Thursday, March 30, 2023

Exploring the Future of the HR Profession: A Q&A With Debora Roland

As the world of work becomes more complicated, the role of the Human Resources professional has expanded and evolved. Much like workers in many of today’s professions, the skills, and qualities required to be successful look nothing like they did 10 or 20 years ago. Today’s HR professionals, representing what is increasingly recognized as a company’s most valuable asset, must know how to talk the language of the C-suite. They must also know how to deftly navigate human capital management platforms, payroll issues, benefits administration, and so much more. And, of course, there’s the not-so-simple matter of employee recruitment and engagement.

Throughout the coming months, BenefitsPRO will be spotlighting these changes and more than are reshaping the HR profession, and in turn, the nature of work and the benefits experience.

Kicking things off is Debora Roland, vice president of HR at CareerArc Group LLC, a Burbank, California-based company that provides social recruiting software and services for talent acquisition teams.

Katie Kuehner-Hebert: How has the role of HR professionals changed in recent years, and what’s driving it?
I’ve seen the biggest change in the level of efficiency and collaboration. The last decade has impacted HR more than any other in the war for talent and talent strategy rises in importance as a core component of overall business objectives. HR is now the owner of the company’s employer brand, which has blurred the lines between HR, marketing, and sales like no other time.

Before this, HR worked primarily in a silo. Now, company brand affects everything and everyone all the way down to your social media posts, and the C-Suite must bring HR into the full conversation since so many things we do touch both the internal employee base and the external world of the brand.

KKH: How has this shift impacted the relationship between the C-Suite, HR, and employee benefits consultants?
HR is requiring more streamlined processes and ease-of-use values from benefits consultants. The more employees can self-manage their benefits applications and decision-making, the better it is for all. Also, employees expect employers to do the work of researching benefits and having a quality offering.

“It really is something when I think back to the 1990s when I got started in HR. Even then, we were all on Mac computers that were daisy-chained to the server”.

Regardless of the pandemic, it is still competitive out there and good candidates look for these things as part of a company’s employer brand promise. We do a thorough review of our benefits each year and aren’t afraid to make changes where necessary. A lot of carriers bank on the fact that it may be too much of a hassle for companies to make those types of changes but we believe in giving our employees the best options available within parameters.

KKH: How has technology changed the way you work? How has it changed your role in the company?
Technology has been a game-changer. It makes us far more efficient and effective in our roles. There is a constant flow of new tech for all aspects of HR, including payroll, recruiting, benefits, onboarding, culture, equity, and diversity. Automation has enabled us to keep up with increasing workloads despite a lean team.

Self-serve tools for employees make it faster and easier for them to answer their own questions without HR being a bottleneck. Tools like social recruiting software help talent acquisition teams market their own open jobs. So much can be implemented and measured far faster than before.

It really is something when I think back to the 1990s when I got started in HR. Even then, we were all on Mac computers that were daisy-chained to the server… think about that for a second! And it was so much slower then than it is now, and yet it was faster than anything we had previously.

KKH: Do you see an increasing need for specialization within the field (talent management, compliance, diversity & inclusion, etc.)?
Yes, of course. There have always been specializations within HR, especially for the mid-to larger-sized companies. Technology has played a huge part in this because the platforms that have been developed to meet the needs of HR are usually very specialized and take some learning and experience to master. However, for smaller companies, having a solid HR generalist is helpful too. If a company knows it is going to do a lot of recruiting over time, they may want to hire someone in HR who has a lot of experience in recruiting but also has a generalist background.

KKH: What skills will be most important to HR professionals in the future?
Adaptability and the love of learning. We have to embrace new technology and changes in talent management or get left behind. Every generation has been challenged by the same issue. Learning new skills because the old skills are no longer as necessary is a part of life.

KKH: What trends, challenges or issues do you see most affecting your profession?
Obviously, the pandemic has affected every aspect of the business. It has changed the behaviors of customers, employees, job candidates, management, vendors… everything! Keeping and improving upon company culture when your entire workforce is remote is a bit of a challenge, especially for new hires who don’t have established relationships within the organization. We try to partner with these folks to assure good assimilation into the organization.

Employee mental and emotional health are also areas of concern for HR. We bolstered our mental health offering with Healthiest You, which allows our employees to schedule and reach mental health professionals 24/7. Early into the pandemic, we also had an ideas contest in which a couple of our employees wanted to create and have an internal website for mindfulness and mental health. Their idea was one of the winners. They created the website, and every quarter the employees update the information based on a new micro topic. We also have a couple of weekly mindfulness sessions as well.

Another area seeing a lot of growth right now is diversity, equity, and inclusion. The events of this past year in particular have caused companies to take a hard look at what their policies are and how to effect meaningful change, both with the existing employee base as well as in attracting and hiring more diverse talent.

Finally, there’s an ongoing trend of needing to do more with less, so wherever we can find ways to automate or otherwise use technology to assist us with our work, that’s a win.