HR trends

Our managing editor outlines major HR trends throughout the field's disciplines

This question was asked by a reader:

What are the biggest trends being seen in the millennium? And are there any publications based on these trends?

John Hobel, managing editor of Canadian HR Reporter, responds:

Strategic HR

From a broad perspective, the most significant trend in human resources is likely strategic HR. This means looking at the department as one that provides value-added services that have a positive impact on the bottom line.

To do this, HR must move away from administrative tasks. Thinking in terms of return on investment and working to understand the business and operational sides of an organization are key.

The goal is for the profession to assume a role at the senior executive table. HR associations and educators are working to develop the skills of practitioners so they can play this role — we’re not there yet. Only a minority of HR professionals today say they have achieved strategic HR.

The good news is not only is the HR profession tackling the challenge, CEOs and senior management teams are increasingly looking for HR to play such a role. The opportunity is here.

Other HR trends

Within the various HR disciplines — training and development, benefits, compensation, recognition, health and safety and more — there are, of course, a number of trends emerging as well.

HR technology

For example, in technology we are seeing the use of Application Service Providers (ASPs) where HR software is "rented" over the Internet — how widely this is accepted we will soon see.

Training and development

In training and development, corporate trainers are becoming "performance consultants." This means assessing the productivity needs of a business unit or department to determine how to improve efficiency — training isn't always the solution. For example, reorganizing a process or redesigning a group's structure (using an organizational effectiveness approach) may be the best way to solve the problem.

Total rewards

The idea of flexible compensation and benefits, or total rewards, is being promoted by consultants who are encouraging organizations to look at the complete employee reward picture.

This means rolling pension, benefits, compensation and recognition items into one large menu from which employees may select the mix of rewards that best fits their circumstances.

A younger employee may opt for more time off, whereas a middle-aged employee with a family will be attracted to health and dental benefits.


In the recognition field, forward-thinking employers are viewing staff recognition as an ongoing, everyday event that links strong efforts with instant appreciation.

For example, giving someone who has put in a week of extra hours a pair of weekend movies passes beats a five-year pin. For many managers this requires learning how to say "thank you" in a way that is meaningful to the employee.

Health and safety

Another example of new thinking is health and safety, where employee "wellness" is being promoted as an approach that considers all aspects of employee health — from employee assistance plans to ergonomics. At Canadian HR Reporter, we've started using the term "healthy workplace" to encompass efforts to create and maintain healthy, and hence more productive, workforces.

These are few of the trends we are tracking.

Publications based on trends

You ask if there are publications based on these trends: I would think that all HR publications would answer "yes, we are!" to that question.

At Canadian HR Reporter part of our mandate is to keep members of the profession informed about emerging issues and trends that may affect the way in which they do their jobs.

And many of my contacts in HR education tell me they advise HR professionals to read, read, read. So, I hope you read not only Canadian HR Reporter, but a variety of authors and publications available for your professional development.

John Hobel is the managing editor of Canadian HR Reporter, a national, bi-weekly publication for HR professionals.

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