Long regarded as a “soft” function, human resources now play a predominant role in external and internal company strategy. New technologies (i.e., social media and mobile phones) are part of our day-to-day lives, simultaneously transforming the way we work, communicate and manage. The impact of these socio-economic changes is of utter importance for human resources departments and HR managers, now responsible for promoting the employment brand, attracting new talents, developing employee commitment and performance, etc. Consequently, it is no longer necessary to wonder whether or not the HR function must create added value for the company, but rather how it will manage this in a constantly evolving socio-organisational environment.

New Operational Issues for Human Resources

We are done with purely legal or administrative human resources. Nowadays, human resources departments act as true “Business Partners” within the company. No matter the company’s size, HR is now perceived as an essential actor for strategic decision-making at the heart of the executive committee.  As such, its missions have evolved. Today’s HR is more operational, in direct line with the company’s global strategy. In addition to dealing with recruitment and compensation, HR also sustains structural changes, anticipates employment evolutions, measures the added value brought by collaborators, and so on. This is how HR works in conjunction with the other departments. For instance, it can perform social auditing in the same way as it would a financial audit, or control what actually affects productivity: turn-over, absenteeism, etc. Nonetheless, the current socio-economic context only raises the expectations of management committees regarding the HR function. Companies now wish to focus on activities with “hard” added value (human capital development, talent management, social peace, etc.), all while controlling administrative costs and efficiency. Reaching such a balance can be a delicate issue.

Toward an Evolution of the HR Function: Challenges for the Future

In certain cases, this “Business Partner” role does have its limits. Line managers are always eager to benefit from thorough HR follow-up on various social relational issues, and on less mastered subjects such workplace wellbeing. Nowadays, collaborators seek social belonging, even in their professional lives. The modern employee is connected, equipped with different communication devices that enable the free expression of his opinions and, most of the time, without having a clue as to what the consequences for his company may turn out to be. Current HRs must therefore ensure employee satisfaction and commitment in order to manage their branded image to their best. This can impact talent recruitment, necessary to the company’s development. All this represents a considerable challenge for HR: To integrate social media to talent management as a whole, not only to hiring processes. This aspect must be thought through seriously. Indeed, by 2020, Generation Y will represent an average 50% of companies.

In conclusion, the “HR Business Partner” designation has widely expanded over the last few years.  However, in order to serenely achieve the operational evolution of these missions, the HR function must apprehend the new upcoming challenges in order to stand as a key stakeholder of the company’s corporate DNA. One question does remain unanswered: How can one find the right balance between “Strategic Business Partner” and “HR Expert”? With the rise of new technologies that revolutionise our working habits, HR must be at the front line to master the socio-organisational changes caused by this impact in business.

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