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Future Scaping Human Resources

Human Resources can find it roots by looking no further than the purchasing department. From the beginning, hiring and firing people, the traditional core of Human Resources functions, was done by the purchasing agent. The thinking behind this was that purchasing agents procured the land, equipment, materials, and as a extension of this the people to ensure proper functioning of the business. To an extent of this attitude that people where to be purchased, unions arouse to protect the interest of the worker.

To negotiate with the unions, companies adapted by having their own representatives, giving rise to the labor relations function within HR. Other functions followed, the staffing function grew out of the belief that, with testing and assessment, employee could be matched to job and their effectiveness increased. Training grew out of the belief that, with the proper training programs in place employees could do their jobs even more effectively. Compensation grew out of the belief that, if designed well, compensation systems could motivate employees to higher performance.

By the time the 1970’s rolled around there were four major functions of the Human Resources department. These core actives were considered to be staffing, development, appraisal, and rewards. When the 80’s showed themselves upon the doorstep of HR these skills were melded with those of organizational design and communications. With the enormous amount of mergers, acquisitions, and consolidations learning to create new organizational forms around teams and processes became critical for the HR profession. By the time 1997 was here I was just beginning to get my feet wet in the world of HR by taking part in an internship in a HR office.

I had no idea then how much HR was in an evolution of change. I thought how hard could it be to be a HR professional? I had looked at the 100 best companies to work for and I noticed that many of the companies were the same as companies on the lists in prior years. There seemed to me a formula with HR that if administered correctly would conjure up a wonderful organization of happy employees. The problem with this belief I had was that of change. Change inserted itself to alter that formula and alter it drastically and continuously. Because of this no one can predict the organization of the future.

No one can predict the future course of the HR profession. No one can predict how HR practices will change in the future. Thinking about this future though may lead to innovative insights into how better prepare for the changes that will inevitably occur. Thinking about this future of HR may help to change today’s HR practices in positive ways. This paper then is to look into the future and take a look at the future trends of the HR profession. Before diving into our time machine to go future scaping, how did we get to the point we are now in HR? What people, places, and policies have made the workplace what it is today?

I would like to look at four companies – Procter & Gamble, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Southwest Airlines who created places of work that stood out during various times of the last century. These companies are just a small sample of HR thinking today, although, they comprise of an important part of it. Started in 1837 as a soap and candle maker (Fortune, 139), Procter and Gamble was a model of exemplary employee relations at the turn of the 20th century. This employee relations improvement came about when the company introduced a profit-sharing plan to foster company loyalty.

The plan was improved in 1903 by tying it to the purchase of company stock, and today it is known as the oldest profit sharing plan in operation. In the year 1915, the company introduced an employee disability and death benefit plan. It also gave its employees an eight-hour workday and guaranteed 48 weeks of work in a year, and they were the first to do so. IBM made its mark in the world of business by making people the focus of the corporate culture at a time when others where reducing tasks to repetitive functions.

IBM borrowed money to fund in-house education programs, did away with piecework, fixed up factories, and paid above average wages at all levels of employment. IBM launched group insurance plans and for a time boasted of lifetime employment until the massive cuts in their workforce in the early 90’s. Hewlett-Packard instituted the “HP way” which focused on employee sensitivity. The company’s benefit plan was one of the best around, and became one of the first companies to offer flextime for its employees.

They also championed the idea of management by walking around and had their employees in cubicles to make this easier. Lastly, Southwest airlines stands as a maverick in every sense of the word. Tom Peters said this of the airline, “What I discovered is an organization that dares to unleash the imagination and energy of it people. They make work fun-employees have the freedom to act like NUTS. There is a spirit of entrepreneurship-much more than a decentralized organization chart-an attitude that extends to every corner of the company. ” (NUTS, XV)

Largely due to their dedication to their employees Southwest is the safest airline in the world and ranks number one in the industry for service, on-time performance, and lowest employee turnover rate; and Fortune Magazine has twice ranked Southwest airlines one of the ten best companies to work for in America. The challenge that lays before HR professionals now is to look at these companies and ask themselves how they can become the IBM’s, Southwest’s, HP’s, and P&G’s of the next century. This brings me to what I believe the best thing we can do to prepare for the unknown future.

That is to strategize for Human Resources. In the past strategic plans were thought only for CEO’s and top level management. But now could be a good time to change that thinking. A HR plan can help you come up with goals and strategies for achieving them. It enables you to go beyond day to day tasks and see the larger purpose of your department and how it functions within the company. In its simplest form, the plan is a goal statement. But the plan also includes information on the issues facing the company-competition, opportunities, market conditions, industry changes and the company’s strengths and weaknesses.

Once you have you have a clear understanding of your companies goals, you should establish your own HR department goals. These five questions are a good place to start: 3. What’s the difference between where I am and where I want to go? 5. How will I know if I’m succeeding? When you have answered these questions you will be more prepared to effectively lead the organization through future changes. A business plan is good practice anyway because it keeps everyone on the same page. A strategic plan helps employees understand their purpose. It can energize people.

They aren’t just doing day to day work, they are progressing toward goals. Then HR isn’t just a firefighter at a tactical level but will earn a seat at the companies top level of management. Let’s take the concept of strategizing and use it toward key aspects of our future. Now lets turn our attention to an issue that is the driving force behind change. This driving force is that of technology, and it has very wide and deep implications for human resources now and in the future. Technology’s impact on HR, the virtual environments impact on human interaction, and telecommuting issues.

