Emerging HR Roles in 2021 & Beyond

The redesign of HR in response to the ongoing crisis and the future of work will continue to highlight the pivotal role that Human Resources plays in organisations.

As the world of work continues to evolve, the roles that once shaped it, are pushed to evolve at the same time. The future of work is a term that many in business have grown used to hearing, with the predicted impacts of what changes are yet to come, receiving focus and research from many organisations, academics and consulting firms. 

The Mckinsey Global Institute who performed research into what the roles of the future would look like and how the shifts being felt from technology across the wider labor market, would impact the world of work. Predicted that automation will result in many roles of today,  such as administrative assistants and bookkeepers, will begin to shrink through attrition and the continuing impacts felt from reduced hiring.

The day-to-day nature of work could change for nearly everyone as intelligent machines become fixtures in the American workplace

The result has seen HR having to lead on the development of creating a digitally savvy and evolved workforce that can respond to the changing demands of the company, whilst at the same time evolving with technology as its rapid developments continue to unfold.

Yet, it isn’t only the roles outside of the human resources function that will need to respond to the continuing digital and technology revolution. The future of work and its continued emergence is also impacting, transforming and changing the roles of the Human Resources function. 

The Covid-19 Effect

Covid-19 has understandably brought about significant disruption to the world of work. Whilst some of the disruption such as increased flexibility of working and organisations having greater empathy towards the needs of its people with caring responsibilities, or health conditions, being positively received. However, other areas of change, such as working restrictions, seismic alterations to the ways people work and some roles in specific sectors being un-allowed to operate altogether, have been more challenging for people and organisations to accept and adapt to.

The drastic reshaping of the economy and labor force that has rippled around the globe as a result of the Coronavirus is set to continue. With many HR professionals predicting that remote work will be here to stay and that further trends which have emerged as a result of the pandemic will continue for some time, if not in fact, indefinitely. 

CHROs are helping employers and employees navigate this new era together

The importance of HR and the criticality of its value has been heighted throughout the pandemic. CEO’s, business leaders and employees at all levels have leaned on HR to feel supported, but to also understand the ever changing parameters of what’s coming next. From imparting crucial business communications, to developing the cultures of non-agile environments to become more agile, HR’s thrust into the spotlight is set to continue with the evolution of new roles that respond not only to the after effects of Covid-19, but to the future of work as it happens in real time.

☑️ Director of Wellbeing

The shift towards prioritising wellbeing in the workplace is one that has been building for some time. Recent research conducted by professional services and Insurance firm Aon, found that employers have increased their strategic focus on both emotional and financial wellbeing programmes, which in turn have translated to an increase in strategies focusing on these being included as part of employee benefits programmes. 

Aon’s UK Benefits and Trends Survey 2020 found that 51 percent of employers have now well established financial wellbeing strategies in place, an increase from 21 percent three years ago. While 68 percent have implemented emotional wellbeing strategies, to a further increase of 41 percent. The survey also showed that 71 percent of employers strongly agree that they have a responsibility to influence their employees’ health behaviours.

Benefits and Trends Survey

As a result, it may come as little surprise that given not only the research findings in this area, but also the worldwide shift towards remote and home based work, that the Director of Wellbeing role is set to increase its presence over the course of the next decade. 

Evidently the 24/7, always on culture and disruptive nature of external forces that are now being faced by businesses are resulting in employees at all levels reporting issues with burnout. The complexities and emotional challenges facing today’s workforce with balancing home, life and work, have resulted in businesses needing to respond, by stepping up their response to focus on employee wellbeing.

The Director of Wellbeing role will likely move way beyond one that views wellbeing as a nice to have in the work environment, to become one that is far more strategic in its oversight, with objectives that will serve to strengthen the emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual health of all employees, which in turn will have a significant benefit to employee retention.

☑️ The Work From Home Facilitator

Today, we find ourselves in a world where knowledge workers are in the highest percentage of all workers performing their roles remotely. The result is predicted to be the development of a Work From Home (WFH) Facilitator role, set to become one emerging in support of employees who are largely based away from the core working, physical environment. 

The shift from blue-collar jobs to knowledge-based positions presents new opportunities for people aiming to grow their talents and expand their creativity

One of the impacts felt from the Coronavirus pandemic has been the shift from presenteeism to e-presenteeism. In short, rather than people coming into work when they are unwell, or staying behind to work later than their contracted hours, or working whilst on annual leave. The ongoing remote working situation has resulted in employees replicating those behaviours which can be problematic, leading to increased stress and toxic work cultures, whilst working from home. 

This ultra modern phenomenon of our time, is the result of a former typical work day, with a set start time, lunch break and leave time, evolving to now become blurred with life at home. The hours of work are no longer defined in the way they once were, and with it, the start and end times to a working day have become far more liquid. The result has seen employees who were once based in an on site physical location, become those who are quite literally living at work. The world of work is now being brought into scores of bedrooms, home studies, living rooms and kitchen tables the world over. 

