Trends and tools in HR management

Image source: Alexander Limbach -


Trends and tools in HR management


Challenges of demographic change and digitalisation


Two megatrends are currently presenting the working world, and particularly personnel management, with two challenges: demographic change and digitalisation. Demographic change is leading palpably to a shortage of professional staff and a permanent shift in values. And likewise "increasing digitalisation (...) will go hand in hand with a significant transformation of the working world", say researchers in a study by the Institute for Employment Market and Career Research (Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung –

IAB) and the German Federal Institute for Professional Training (Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung – BIBB), according to Wirtschaftswoche magazine in January 2018. It is from these current megatrends that the trends and preoccupations of HR management will take their rise in the coming years. And the first trend is already visible: HR increasingly aims to be regarded less as "human resources" than as "human relations." In this way the focus is shifted to the value of relationships between people and "their" company, instead of managing "human beings as a resource." 


Trends and preoccupations of HR in the coming years:


  • Employer branding:

Here corporate culture stands, as a unique and distinguishing feature, at the centre of strategy: as a consequence, new employees are selected in accordance with their personal attitude and behaviour; in case of doubt, specialist knowledge can be learned. To put it another way: it is important for people to fit into the team, important that the atmosphere is just right – and thus that staff stay with company long-term.


  • Flexible models of work:

Employees are looking increasingly for flexibility in their working hours and workplace. They are leaving their workplace in the company earlier in the day; working in a home office is already established practice in many companies; in others this arrangement still has to win acceptance. There is an increasing demand for models of flexitime, trust-based working hours and part-time working, particularly in companies which employ a large number of women. Mobile workplaces are also helping staff to co-ordinate children and housework better with their working career.    


  • Robo-recruiting:

Some companies are already turning to artificial intelligence (IA) in the form of so-called robo-recruiting. This involves the use of automated systems which can make an initial selection at the start of the recruitment process – by means of an algorithm, for instance, which identifies the suitability of a candidate by assessing their voice, sentence construction, intonation and vocabulary. Or gestures and facial expression (including micro-expressions) are analysed by video and adduced for evaluation. An initial step in this direction may be chatbots, automated question-and-answer machines, which give potential applicants information about a suitable job 24 hours a day. Or scoring services which comb through application forms and award them grades. Next those candidates which the machine considers most promising are submitted to the human recruiter.


  • People analytics:

People analytics, personnel controlling's creative little sister, combines data from various sources, to answer a targeted question. For example, Smart Badge, developed by the US company Humanyze, a small white sensor worn round the neck like a staff-identity badge, measures the social interaction of employees in a company. It records who is spending time where, and with whom, and how often the person concerned speaks, in what tone of voice, and with what pulse. Staff tracking is complemented by metadata of communication traffic, such as the length and frequency, the sender and receiver of e‑mails, telephone calls, calendar entries and instant messages.    


Limits and risks of digitalisation

That data cannot be handled arbitrarily and that people are to be judged not just by their "data status" – this is the subject of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Therefore, under Article 22 (1), every person has a right "not to be subject to a decision based solely on automated processing, including profiling, which produces legal effects concerning him or her or similarly significantly affects him or her." To put it simply: no algorithm may decide alone whether someone gets a loan, a job or a criminal conviction. If we are well-disposed to AI in personnel management, we could assume: an algorithm does not discriminate, a computer has no prejudices and takes note only of the suitability and skills of the candidate in question. But is that really so in fact? Before AI is used, it must be fed with information. And "if AI systems are trained with one-sided data, it is not surprising that that learn a one-sided view of the world", declares Christian Bauckhage from the Fraunhofer Institute for Intelligent Analysis and Information Systems in Sankt Augustin in the scientific magazine scinexx in February 2019. Today, however, human beings are still doing the deciding, since identifying the cultural fit between a company and a candidate is not something which AI is (yet) able to do.


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