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No New Trends in Human Resources

Every year I keep looking around for new trends in Human Resources and I see a lot of new terms and much bigger words, but there is seldom anything new in human resources. What we have instead is a Human Resource industry that must constantly create a need for its new and trendy services. Iíll even admit that I am guilty of that myself, from time to time. Just donít try and teach this old dog any new HR tricks.

Brian W. Pascal
President, IPM
The last great change in Human Resources came at least twenty-five years ago and probably longer. That was the shift from Personnel to Human Resources. It was an inspiring choice of names that began a real movement towards the acknowledgement that people mattered in an organization and that the people who looked after the people side of the business were important as well.

It also opened the door to have professional training and certification programs for HR professionals and provided additional recruitment incentives to aspiring HR practitioners. A whole new industry was created that allowed the prestige and salaries of the HR community to thrive and grow and at the same time encouraged the development of new disciplines and areas of excellence within the field.

Since that time we have seen little but variations on the same old and tired theme. Health and Safety gets repackaged as Employee Wellness to include areas like Employee Assistance and Ergonomics. That in turn metamorphoses into creating healthy or holistic workplaces which still mean prevention and inspection, treatment and rehabilitation, the cores of a health and safety program. The only things new are the nuances.

How about Human Resource Strategic Planning or Strategic Human Resources? Whatís new here folks? That the people side of the business is important to the bottom line? That you need to talk to the line managers so that you can plan your staffing and recruitment for the year? The only thing new about these areas is that they are a thinly disguised Trojan horse to get HR into the executive boardroom where the real decisions are made. Fair enough. But donít tell me thatís a new trend.
In Compensation and Benefits we have seen so many terms that people have called the latest trend or a new wave that I am getting seasick. All of the new ideas have the same goal in mind, to reduce the costs of providing benefits. Whether you call this cafeteria-style benefits or targeted benefit programs or total compensation packages they are all designed as measures to contain costs. I am not opposed to any or all of these ideas just donít come knocking on my door to tell me itís the next big thing.

Coaches and coaching are a new aspect of Human Resources, well maybe not that new. There have always been mentors in business and organizations who served that role except that today they donít do that anymore. Until they retire and can come back as thousand dollar a day coaches. I love coaches, but doesnít it look a whole lot like individual consultants trying to tap into a lucrative executive lode?

Coaches are really just an extension of a trend that rose and fell in the 90ís called individual training and individual training plans. Personalized, individually tailored programs that employees and their supervisors worked out together. A kind of mix and match lifelong education plan that allowed employees to upgrade their word-processing skills and learn macramť at the same time. These plans lasted about as long as the individual expresso machines in the high tech bubble.

Then there are the new age compensation and encouragement programs that employees are expected to compete for. Concepts like employee recognition programs where company shirts, plaques, and maybe even a couple of hundred dollars are passed out to the employee with the best attitude or performance at work. It seems to me that these used to be called bonuses and that the cash still smelled as sweet.

Another is called employee referral programs that some companies are now using to hire up to thirty percent of their new staff. They are based on the idea that existing employees help recruit new staff that they believe will fit into their current place of employment. If qualified their referral gets a job and they get a cash reward. I like it, but didnít we used to call this getting a friend a job? And thereís that bonus word again. I thought we couldnít use it anymore.
Hey, maybe employee bonuses will be the next trend in Human Resources. Watch this space to find out.


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