The 21st century has become the beginning of the new era in Human Resource Management (HRM). In the past 40 years, HRM has changed, from being limited to annual performance evaluations and employee paperwork to incorporating the power, skills, knowledge, and opportunities required to build and sustain organizations’ strategic advantage. It is possible to say that, in modern organizations, HR managers play one of the central roles.
They define the pace of the workforce and, as a result, organizations’ growth, while addressing the issues of competitiveness and productivity by building effective human resource strategies. Today, employees are no longer treated as merely the means to achieve better productivity ends. Rather, they are viewed as complex beings with their talents, abilities, desires, and preferences.
As a result, the goal of HRM in the 21st century is to achieve an ideal fit for talented employees and the organization’s strategic goals. To make it happen, HR managers must possess leadership and decision-making skills, understand labor force demographics, catch up with the pace of technological advancement, and constantly readjust themselves to meet the changing demands of the external environment.
Human Resource Management in the 21st Century: Experiences and Challenges
My experiences with HRM in the 21st century have been diverse and colorful. One of the chief things I have learned is that HRM in the 21st century differs dramatically from what was done in the field of human resources several decades ago.
HRM has truly become a multidisciplinary field, bringing together the best elements from human resources, law and ethics, employee relations, training and development, organizational psychology, talent development, and others. HRM has become extremely complex, but this complexity stems from the growing number of challenges facing organizations in the new millennium.
Lussier and Hendon (2013) list the most significant problems organizations need to overcome in the 21st century. These include productivity, job satisfaction, absenteeism, and turnover (Lussier & Hendon, 2013). A notable thing about all these challenges is that they are all related to people. Consequently, all these problems fall into the professional realm of HR managers.
Still, from my experiences, and from what I have learned during this course, three main challenges to be addressed by HRM in the 21st century are: the changing composition of the national and global workforce, the internationalization and globalization of the field, and the growing complexity of technologies that greatly impact personal productivity in modern organizations.
In one of my weekly assignments, I discussed the changing composition of the workforce. I believe that these changes will have an impact on HRM activities and practices in the 21st century. HR managers will have to restructure employee practices to give workers enough time to grow up their children or provide quality care for their aging parents.
While thousands of individuals enter the workforce at a younger age, many are compelled to stay beyond the normal years. However, HR managers will experience huge problems, when trying to align employee goals with those of their organizations, at least because the diversity of the 21st century’s workforce constantly increases. New HRM practices will have to be developed to accommodate these emerging employee needs.
Another trend influencing HRM in the 21st century is the growing internationalization and globalization of both workforce and organizational practices. Internationalization and globalization give rise to cross-national workplace issues. According to Landy and Conte (2009), more than 100,000 American companies participate in international trade and enterprises worth more than $1 trillion.
More than 60 million workers have been hired by U.S. companies around the globe, with more than $400 billion invested in foreign economic activities (Landy & Conte, 2009). Companies are providing more products and services globally than at any other time in human history. Therefore, they need to restructure their practices to meet the growing demand for quality workers.
Here, the third trend – technology – greatly contributes to the growing complexity of the HRM situation. Workforce management of the 21st century will be heavily technological and technology-oriented. Today, technologies are making it easier for HR managers to find the right people for the right positions, but HR managers certainly need to know how to leverage the best potential of the new technologies for organizations’ advantage.
A New HR Manager
The utility of the weekly assignments, class readings, and discussions can hardly be overstated. They have been particularly valuable in helping me to develop a new vision of a successful HR manager.
We often ask ourselves what characteristics we need to possess, to fit in the changing conditions of the organizational and workplace performance. Apart from the fact that Human Resource Management takes a lot of energy and time, HR managers, today represent the backbone of the organization. An HR manager is a person who will ensure that employee records are kept in order and that all training and policies frameworks are in place.
More importantly, an HR manager will ensure that only the right people are hired for the right positions. To make it happen, an HR specialist will have to be future-oriented, well aware of the organizational policies, operations, and decision-making routines, and the latest trends in the national and international workforce that impact the availability of talents and their willingness to work in a particular organization.
In the past century, the HR manager’s role underwent dramatic changes, from being an employee spokesperson, through the administrator and strategy partner, towards a distinguished professional (Vogelsang et al., 2012).
In other words, HRM is pretty much a separate field of organizational performance, which gives the HR professional a special status within the organization and, yet, implies that the processes and decisions in this field greatly impact the processes and decisions in other fields. At present, the HR manager’s loyalties are located beyond the organization (Vogelsang et al., 2012).
Simply put, HR managers, bring their knowledge and skills from the outside of the organization, not vice versa. They rely on the best practices accepted in their profession rather than on the organization’s inner conscience (Vogelsang et al., 2012).
This is why, in the world of diversity, unique organizations, internationalization, globalization, and technological revolutions, it is essential for the HR manager to have a systemic vision of the organization. I also believe that a good HR manager must think outside of the box and several steps ahead, thus promoting organizational development and anticipating future challenges that are awaiting the organizations.
Dealing with Challenges and a Personal Plan of Action
This course has taught me a lot in terms of the emerging challenges in the HRM field. I have seen that HR managers must operate in ways that benefit their skills, while also benefiting the organizations, for which they work. How HR managers deal with challenges will vary, depending on the nature of the challenge. For instance, coaching can assist managers in setting realistic career goals.
When preparing for an international assignment, the HR manager will have to learn the traditions and customs of the target country.
These recommendations have one thing in common – an HR manager can deal with professional challenges, only when he (she) is open to new knowledge and values continuous learning. Only by being open and receptive to new information, HR managers of the 21st century can face and overcome the most serious professional and organizational problems.
Therefore, my plan of action starts with training and learning as the fundamental pillars of the HRM profession. These processes are to be continuous to be able to react timely to the trends and novelties that impact the HRM field. The next step is to accept and learn the value of technology-driven decisions and learn how to benefit from technologies in HRM.
For instance, in this course, we devoted our time to the discussion of web-recruitment. Finally, I still need to learn to view the organization as a complex system, a living organism that reacts sensitively to even the slightest changes in the external environment. Most likely, I will need additional training and, possibly, coaching within my organization. These are just the first steps towards becoming a professional HRM specialist.
In conclusion, this course has created a perfect basis for becoming a good HR manager. However, as the conditions of HRM change, even the best theoretical knowledge quickly becomes obsolete. Therefore, openness to innovations and continuous learning should become the most important features of successful HR managers, making them better prepared for the challenges facing their profession in the 21st century.
Landy, F. J. & Conte, J. M. (2009). Work in the 21st century: An introduction to industrial and organizational psychology. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Lussier, R. N. & Hendon, J. R. (2013). Human resource management: Functions, applications, skill development. Thousand Oaks: SAGE.
Vogelsang, J., Townsend, M. & Minahan, M. (2012). Handbook for strategic HR: Best practices in organization development. NY: AMACOM.