The Future of HR

Monday 26th September 2011 - Posted in Future
By Paul McCormack, HR Director of Hermes

HR has changed over the past 15 years from a reactive function to become more business focussed and proactive. The next 15 years may see HR take a longer term view of changes to the workplace. It could be a very exciting time for HR as we consider what factors will affect our companies?

I have been lucky to have attended a number of seminars with Lynda Gratton of the London Business School. She talks passionately about the overall ‘Future of Work’ and her latest book ‘The Shift’ focuses on what the world of work might look like in 15 or 20 years. She talks about globalisation, innovation and societal changes as factors to impact work, maybe HR can help manage these challenges?

In simple terms the western world demographics are changing. We are living longer and having fewer children. The development of the BRIC (Brazil, India, Russia and China) countries is phenomenal. Will we see graduates from the UK move to these countries? Innovation is growing rapidly and businesses can operate from anywhere in the world. Are some of our previous practices such as pensions making us less competitive? What about our attitude to further growth of social media and the options that brings? These are just some of the many questions we will face.


As technology and talent advance in the developing world, I can see more UK businesses opting to base large parts of their business overseas. Some might see cost saving or perception of lesser employment regulations as a reason to move, quality of local labour will no longer be a restriction. If you don’t need costly infrastructure in the UK why not look elsewhere? We will see greater competition from the BRIC countries and encourage their talent to stay in their own countries. Already the Ivy League of universities is seeing far fewer American graduates and in place far more students from the Far East.

What would happen if we simply said no to huge bankers’ bonuses, maybe we risk losing the talent and possibly one of the UK’s greatest assets i.e. the City.


Some developing countries are leading the way by focussing on the growth of their children in terms of technology. Rwanda, a country that has seen its fair share of turmoil, aims to give every child a laptop. The UK must not lose sight of this next generation. The generation Y group are far more familiar with technology than previous generations. However, when they come to work in the next 10-15 years they will have known only smart phones and the latest social media. Recruitment strategies will need to focus on this ‘shift’. You might even see companies sponsoring schools, testing pupils and developing their own talent, just like football clubs do now.

Societal Changes:

Will our children want to work 9-5? Will they need to? We may even have avatars to help us deal with the day to day challenges. Will our children accept the pension deficit as something they have to bail out? Will this drain on western world make it less competitive and force governments and businesses to seek more sustainable solutions? Will the growth of innovation open up greater exposure to security risks? Who owns the ‘IT cloud’? What policies will we have to secure the business from legal risks?

These are just some of the many issues we will face in the coming years. I haven’t even focussed on the environmental challenges. The world of work is changing quickly and HR must play a crucial role in supporting these new ways of working.

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