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Future of Work

Human Resources Leads Businesses Toward a Flexible Normal

Learning new skills while unlearning outdated processes, human resource professionals have become change agents in many organizations facing another year of uncertainty and agility.

Dennis Hill, Ph.D.

Founder, Sagacity LLC; Volunteer Vice Chair and Board Member, International Association for Human Resource Information Management (IHRIM); Inaugural Chair, Decentralized HR Consortium

Everyone on the planet has been affected by the pandemic and subsequent responses worldwide. Few institutional departments demonstrated innovation and resilience greater than human resources, and technology will continue to play an essential role in 2022.

Not surprisingly, technology conversations across business and government moved from the gradual adoption of operating on the internet of things pre-pandemic, to an urgent response during the crisis that recognizes human-technology interdependency on an internet of things and people.

Since March 2020, employers have assumed completely new tasks regardless of size: separating workers into essential and non-essential categories, reviewing and implementing distancing policies, and remotely managing worker wellness programs. Looking to 2022, HR’s role as change agents will not wane, integrating new human and technological solutions to solve unprecedented problems.  

For example, chief HR officers (CHROs) will examine the impact of vaccination regulations now replacing recommendations, address workforce lethargy and the “Great Resignation” as millions of jobs remain unfilled, and lead the modernization of business networks to support hybrid models that include working from anywhere permanently.

The future of HR

For more than a century, human resources, a generally risk-averse community, adopted new practices slowly, especially technology. The HR field has been often described as “evolutionary and not “revolutionary,” yet HR professionals have been the custodians of the most sensitive information for their companies, including payroll, benefits, investments, and performance data on every worker, requiring discretion and conservative approaches to management

Nonetheless, many HR professionals have been thrust to the front lines of business remediation when it comes to workforce acquisition, automation, analytics, and artificial intelligence; the four “A”s of changing HR practices. 


New workforce acquisition and worker development systems are automating processes to engage candidates and employees alike — a shifting paradigm of perfected techniques from contact relationship management (CRM), giving employers a competitive advantage. 

Companies and government agencies use CRM tools and social media platforms to apply corporate branding and improved customer experiences to talent recruitment and applicant experience. Recruiters are engaging candidates early in their career search, allowing employers to proactively promote the benefits of working for them, while technology lowers cost-per-hire


Expanding job boards, managing online reputations, and integrating applicant tracking and human capital systems to streamline and shorten find-to-hire conversion have gained attention as HR struggles to fill positions left by expected attrition and unexpected Great Resigners. 

Many small and mid-size companies are delaying or dispensing with comprehensive background checks, while others are implementing one-click applications directly from social platforms to create fewer impediments to applying. For remote worker time reporting, geolocation software uses biometrics, e.g., fingerprint, voice, and facial recognition, while challenging leaders who must positively resolve a new set of cultural issues.

Analytics and artificial intelligence

Prepandemically, and not surprisingly, human resources had been absent from lists of early, new technology adopters. However, during the past year, about half of all presenters of emerging HR solutions to the Technology Review Council — an exclusive Bay Area panel of HR-tech thought leaders hosted by Nov Omana at Collective HR Solutions — involved the application of artificial intelligence and analytics. 

With employee retention a primary concern, new ideas often incorporated ”gamified” twists on old themes, like mentoring junior employees, awarding performance incentives, and encouraging skill development virtually with effortless tracking and reporting. 

Assessing and motivating a hybrid or the largely remote workforce without the thousands of data points gained through in-person contact requires HR professionals to explore other ways to gather actionable intelligence (i.e., worker information that can be efficiently collected, quickly interpreted, and reasonably applied with the aid of machine-teachable programming). 

Education for progress

Without loss of generality, human resource departments will continue to maintain their governance role over sensitive worker information, processing timely and accurate payroll and benefit plans, and serving as the administrators for ongoing education and training. 

Given the need to helm the corporate or agency ship through another year of unprecedented and challenging, but navigable waters, multidisciplinary education of HR professionals to develop problem-solving skills with a working knowledge of emerging technologies will be the most critical upward and expanding trend in 2022. 

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