The Evolving Role of the HR Professional - Timeline

Published: January 30, 2014 Author: Clearpoint Tags: Manager's Corner

Human resources as a part of business has been around for a little more than a century. The function of HR has changed over the years--but never so quickly as it has over the past few decades, as rapid advances in technology have transformed the entire business world.

Today, the role of the HR professional is vastly different from what it was even ten years ago, and worlds away from where it began.

HR through the years: A brief history

Constant shifting in the way business is conducted and communication is enabled has led human resources through several dramatic changes from decade to decade, particularly since the dawn of the new millennium. Here's a look back at the many faces of HR departments.

  • 1900 - 1919: During the Industrial Revolution, HR departments were commonly called "labor relations." In addition to staffing concerns, they worked to change the prevalent view of workers as interchangeable parts.
  • 1920 - 1939: Now called "industrial relations," HR professionals during the World War I era were moving toward more formalized processes and advocating workers' rights.
  • 1940 - 1959: Through World War II and its aftermath, "personnel administration" professionals worked with highly evolved HR processes and became experts in efficiency.
  • 1960 - 1979: The Civil Rights era saw HR professionals' titles shortened to "personnel," and brought in additional duties of legal compliance, reporting, and enforcing company policies.
  • 1980 - 1999: As the first stirrings of the technical revolution began to enter the business world, "HR people" focused on human relations and relevance in a fast-paced world with an increasing knowledge economy, amid scores of corporate mergers and acquisitions.
  • 2000 - 2009: Modern organizations became established, and "human capital" or "organizational effectiveness" professionals began dealing with transactional HR outsourcing and a transforming definition of HR.
  • 2010 - present: In a global economy, immersed in Internet-driven technology, HR professionals under any term are focused on high-level human resource functions--acquiring and retaining talent, engaging employees, driving workplace culture, and more.

Today's HR professional: Flexible and multi-faceted

Compared to the humble yet pivotal beginnings of the HR role in business, the job descriptions of modern human resource professionals are practically unrecognizable. While HR staff still perform the same core administrative duties as their predecessors, they now hold additional responsibilities and play a strategic role in the success of an organization.

Employee advocacy: One of the most essential responsibilities of an HR professional today is to develop an understanding of goals for individual employees, and maintain a corporate environment that facilitates those goals and improves productivity. Many in HR accomplish this through constructive feedback, performance reviews, recognition of individual and group success, and identification of employee opportunities within the company.

Strategic business planning: This primary role has HR professionals ensuring that employees' responsibilities and activities are aligned with the overall goals of the organization. HR managers in particular are responsible for placing employees in the best positions to achieve the company's vision.

Organizational change: As the business world evolves, successful organizations learn to adapt. It is HR's responsibility to arm employees with the tools and information they need to remain flexible, and adjust to these changes with as little disruption as possible.

Today's HR professional is an exceptional communicator, with strong people skills and the ability to both lead and engage employees--resulting in a smoothly running and successful business.

If you are looking for human resource jobs in Houston, contact Clearpoint today.

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