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Why HR Roles Are Growing In Importance

In January, LinkedIn released its annual Jobs on the Rise list, highlighting the 25 fastest-growing occupations over the last five years.

The top 5 roles in the list were as follows:

  1. Head of Revenue Operations
  2. Human Resources Analytics Manager
  3. Diversity & Inclusion Manager
  4. Truck Driver
  5. Employee Experience Manager

Spot anything interesting? Meanwhile, the role of Chief People Officer (also known as Chief Human Resources Officer) was 15th on the list, and Head of Rewards (sometimes Total Rewards Manager or Head of Regulatory Compensation) came in at 21.

Designed to help people understand where the market is going – the roles they might want to think about exploring for the future – the Jobs on the Rise list is based on the job titles that saw the most growth on the LinkedIn website between January 2018 and July 2022. So why are so many HR/talent roles on the ascension?

The Changing Role of HR

The HR or talent department has increased its presence in businesses in recent years, with the COVID-19 pandemic being a key catalyst. With new working styles being introduced, and new employee and business needs coming to the surface, HR’s remit has grown – and it is being heard at the top table. HR departments are now expected to ensure employee wellbeing and productivity, keep people safe, and help other departments make important decisions.

“The data suggests that the people-first mindset can help companies to make important investment decisions about software and technology because they look beyond cost. They understand how decisions need to work for employees and this is how HR can help create employee buy-in for business decisions.” – Raconteur

A survey of 1,100 senior business leaders by Raconteur found that the HR department today has significant influence over purchasing: HR is seen as one of the top five decision-making functions by half (49%) of executives, putting it ahead of marketing, tech, legal and procurement.

“The HR function has now become one of the most important disciplines in business. Many CHROs are now taking on the role as chief operating officer, chief productivity officer, and chief culture officer. This is not just because these are desperately needed jobs but also that the fundamentals of business are all about a deep understanding of people. As a result, your expertise, focus, and continuous learning about people and organizations is critical.” – Josh Bersin

The future of work is about people. As skills gaps, workforce uncertainty and other talent challenges stay firmly front of mind for most CEOs, the role of HR – in general – is undoubtedly going to gain importance. But what about those specific job titles?

A Focus on Data & Analytics

“The new HR professional needs to understand the technology that they have at their fingertips, needs to really dig into the insights that they can draw being a data-driven organization.” – Elin Thomasian, Global Head of Talent Acquisition, UKG

Every function in every organization is turning to data analytics to make better decisions and reach broader business goals. HR teams are no strangers to gathering insights from (increasingly diverse) data sets.

With innovations in Artificial Intelligence (AI), HR professionals now start to really understand their existing and potential workforce, to make the right decisions when it comes to attracting, engaging, and retaining the best candidates, and to think more holistically about hiring, training, and management.

The challenge for a Human Resources Analytics Manager is not going to be a lack of data or even a dearth of programs and platforms to add to the ever-growing tech stack. Their main issue is going to be joining the dots: ensuring that HR tools are integrated such that useful insights can be gleaned, and the right actions are taken.

A New Approach to DE&I

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion has been on the HR – and wider business – agenda for many moons now. So why is Diversity & Inclusion Manager one of the top 5 fastest growing roles? Organizations are starting to realize that this work cannot live in a silo, it cannot only apply to one element of the talent experience (for example, the hiring stage), and that – to better attract, retain and engage diverse talent – they need a new, more sophisticated approach.

Equitable processes live at the heart of DE&I, so a critical first step is to look at talent through the lens of skills. As organizations start to introduce a more objective assessment of talent, and remove some of the human bias that inevitably exists within HR processes, this skills-first approach requires new talent.

80% of business executives say making decisions about hiring, pay, promotions, succession, and deployment based on people’s skills (rather than their job history, tenure in the job, or network) would reduce bias and improve fairness. – Deloitte

The Importance of Employee Experience

47% of HR leaders are prioritizing employee experience in 2023, according to Gartner, and the role of “Employee Experience Manager” is now increasingly sought after. Having tackled the issue of optimizing the customer experience, in an age of growing choice and higher standards, businesses are rightly turning their attention to how they deliver an amazing experience for the talent they are trying to hire, engage and retain.

As the economic situation puts more pressure on HR departments to work with what they have – do more with less – the focus on upskilling, reskilling, redeploying and ultimately retaining talented individuals will be key. All of these tactics need to be considered in terms of the employee: how easy and enjoyable is it to engage in a learning program? Where can I find internal vacancies and easily apply? Can you recommend mentors or mentees to me? Are my possible career paths at this company clear for me to see?

For HR teams focused on employee experience, understanding the skills inside the organization and using smart technology to match people with opportunities will be crucial. People expect a self-serve, intuitive way to navigate their careers.

“I honestly think that the role of a HR team is gonna be providing the right environment and culture whereby well-intended people leaders can help themselves, and to start playing within frameworks that help them to achieve their businesses and goals, as opposed to necessarily a reliance in a very traditional way of the HR function coming along and doing this for people.” – Stephen Lochhead, Senior Vice President, Global Talent Acquisition, Expedia Group

A New Operating System For HR

The new roles emerging in HR departments underscore the importance of new initiatives around DE&I, a holistic view of talent and the talent lifecycle, and employee experience as a differentiator. They also show the need for HR to understand what each part of the function is doing, to share data and insights, and to form a whole greater than the sum of its parts. As Josh Bersin says, “the substantial change is not simply better service delivery, improved access to data, and more HR business partner skills. It’s also a new framework of integrating HR into a total operating system, so information and insights captured in one part of the company can be leveraged and addressed elsewhere.”