Such issues will now be explored in greater depth to help focus our thinking around strategic approaches to take in accomplishing work in organizations in the next century. Technology seems to have tree main effects on the workplace, which are: ? The constraints of the physical facility no longer exist ? Hours have extended to be on-call nearly 24 hours a day ? Huge issues in personal time management. The virtual office has come about with the advent of the cell phone, pager, laptop, e-mail and other such electronic tasking devices. The good or bad new is that fewer people are normally in the physical office.

The virtual office can be an advantage if it results in lower office space costs. New issues will arise if the cost in equipment to support the remote employee increases. However, the expectations are for greater productivity as a result of the company providing flexibility in space scheduling and physical space. Also, you have probably heard a cell phone or pager lately during a movie, or at a ball game as evidence of the proliferation of the workplace in public/private space. Businesses are able to expand without the normal investment in physical property. Employees can live where they wish and telecommute.

With this however will come even more changes that HR will need to cope with. Here are some of the keys ones where technology will have a high impact on the workplace. A proactive, strategic approach will be necessary to deal with and work around these changes. First lets begin with the virtual office. This will mean that there will be fewer workers physically at a single work site. What HR will need to do is determine what space is necessary and what space can be leased or sold out. The office space and current equipment inventories should be reviewed and looked at to determine adequate levels.

Also, the IT capacity plan should make sense and be flexible to adjust to future changes within the workforce. Staffing, sourcing and retention will be another area that will need much attention. In the future there will be more job sharing, split shifts, part-time, and independent contractors. Retention of workers will be more difficult: employment for the project will be seen more and more; and lack of job security and company loyalty will be pervasive. Also, older worker will have to make a huge adjustment and may not be willing or able to.

To prepare for these changes consider introduction of a flex policy and evaluation of meeting or event schedules to allow for more flex time. Determine technical training needs and prepare training programs for those need. Develop a workforce plan to forecast future staffing levels and ensure succession-planning programs are in place and are meaningful. Also, reviewing benefits and retention practices to ensure desired results may be achieved. With fewer connections between employees and management the need for greater accountability, independence, and trust is necessary.

The changing workforce resulting from the tremendous technology updates presents a new challenge for workplace relationships. As HR leaders we must be leading our organizations into and through the technology changes and challenges. We must be prepared to conquer this ever-evolving technology. It is no exaggeration to say that some kind of new hardware or software is introduced to the public on a daily basis. Which ones will make a difference to HR in the future? Here is a list of computer technology that may effect HR departments in the future.

First of all computer security is a concern to both information technology and human resources people everywhere, as computer viruses like “love bug” paralyze organizations for days and security breaches allow hackers into sensitive company files. In the future, however, employees may be required to undergo iris scans to access their computer files. This technology is already used to control access to rooms, identify prisoners, secure bank vaults, and as a substitute for automatic teller machines. Another technology along these lines are fingerprint readers that require a fingerprint match before access can be granted.

The next area of technology is that of remote access. For many would be Internet users in the US, especially in the rural parts of the US or in underdeveloped countries, laying the wire for broadband access is cost intensive. Even in developed areas, rewiring an existing building can be very expensive. To address this, high tech companies are now investing in fixed wireless systems that require only a transmission device on one end and a receiver and signal converter on the other. Airwaves link them and the link can be as fast as wired services. This market could reach 1 billion by the end of 2002.

Fixed wireless can be used to link areas where there are no cable or telephone infrastructures in place, or to extend cable and DSL service within already-established areas, such as apartment building or office complexes. Yet another technology that could makes its effects found on the world of HR is a communication system. This communication system called Auniversal translator could effectively, accurately, and simultaneously translate a person’ conversation from English to German and back (for example) will be widely available maybe within the next five years.

Universal translating systems may never be able to capture cultural differences, but they could enormously aid in International business transactions. The last technology I will talk about is that of electronic monitoring. There is a whole group of electronic monitoring systems available to employers. Here are just a few: ? Internet Manager: This software scans for and identifies people who are continually on the Internet at work and will notify employees that they are being monitored each time they log onto the Internet. Investigator: This software captures all the keystrokes typed into a computer, including keystrokes an employee may delete. Investigator goes a step further then other monitoring software by capturing all computer activity. ? Super Scout: This software automatically filters and sorts every word that enters through a network. It can generate bar charts showing the top ten e-mail users, the tem biggest email sender, and who sends the biggest messages. We now have before us a wide variety of things to look at for the future. But here is one of the most important questions at least for me.

What does all this mean for my career in HR? Well in doing all this research I can see that even if only a portion of the possible developments discussed come to pass, careers in HR will change dramatically. The traditional career with HR professionals progressed in their careers from apprentice to individual contributor to mentor to strategist is quickly morphing. Maybe a more suitable way to describe the HR career in the future will be that of a cube, not so much as a linear progression. In the future one’s position in the HR hierarchy may become less relevant than what one knows.

Career paths become less linear as HR professionals increasingly engage in diverse career activities, forgoing a purposeful career in favor of career opportunism, responding to the opportunities that arise from any number of sources. Whatever the future brings it is sure to be filled with surprises. Having one eye on the future will help to identify many new challenges and effectively use them for the benefit of our organization. I know that I may want to hold on tight to my ergonomic chair, we may be in for a bumpy ride.

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