The Future of Human Resources: Marketing and Analytics

May 13, 2013 7:04 pm Published by Erin Osterhaus

When people think of human resources, most will probably first visualize the the long-suffering (and insufferable) Toby from The Office. Some have predicted that the future of in-house HR professionals (whether like Toby or not) may be going the way of the show in which he’s featured–wrapping up and ending altogether.

They’re wrong.

According to the experts, HR professionals do have a future–but it will require practitioners to re-imagine their relationship to business, as well as their function within it. New technology has been the primary cause for these changes, and it will push HR from its traditional role of “Personnel” into surprising new fields–marketing and, perhaps even more remarkable, analytics.

HR will need to become more like Marketing

As social networks and boolean searches increase the specificity with which recruiters are able to target candidates, industry analyst Brian Sommer, the founder of TechVentive, predicts HR recruiters will become more like marketers. As he says, recruiters should “[t]arget people like a marketing firm would, identifying specific micro-segments of either jobseekers or job holders they want to target to bring into their firm.”

HR recruiting will begin to resemble PR and marketing jobs. As such, Sommer predicts recruiters will need to think outside the box (and the cubicle) and focus their energies on niche audiences, he says:

“Recruiters have to start getting away from their desk. They need to go where the great people are. The way they’re going to do that is not with traditional recruiting methods, like job boards and classified ads. Why not instead go target people like a marketing firm would, and identify specific micro-segments of either job seekers or job holders that you want to target to bring into your firm?”

But marketing strategies shouldn’t be confined to the recruiting segment of human resources. Scot Marcotte, Barry Hall, and Steve Coco of  Buck Consultants cast an even wider net. They claim all HR employees will need to have marketing skills, as “HR will evolve the ‘internal marketing’ role to include social marketing coordination and brand ownership–i.e., outside talent ‘buying’ into the brand–the company–to potentially work in the organization.”

Big Data Analytics will redefine HR’s Role within the Company

Meanwhile, in-house HR professionals will need to further embrace analytics and “big data” to become strategic leaders in their companies and remain relevant to the business. Gyutae Park, Head of Human Resources at Money Crashers predicts that:

“In the coming decade, the career trajectory of HR professionals will be determined more so than ever before by the analysis of data and metrics. Just as big data has penetrated many other industries and markets, it will become a part of HR career advancement as well. Although HR already uses some metrics such as turnover ratios and employee engagement levels, you can expect to see new metrics tracked and used in HR, such as the average timeframe for staff to be ready for promotion, or percentage of top candidates to be hired within the organization.”

With the rise in the use of analytics, the HR department may even need to take on new hires. As Dr. Janice Presser, CEO of The Gabriel Institute, says, “The current trends in big data will provide new ways for HR to prove its value, so we can expect HR departments to want to add people who can analyze and make projections using these tools, and people who can drive positive change using the information derived from the analysis.”

Analytics and “big data” will therefore revolutionize how in-house HR departments plan for the future–providing immense data sets to help manage employees effectively to achieve peak performance, or through algorithms intended to determine the type of talent the company might need years down the line.

How Can We Prepare for the Future of HR?

What can current and aspiring HR professionals do to prepare themselves for these changes? Well, given HR’s predicted expansion into new fields like marketing and data analytics, all the experts agree on one strategy: keep learning. Risk taking and networking, they add, will help too.

“Get ahead of the curve,” advises Dr. Presser, “Realize that many of today’s ‘best practices’ evolved under very different business conditions, and may well become obsolete within this decade. Learn everything you can about your industry, your competitors, and pending legislation that affects your business operations. Most of all, define yourself as a businessperson and act accordingly.”

Janine Truitt, Chief Innovations Officer at Talent Think Innovations, advises HR professionals to pursue additional training or formal education. As she observes:

One difference that we will see clearly in the next decade is that people will not be able to merely “fall into” HR. Long ago, when HR was “Personnel,” the department was largely made up of individuals that happened upon the profession. With many colleges and universities now offering HR coursework and degrees at the bachelor’s and master’s level, it seems that the future HR practitioner will likely have to be formally educated in this discipline to be gainfully employed in HR.

These trained HR professionals should dig deep into one HR specialty. And, given the increasing importance of each role, HR practitioners’ training should include components of data analysis and business strategy.

The best way to prepare for these changes is to simply be fearless and keep at it. Lynda Zugec, Founder and Chairman of The Workforce Consultants, advocates welcoming failure as a learning tool. As she says, “In the changing HR landscape of today, failure is embraced because it means that you were brave enough to ‘give it a shot’ and also that you now have more information regarding what works and what doesn’t work than before. Eventually, if you keep exploring different avenues, you are bound to succeed.”

Erin Osterhaus is the managing editor of Software Advice‘s HR blog,The New Talent Times. She focuses on the HR market, offering advice to industry professionals on the best recruiting, talent management and leadership techniques. You can follow her on Twitter and Google+ or, contact her directly at erin@softwareadvice.com.

This post was written by Erin Osterhaus