The work from home facilitator is predicted to emerge in response to these newly faced employee and workforce challenges. With the roles design set to include responsibilities that will create procedures and processes to reduce the risk of e-presenteeism by potentially defining rules that dictate when emails or internal messages can be sent – Such as guidance to not begin work communications before 9:00 am or after 6:00 pm.

Presenteeism hits record high in UK organisations as stress at work rises

The role will also likely factor in employee engagement and communications to bridge the gap between those employees who are distributed by being based away from their co-workers and manager. Whilst serving to bring some cohesiveness to the organisational culture experienced by those working from their home office locations, wherever that might be.

☑️ The Human Resources Data Detective

Organisations are having to become much more data driven to understand trends and respond to the needs of their customer base or audience. Human Resources has also seen a development this past decade, where it has become far more data reliant, but also receptive to data, in order to help interpret the feelings of employees, and inform people led decisions accordingly. 

As a result, the HR Data detective role is predicted to respond to the ever growing need of more data-driven processes. Its design could incorporate data evaluation and investigative focus to identify future trends, or data inconsistencies, whilst interrogating this information to aid HR management with its decision making. 

Furthermore, as HR departments have historically been sceptical about using personal data to lead business decision making, this newly created HR role will ensure personnelle data is ethically utilised without the application of bias. 

Sage HR’s award winning HR software, is already helping its customers to effectively leverage the positives that can be gained through HR analytics and reporting which will lend itself well to supporting the HR Data Detective as the role develops and becomes more commonplace in the organisational environment.

☑️ The Human Bias Officer

The emergence of a Human Bias Officer would respond to an increasingly digital and AI driven world, where decision making in processes such as recruitment, selection and performance management are being made by algorithms, with little to no human interaction or contribution. 

This has led to several notable challenges for employees and with it Human Resources professionals. The first involving concerns around data breaches, which were found in a survey by Harvard Business Review to have impacted the views of 8,370 HR leaders, hiring managers, and workers surveyed across ten countries. 

21 HR Jobs of the Future - HBR.com
21 HR Jobs of the Future – HBR.com

The result saw 71% claiming to be “at least sometimes concerned” and 38% said that they were “very concerned” about data breaches occurring with employee information stored digitally. With 80% of respondents in the HBR survey saying that in their view, their company should ask for permission before using AI to gather data on them.

But in this age of algorithms and data storage has seen an increased need to have more humans involved to moderate these processes ten fold. Fairness of programmed decision making, accountability and the elimination of biases is viewed as being much needed, resulting in the Human Bias Officer role as a result. 

This role will potentially elevate the role that HR already plays in helping to mitigate bias across and within business functions and their respective teams. This specific role however will involve HR professionals who specialised in ensuring that employees are receiving fair treatment throughout digitally augmented processes, such as recruitment, through to the entire employee lifecycle, irrespective of what their digital blueprint suggests and also, crucially regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, economic status, background, age, or culture.

☑️ The Global Head of Employee Experience

Further HR roles predicted to continue growth in 2021, is the recently emerged, Global Head of Employee Experience role. This role has grown in prominence in recent years, following its having been created initially at Airbnb by their Chief People Officer. The objective was to design a role that would combine the talents and differing aspects of functions including people, technology and real estate, which in turn would serve employees in a similar way to that of a consumer grade experience role. 

This role is designed to consider and respond to the needs of employees in a way that will maximise engagement and ultimately retention. It places people’s experience at the centre of HR decision making by recognising that quality experience and feedback is the key to achieving employee happiness. In much the same ways that these factors contribute to good customer experiences. 

By mid 2020, this role was being seen at organisations that included ABN-AMRO, ING, IBM, HPE, Novartis, and Walmart. Which gives a strong indicator that the roles expansion into the HR lexicon is set to continue throughout 2021 and beyond.

What the Future holds

In spite of the challenges felt in 2020 and continuing on into 2021 with the Coronavirus Pandemic. The future that lays ahead for roles in Human Resources do hold some cause for optimism and positivity. 

As the continuing evolution of automation reduces the need for HR to spend time on administrative and repetitive tasks. The redesign of HR in response to the ongoing crisis and the future of work will continue to highlight the pivotal role that Human Resources plays in organisations. But the roles set to emerge, evolve and expand in 2021 will also respond to the need for HR to become more digitally enabled and data-driven, whilst continuing as ever with the concentration of placing people and their needs at its core. 


Sage HR

For companies where people are paramount to success, Sage HR  helps businesses overcome the complexities of managing their people, so they can focus on growing their business.

Written By

Jade Taryn Graham

Jade is the founder & CEO of Inspired Talent.co a people & talent consultancy working with the most innovative early stage companies worldwide. Founder & CCO of Inspired Talent Media Ltd and contributing writer for Sage HR where Jade writes about people, leadership, work/life balance and change.