People & Leadership

HR in 2030: What does the future of HR look like?

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“We all knew the world of work had to change; the pandemic has made the business case and built a strong momentum. HR have a more powerful platform than ever before.”

We couldn’t agree more with Deborah Wilkes, managing director of Enable-HR.

The past few years have been a roller coaster, but it’s made HR more resilient as a result. It’s redefined HR and accelerated some of the changes HR have wanted for a long time.

In fact, 87% of C-suite executives told us in our HR in the moment: changing expectations of HR research report that they saw HR having greater influence.

Now’s a great time for HR to build on the positive shifts they’ve made.

So, with that in mind, what does the future of HR hold?

We’ve spoken to the HR and People experts from around the globe in our latest report, HR in 2030: 5 trends progressive People leaders need to know to get ahead.

While the trends we’ve identified shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, it’s important to note that some HR and People teams have already made great strides towards incorporating these into their HR strategies, while others are earlier on in their journey to adopting them.

We’ll look at how these HR trends are set to shift over the coming years and how you can get ahead and prepare now.

It’s a real star-studded line up of HR experts.

We’d recommend downloading the full report – but if you’re strapped for time, read on for the highlights of the five trends and a summary of the advice the HR experts give to prepare you for HR in 2030.

Here’s what we cover:

1. HR in 2030: Revolutionized employee experiences that truly meet employee expectations

2. HR in 2030: HR leading the charge on organizational flexibility

3. HR in 2030: Investment in People analytics to become a ‘smart’ business

4. HR in 2030: HR automation means admin liberation

5. HR in 2030: Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and sustainability needs to be front and center of HR’s agenda – now

HR in 2030: What should you expect?

Workers want more.

Even today, employees’ expectations for their work extend well beyond pay and compensation and more than half of employees say they want a better work-life balance.

They want to be valued as more than just simply human capital, so they feel they’re making a difference in the world as part of an organization that truly values them and respects them.

By 2030, workstyles are expected to continue to significantly shift as a result, largely driven by Gen-Z, explains Mel Norris-Green, research adviser at CIPD.

“The world of work is changing,” she says, “and the remit of HR needs to shift in line with this. HR will need to juggle things like changing employer-employee expectations.”

To meet with these new employee expectations, HR will need to become even more People-focused and employee-centric, and they’ll need to really think about how they put the ‘human’ back in HR.

Part of this will be considering employee wellbeing.

“It’s important to reflect on what we learned and make sure we take it forward, while employing newly found skills in remote work, wellbeing and productivity,” says Josh Bersin, CEO of The Josh Bersin Company.

Finally, HR will need to have a laser focus on the link between expectations, experiences and business goals, suggests Ray Wang. He’s the founder and chairman of Constellation Research.

“HR’s mission will shift to reflecting the brand values,” he says, “ensuring that employee experience matches the mission and purpose of the company.”

Employees’ expectations are always shifting, but HR will need to keep on top of these to make sure employees continue to feel happy and productive.

A year before the pandemic, just 29% of HR leaders were organized for speed, adaptability and agility.

Yet, when the pandemic rolled around, it changed the world of work massively and instantly.

Organizations that were already set up for agility were at a considerable advantage. If there was one thing that helped HR to manage this ever-changing landscape, it was being fluid, resilient and agile.

Looking ahead to 2030, HR will need to prepare and lead organizations with their newfound agility and confidence, no matter how unexpected the change.

As Mofoluwaso Ilevbare, head of HR at Procter & Gamble Australia and New Zealand rightly point out, it’ll enable HR leaders “to make intelligent choices faster and accelerate business performance”.

To really be agile and flexible, it requires HR to think outside of the box.

“I expect HR to move into more innovative, emergent practices,” explains Perry Timms, founder and chief energy officer at People & Transformational HR.

Jon Ingham, director of Strategic HR Academy, agrees and believes that innovation needs to be in how HR is organized within the business.

“HR will no longer be a function,” he says. Instead, it will become “a more inclusive network, in which HR spends more time with the rest of the business, and others from the business work with us in HR”.

It’s not just HR that will need to become more flexible, but employees too. And this centers around ways of working and the role of HR technology in that.

“If the current predictions of a more flexible future do materialise,” says Gemma Dale, author and lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University, “then tech will play a key role, as successful hybrid working is only really viable with good technology.”

If anyone in your organization can be the voice of agility, it’s your HR team.

Lead from the front, experiment and fail fast, and you’ll not only help your HR team to really move towards something exciting in 2030, but you’ll bring everyone on the journey with you and become a more resilient business as a result.

