id="attachment_19452" align="alignright" width="300" caption="David Gee speaking at TCHRA"][/caption]

During my talk, I referenced some eye-opening statistics from the new Daniel Pink book To Sell Is Human. In a chapter called "Entrepreneurship, Elasticity and Ed-Med," he writes about the future of the workforce.

  • The research firm IDC estimates that 30% of American workers now work on their own, and that by 2015, the number of freelancers, contractors, consultants and the like will reach 1.3 billion.
  • Some analysts project that in the U.S., the ranks of these independent entrepreneurs may grow by 65 million in the rest of the decade and could become a majority of the American workforce by 2020.
  • According to research by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, 54% of the 18-34 age group wants to start their own business or has already done so.
  • In 16 Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development Countries (OECD), including France, Mexico and Sweden, more than 90% of the businesses in those countries have fewer than 10 employees.
  • Economist Lawrence Katz projects that middle class employment of the future won't be employees of large organizations, but rather "self-sufficient artisans."

This obviously has some significant ramifications for HR pros and hiring managers. To fill your jobs of the future, you might not be competing with other companies down the street, or even across the country. You might be competing with the idea your potential job candidate has of making a living working from a local coffee shop or shared space with their smartphone and a tablet.

[caption id="attachment_19445" align="alignright" width="80" caption="Steve Jewell"][/caption]

Steve Jewell is a recruiter for SRF Consulting Group in Minneapolis, and has over two decades of progressive recruiting and human resource experience across a range of business sectors and industries. He is also the volunteer VP of Member Engagement & Retention for the TCHRA and was the one who asked me to speak.

He says he sees the following as some of the most important challenges facing the profession:

  • Aging workforce/knowledge transfer as 10,000 Baby Boomers retire and leave the workforce every day.
  • How to manage work/life choices with an increasingly multigenerational workforce.
  • Outsourcing of classic HR functions such as payroll/HRIS, benefits administration and even recruiting services.
  • How to incorporate and best utilize tablets, smartphones, WebX, Skype, the cloud, etc.
  • How to manage the cost - and delivery - of health care, both as an employe benefit and a cost of doing business.

Beth Petersen, Human Resources Manager at GTN Shared Services in Minneapolis, was also at the TCHRA event, and shared a couple of her thoughts on future challenges for HR.

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"Recruiting is only going to get more difficult with the changing demographics of the workplace," she said. "Shortages in highly skilled areas such as IT, Engineering and Finance to name a few, are giving candidates a wide variety of options, so organizations really need to be cognizant of their 'employment brand' and how they live out that brand."

And that, she says, leads to the next challenge. Namely, engagement and retention of those employees.

"The statistic you shared in your presentation about more and more of the workforce being solopreneurs is a trend I believe will continue to rise," said Petersen. "Younger workers simply aren't staying with companies as long as previous generations. Keeping your current workforce engaged and progressing in their careers is a huge issue for HR practitioners to tackle. But it's also an area where we can have a real impact by consulting with leadership at our companies and organizations and implementing programs to address these areas."

Another person I met at the TCHRA event, Katie Farley, is Director of Business Development at Dolphin Group Companies, and the new member orientation team lead at TCHRA.

[caption id="attachment_19454" align="alignright" width="80" caption="Katie Farley"][/caption]

Farley says keeping up on employment law-related issues is a constant challenge for the industry.

And she, as well as Petersen and Farley, all agree that organizations such as TCHRA, and other SHRM chapters, can help them face those challenges through speakers, events and the chance to share ideas and talk openly about best practices and lessons learned.

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges ahead for HR? Are there some things that didn't get mentioned that loom big in your world?

Tags: Recruiters, News, Freelancers, HR, HR Trends, Independent contractors, Recruitment, SHRM, Outsourcing, Changing demographics, Contractors, Fragmented workforce, HR outsourcing, Mobile technology, Outsourcing employment, Society for Human Resource Management Conference