Abandon Ship! Is HR sinking?

There has been a lot of discussion recently among some of my colleagues related to unemployment and the impact on the human resource profession.  It seems almost constant now that you hear of someone getting laid off due to budget cuts or reorganization (due to budget cuts).  No this is not ONLY impacting the human resource industry but because of our jobs we seem to hear about it first.  

Unemployment First Hand” from the March 2010 edition of HR Magazine chronicles how HR professionals are coping with unemployment across the country.  The article references details from a December 2009 survey of 842 members about their unemployment experience.  “Of 209 respondents, 85 percent indicated they had been laid off from their previous jobs.  Of those who found work, 47 percent had been unemployed for six to 12 months.”  Although I was not one of the survey participants, I was one of the thousands of unemployed HR professionals as discussed in a previous post.  

I am glad to see that unemployed human resource professionals are listening to their own advice and maintaining an active stance during this time.  However, if unemployment continues to impact the human resource profession in this manner, what is our back up plan?  What are our companies going to do – outsource?  One might think that if anything, jobs in our industry would increase with the multitude of work related to organization’s management of the economic crisis.  What does the future look like for the human resource profession? 

In a recent staff meeting my supervisor shared an executive briefing he read in the February 2010 edition of HR Magazine related to employment of human resource professionals. 

“Feds Predict Rosy Decade for HR Jobs” 

The briefing encourages HR professionals that may be considering jumping ship and changing their career path to hold out.  This was interesting to hear, especially at a time when unemployment is on everyone’s mind.  The briefing continues, “In the next 10 years, job growth in HR will outpace overall job expansion by a ratio of more than 2-to-1.”  These statistics are based on December 2009 projections by the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

The rest of the briefing discusses how these jobs will focus heavily in specialty areas like training, recruitment and employee/labor relations.  Woah, does that mean the days of the mighty HR Generalist are limited?  Will they become extinct like the dodo bird?  As more and more studies and reports come out it appears this may be the case.  With that in mind, will HR outsourcing continue to increase? 

A recent valuation update by KPMG states, “The global human resource (HRO) market for 2009 is estimated at approximately US$19 billion, which represents growth of approximately 7 percent from the prior year.”  Uh oh, does that mean I need to abandon ship and go work for one of these outsourcing companies?  Wait, SHRM just told me to hold out.  What am I to do!? 

Laurie Ruettimann wrote a post a few weeks ago that discussed the future of HR in answering a student’s question.  If you know Laurie, then you already expect it wasn’t full of warm and fuzzies.  Rather, she gets right down to the point and it is a must read.  My favorite quote from the post is, “The future of HR is evolving, so you have two options:  get some skills (law degree, experience in auditing, internship in operations or marketing) or get ready to take your HR expertise and become a blogger in about 12 years.” 

With the mindset of HR generalist functions being diminished, increased demand for specialists in training, employee/labor relations and recruitment, AND increased outsourcing of areas like benefits, people are genuinely scared to start a career in human resources.  However, there are work-arounds.  For example, I strongly agree with Laurie’s mention of a focus in operations.  I majored in business administration and “emphasized” in human resources.  When looking for my first job I went for jobs that focused on operations.  This was important to me because I did not want to be pigeonholed in one area of business.  Rather, skills I obtained through working in human resources have directly impacted my ability work successfully in operations. 

Regardless of the endless reports and statistics, the next few years are going to be very interesting for human resource professionals.  Will the projections be accurate?  We’ll just have to wait and see.  For the time being, I’d suggest expanding your skill set to other areas of business just in case.  You never know when they may come in handy!

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6 Responses to “Abandon Ship! Is HR sinking?”

  1. [...] Read the rest here: Abandon Ship! Is HR sinking? | HR whY? [...]

  2. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by SteveMGHarrison: “Abandon Ship! Is HR sinking?” – My latest post for HR whY? http://is.gd/aMlJ7 #HR #SHRM #jobsearch…

  3. Being a proponent of HR and HR outsourcing, I am glad to see that there is a predicted uptick in the need for professional HR.

  4. Steve Boese says:

    Expanding your skill set is definitely good advice for sure. Nice post, Steve very well done.

  5. I hope HR evolves because I don’t want competition from disaffected HR bloggers. I want to corner that market. :)

  6. Kelly Dingee says:

    One of my “influencers” told me early on in my career that you always need to know how to do something, well, that no one else on your team can do. I think that the Great Recession definitely taught us that as HR Professionals, we need to be flexible. Departments downsized dramatically over the last two years and the reality is that HR has to multi-task. Perhaps HR Generalists that have left recruiting to the recruiters are realizing that if the chips are down again it’s better to be able to slide into any role.

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