The days of needing to rely on spreadsheets and gutfeel should be fully behind us.

By the end of the 2020s, People analytics will have evolved beyond simple data collection and reporting into a ‘smart’ business function that will offer crystal-clear insights to empower business decision-making.

As Angela O’Connor, CEO and founder of the HR Lounge, says: “HR will be at the heart of the company, using analytics and business forecasting to focus strategic workforce decisions.”

With the help of People analytics, by 2030, HR will no longer play a supporting role.

Instead, it will be seen as part of the strategic core of a business – a go-to source of insights that will help to empower profitability, cost efficiencies and overall business growth.

However, there is much work to be done before the start of the new decade if HR is to maximise the potential of this new suite of resources.

More than a third (35%) of HR leaders believe they currently don’t have the skills or confidence to provide better insights, with less than a third (28%) claiming to have expert analytics skills.

HR will therefore have to rapidly upskill its data and analytics capabilities.

There will be “greater demand for HR to step up and lead with data rather than a gut feeling or how we feel about something on a personal level” – so says Ben Eubanks, chief research officer at Lighthouse Research & Advisory.

According to Matt Charney, head of industry and product marketing at SmartRecruiters and partner for RecruitingDaily, failure to do so will have a direct negative impact on the company’s bottom line.

“The days of touchy feely, ‘human relations’-centered HR are fleeting,” Matt says.

“[By 2030], if you’re not helping drive profits, you’re going to end up at a loss.”

Fortunately, with HR tech growing better all the time, it may not be long before companies start to see the benefits.

Susan LaMotte, CEO and founder of exaqueo, is optimistic: “By 2030, there will be even more data and analytics available to help leaders better understand the people within their organizations.”

2030 will be an exciting time for HR leaders when it comes to analytics, but HR leaders need to invest in the skills and tech right now today to really see a positive impact.

We’re already calling it “the great admin liberation” – the dawning of a new era where cumbersome, routine HR tasks will be handled by technology, allowing experts to focus on more fulfilling tasks such as strategy, leadership and growth.

The technology is available today, thanks to systems such as Sage People, but not all companies have tapped into the full potential that automated HR offers.

“Taking care of menial administration that takes up valuable resources will free up time for purpose driven work,” says Rowena Carter, director of people and culture at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.

Today, 40% of HR leaders admit they are too focused on paperwork and admin.

As Dave Millner, founder and consulting partner of HR Curator, puts it, it will enable HR to be “a more business intelligent function, that has the ability to be forward looking”.

However, this is only possible if HR can get buy-in for HR tech investment.

“Many HR and People leaders find it hard to get to the front of queue when it comes to investing in HR technology,” says Linda Holbeche, co-director of The Holbeche Partnership.

“Many have still got separate HR systems, and the challenge is that many of these systems are not kept up to date and can hinder rather than help.”

This can’t wait until 2030. HR leaders need to liberate themselves from admin today.

By doing so, it means HR can spend more time on working on strategic initiatives, providing great experiences to employees, and providing better outcomes and results for the business.

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) to organizations should mean much more than just a few powerful words weaved into an HR strategy.

Not only is creating an equitable workplace the right thing to do, 70% of job seekers say they want to work for a company that demonstrates a strong commitment to DEI.

This is being pushed up the agenda significantly, as Gen-Z continues to enter the workforce because, according to April Marcot, head of people and culture at Talent, “[They] expect businesses to take a more serious attitude toward equality, diversity and inclusion, and to be more flexible and adaptable to change.”

DEI isn’t the only area HR leaders must be conscious of.

Sustainability is another area employees are paying particular attention to. HR will need to play a role in driving their businesses to become more sustainable.

Indeed, as Linda Holbeche says, “HR will have to support in pushing through an environmentally friendly agenda to align with […] society as a whole.”

Organizations need to put DEI and sustainability right at the top of the HR agenda now.

Employees don’t just want a job that pays the bills – they want an organization that reflects their values.

Tools such as People analytics can help HR leaders to identify where they need to focus their efforts to make real change. But the only way HR can move the needle with their DEI strategy is by taking positive action.

Hollow words won’t do.

Employees need to see their HR team and their organization as a whole make steps to a more equitable and sustainable workplace now, as by 2030, there really will be no excuse.

These HR trends we’ve discussed will be absolutely vital for getting ahead and preparing for 2030.

However, it’s also important to understand the skills and tech you’ll need to succeed.

To prepare and to know what to expect, get your copy of the full report where we cover this off, with even more jam-packed insights from the HR and People experts.