An increased focus on corporate social responsibility as well as organisational change management, driven mostly by technological and workforce changes, is contributing to growing demand for certain human resources skills, according to a recent report.
It found that the Australian human resources workforce is forecast to experience sound growth over the next five years, increasing from 218,000 professionals in 2016-17 to 245,000 in 2021-22 – an annual average growth rate of 2.3 per cent.
The future of work: Occupational and education trends in human resources in Australia report, which was conducted by Deloitte Access Economics and commissioned by RMIT University, also found that the average annual income of human resources workers with a postgraduate qualification in Management and Commerce was $137,324 in 2016-17, and this is forecast to rise to $160,132 in 2021-22.
The increased pace of workforce change is contributing to growing demand for human resources professionals with a diverse range of skills who can adapt to these changes as required.
An important role for human resources will be to provide both strategic and practical support to deliver improved workforce outcomes, with a particular focus on the impact of digital technology on the workforce.
The report also found that the structural change that is being facilitated by digital disruption also has wide-ranging implications for the both the human resources function as well as the broader workforce, according to report.
Previous research has found that around 40 per cent of current Australian jobs have a high probability of being automated in the next 10-15 years.
“There is an increasing focus on ethical approaches to conducting business across many sectors of the Australian corporate landscape given the litany of misdemeanours we read about in the media”
These waves of change mean that organisations may need to rapidly adapt to new business needs, such as by adding new capabilities and functions and/or retraining existing employees to redeploy to other parts of the company.
These developments are driving growing demands for certain human resources skills, said Dr Alan Montague, Program Director of Human Resources Management at RMIT University.
“The significant technological change that is arising from developments such as artificial intelligence and machine learning means that businesses across all industries will need more change management and human resource development/training skills to facilitate successful transitions, particularly given the potential magnitude of future workplace disruption,” he said.
“Second, there is an increasing focus on ethical approaches to conducting business across many sectors of the Australian corporate landscape given the litany of misdemeanours we read about in the media.”
Given this major concern, Montague said human resources professionals must perform a more prominent role as the ethical centre of organisations by developing and implementing the necessary internal and external organisation policies.
He explained that interpersonal, communication and problem-solving skills will be critical for success in the future, noting that workers in the human resources area need to be able to apply concepts on organisational performance, governance and employment law within the workplace.
“The skills required of individuals working in the human resources area therefore include a mix of theoretical foundations, as well as the critical thinking and collaboration skills”
However, Montague noted that it can be challenging to develop these skills in a classroom environment and that other learning approaches such as work-integrated learning are valuable in this context.
The report also found that the tools used by human resources professionals are changing as a result of technological innovations.
For example, the training and development function is being disrupted by the increasing availability of ‘on-demand’ learning experiences, such as through massive open online courses (MOOCs), podcasts and video tutorials.
As a result, corporate learning programs are evolving to effectively utilise these resources in a manner that promotes a more self-directed approach to employees’ learning.
A range of digital tools are also affecting other areas across the broad range of human resources functions, such as the use of technology to improve the employee experience, end-to-end talent management platforms integrated with payroll and performance systems, and the application of data analytics to improve employee engagement and retention.
“The skills required of individuals working in the human resources area therefore include a mix of theoretical foundations, as well as the critical thinking and collaboration skills necessary to adapt and succeed in such a dynamic workplace environment,” said the report.