The transformation of HR

people working at table

The face of HR has changed more in the past ten years than over any period before. Fifty years ago, unionisation and workforce strikes were common features. The main form of HR was around procedures and formalities, such as booking holiday leave and processing new and leaving employees.

More recently, technological advances and workplace culture has combined to put HR central to business success. Offering strategic, rather than transactional, support. Below we explore how this transformation has come about.

Employee Engagement

One of the key understandings of modern HR is that happy employees are better employees. Scientists have conducted much research and found that employees who are cared for and made to feel valuable by their employees are more productive, more loyal employees with far lower absence rates.

Working people expect to be able to achieve a good work/life balance, and it is now HR, together with line managers, who should help enable this. Supporting employees through their own issues makes them more likely to return the favour and feel an affinity to the company.

Company Culture

Culture is central to happy employees and happy customers. A company can make the best products around, but if they treat staff poorly and don’t provide them what they need to do their jobs efficiently, it reflects poorly both to staff and clients.

‘This is the human era of the workplace,” says Mark Batey, senior lecturer in organisational psychology at Alliance Manchester Business School. “The best places to work are those in which people can flourish and be their best selves – instead of pretending to be someone else five days a week. The perfect workplace also gives people flexibility and autonomy as to where and how they work, built on a culture of growth and trust.’

What’s more, there are now HR technologies that can record, quantify and analyse staff satisfaction. This gives HR professionals a clearer view of where a company stands and insight into where it should head.

Talent Management

High staff turnover has a cost to businesses, in terms of morale, efficiency, and 100%–300% of the replaced employee’s salary.

Businesses that are here to stay are the ones that nurture their talent the same way they would a family, by recruiting those with promise and good attitudes, and working with them throughout their employment to develop their skills and put them to best use. It’s up to HR professionals to be the bridge between company and employee, managing and developing talent.


Self-service technology has enabled HR staff to move away from piles of paper that process the likes of holidays, absences, retirements and recruitments. This has freed up time for HR to focus on more strategic areas.

The role of HR today

HR now plays a vital role in company strategy, with senior HR professionals coming in at Director or C-level. Naturally, the changes in employee and workplace expectations means that employees are seen more as an investment. Of course, that puts HR in the ideal place to offer long-term support, making investment all the more profitable for the parties involved.