HR Steps Up Its Game

The human resources function has been every company’s whipping boy for decades. Admittedly, for much of that time, we deserved the criticism.

Things are changing. These days there are unmistakable signs that HR professionals are stepping up their game.

Consider the function’s adoption and use of technology. In recent years, HR has been among the early adopters of technology reshaping how organizations operate.

From using social media and mobile technology to transform recruiting to incorporating emerging systems for data and HR analytics, people management professionals are giving notice that business is no longer “as usual.”

Likewise, a number of organizations have seen an increase in the volume of individuals who are applying for certification in such leading-edge practices. Certification is an unmistakable indicator that things are changing, and for a simple reason: To be certified in a new tool or technology, one has to actually do something.

Effort must be invested in studying, learning and practicing the emerging way. Certification classes are filling up like never before. Those who choose not to keep up will most likely find themselves at a disadvantage.

The Human Resource Certification Institute, for example, has been offering certification in levels of professionalism since the 1970s. Now, thousands of practitioners have passed the tests and are certified HR professionals at one or more levels. Private firms and associations have seen growth in applications for certifications.

The ROI Institute, for instance, has certified thousands in its measurement methodology. It is now adding a certificate in predictive analytics. And the Center for Talent Reporting, a relatively young nonprofit, is offering certification in measurement standardization.

These developments are on the right path to bringing HR around to a single way of defining and reporting its terms and services. The goal, in effect, is to move toward a system akin to GAAP, or generally accepted accounting principles, the standard measurement model in corporate accounting.

The rapid adoption of computing technology as it pertains to people management is likely the most obvious sign of HR’s advancement. From the giants of Oracle and SAP to the rise of Workday, HR is no longer lagging other functions as it once was. The robustness of these new software technologies is changing HR’s value to the organization.

A more intimate sign of this, which is quite amusing to me, is the adoption of analytics by HR. I say it’s amusing considering how long and hard I worked to persuade HR people in the 1980s and ’90s to measure even the simplest cost, time and effects of their work. Now the HR market is flooded with journal articles, books, seminars and conferences on predictive analytics.

This is probably one of the two most encouraging signals that HR is stepping up its act. I say this because to apply objective and subjective measurement — and especially predictive analytics — one has to view one’s work and purpose at a more enlightened level

It is encouraging that so many have reconsidered why HR exists and found that the function’s capability is even propelling the organization forward like never before

The other important development is the study of social media as an HR phenomenon. I admit that, at my age, I’m well behind the curve on social media. But it’s encouraging to see more and more HR units recognizing social media’s value in influencing organizational behavior and people management

In many ways, HR has led the charge on organizations’ use of social media as a legitimate tool to improve business.

Perhaps most encouraging is, amid all that is exciting and emerging in the field of HR, the function is still coming of age and has a lot of room to innovate. The obsolete views of personnel administration have disappeared. What has replaced them is a more valid, useful and exciting environment to practice HR.