Future Scaping Hr 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: 1.
Where am I now? 2. Where do I want to go? 3. What’s the difference between where I am and where I want to go? 4. How will I get there? 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 issue …