The HR Department of 2020: 6 Bold Predictions

Nolan Gray Staffing

The human resources department will be obsolete in a matter of years. All HR functions will be done more efficiently by software, or will be outsourced entirely. At least that’s what some are saying.

But don’t despair! The future is bright.

HR professionals do have a future. According to the industry analysts and practitioners interviewed by Software Advice, a firm that writes reviews and buyer’s guides for HR software, the advances in software and increased outsourcing of HR services will create new, exciting opportunities for those HR professionals that remain in-house, as well as those who choose to work as external specialists.

The main changes experts predict will occur by 2020:

Prediction 1: In-house HR will downsize and outsourcing will increase.

This prediction may seem somewhat, well, predictable. But the reasons our experts give for the change might surprise you: new technologies and increased employee participation in HR processes.

Prediction 2: Strategic thinking will become in-house HR’s new core competence.

The leaner version of HR that remains will need to reposition itself as a strategic partner within the business. Over half the experts  interviewed mentioned HR needs to increase its strategic value to the business–or else.

Prediction 3: The pendulum will swing back to the specialist.

The experts observe a cyclical shift in the HR field. Every few years practitioners fluctuate between the the independent specialists to the generalist practitioner. Recently generalists have been in demand, but  the pendulum might be swinging back toward the specialist.

Prediction 4: HR will increasingly utilize analytics and big data to augment its value to the firm.

In-house HR professionals will need to embrace analytics and “big data” to become strategic leaders in their companies, while new hires might be needed in the HR department to accommodate the increased use of analytics.

Prediction 5: Managing a remote workforce will be the new norm.

Recent moves by companies like Yahoo and Best Buy to end their remote work programs are the exception, not the new normal. Without a doubt, HR will increasingly have to tackle the challenge of managing a remote workforce.

Prediction 6: HR will need to become more like Marketing.

As the war for talent continues, recruiters and the broader HR department will need to adopt tactics that have traditionally belonged in the marketing field. HR will become the new brand ambassadors to external talent.

Sky's the Limit


How to Prepare for 2020?

As HR shifts more toward strategic thinking and specialization, what can current and aspiring HR practitioners do to prepare for 2020? Dr. Presser of The Gabriel Institute has some great advice:

“Get ahead of the curve and 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 and your competitors. Most of all, define yourself as a businessperson and act accordingly.”

This blog posting was contributed by Erin Osterhaus, the Managing Editor for 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

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