Rewriting HR titles for the future of work

What emerging roles can tell us about the new employment deal


By Nicole Schreiber-Shearer, Content Marketing Specialist @ Gloat

September 7, 2021

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It only makes sense that in the new world of work, we’re going to need new job titles. We’re facing new challenges, using new tools, and developing new expectations around what we’re looking for—both in our own careers, and from our employers.

Preparing for this next chapter has presented HR with a tremendous opportunity. Leaders are no longer just managing the present; they’re guiding us into the future. They’re architecting flexible work models, cultivating inclusive cultures, and bridging talent gaps. These strategic priorities are already reshaping the function of HR, and now, names and descriptors are changing to catch up. But exactly what are these new roles, and what are they telling us about the future of work?

Introducing HR Roles 2.0

Does your business have an Employee Wellness Champion? What about a Director of People Analytics? Or a Global Change Lead?

These are just a few names on the ever-growing list of emerging HR titles. The Cognizant Center for Future of Work recently conceptualized over 60 new roles for our next chapter, each with its own set of responsibilities and required skills. Similarly, across our own platform, we’re seeing dozens of job titles that didn’t exist a few years ago. Some of our partners have even introduced positions specifically dedicated to preparing for what’s next, including VP Future of Work at Unilever.

While names might vary, every role is tied to the same core themes that are redefining HR. Each title is rooted in the tenets of a new employment deal that centers on positively impacting people’s lives while improving talent outcomes for employers.

To thrive in a future of work that is approaching fast, businesses must develop roles, and strategies, around these pillars, which include:

Empowering Internal Mobility

Traditionally, when there was a vacancy to fill, HR turned to external talent. However, as the labor market tightens, organizations are shifting their focus to internal candidates.

Hiring from within comes with its own set of benefits. Perhaps most notably, it saves businesses money. Gartner found that the cost of employee turnover due to lack of career opportunities amounts to $49 million annually for an average-sized company.

However, some organizations still have a long way to go to when it comes to encouraging internal mobility. Many companies don’t have strategies or technologies in place to guide the process, and nearly two-thirds of HR professionals agree that their internal recruiting program needs improvement, according to Linkedin.

But what does it take to launch an initiative that actually gets results? Particularly in our hybrid era, technology is going to play a leading role. A two-sided talent marketplace is uniquely positioned to enhance internal mobility by matching employees with relevant skills to projects, gigs, and full-time openings that align with their personal goals.

With internal recruiting rising to the top of HR’s agenda, some roles are getting an upgrade to reflect this new focus on mobility. One example from our own community of partners is Divkiran Kathuria, Seagate’s Director of Talent Mobility and Talent Technology. She points to talent marketplaces as a key component of her organization’s approach to internal mobility, noting, “First and foremost, anyone using a talent marketplace will be immediately able to discover hidden talent– candidates and skills they didn’t know existed. And they’ll be able to experience how diverse, valuable, and capable these discovered candidates are.”

Nurturing the Employee Experience

In the new world of work, we’re going to need to emphasize the “human” in human resources, both figuratively and literally. With the new war for talent and the Great Resignation shifting the power dynamic in employees’ favor, workers can’t be treated like cogs in a machine. Instead, it’s individual workplace journeys that are going to take precedence, with 95% of HR leaders naming employee experience as a top priority in a recent KPMG survey.

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There’s both an art and a science to cultivating a compelling experience. HR leaders need to think outside of the box to devise innovative solutions that will meet people where they’re at. They’ll also need the data-driven insights that only employee-centric platforms like talent marketplaces can deliver. As Josh Bersin explains, “Without the right technology, companies can’t get insights into employee sentiment, provide personalized and job-relevant experiences and development opportunities, or support employees at scale.”

As employee experience continues to take center stage, many businesses are rethinking their nomenclature. “Human” is being replaced by “people” to demonstrate that employers are viewing their workforce as individuals, instead of merely resources. Forbes notes that more than 10% of their Human Resources Council members now have the word “people” in their titles, with roles like Chief People Officer, Head of People, and Director of People Services as a few popular examples.

Creating a Sense of Purpose and Belonging

Purpose is at the heart of the new employment deal. Employees are looking for organic connections between their employer’s corporate values and their own personal ones. They’re reassessing their perspectives on diversity, equity, and inclusion and demanding more from employers than reports and scorecards. In fact, nearly 70% of workers would consider leaving their company for an organization that takes a stronger stance on societal and cultural issues, according to Gartner research.

It’s up to HR to not only listen to these calls for change, but to take action to ensure every team member feels empowered, recognized, and respected. When organizations act–by reallocating resources, changing suppliers, and giving employees time to volunteer– Gartner found that the number of people who consider themselves highly engaged increases by 20%.

While it’s clearly important, driving change is never easy. Meaningful shifts start by looking inside your own organization and ensuring opportunities are accessible to all. Leaders are increasingly turning to technology like talent marketplaces to level the playing field and democratize career development. At the same time, organizations are introducing new roles to lead the charge, with Indeed noting a 123% increase in diversity-related job postings in less than one year. Titles that are gaining traction include Chief Diversity Officer, Global Head of Inclusion and Diversity, and Head of Talent Enablement and Diversity.

Laying the Foundation for Resilience

It’s impossible to chart a path forward without reflecting on the events that have gotten us to where we are today. COVID-19 has profoundly impacted the way we work, and it’s going to continue to shape how we operate in our next chapter.

During the pandemic’s onset, resilience became the ultimate priority. For most businesses, the answer to achieving some level of operational continuity was embracing remote work. While this shift was largely beneficial from a business standpoint, it also exacerbated our “always on” culture and blurred the lines between personal and professional life. As a result, stress levels skyrocketed, with workplace burnout ticking up by nearly 20%, according to CNBC.

Now, organizations are looking to HR to develop more sustainable ways of working that will set employees up for success in the long run. Rather than focusing solely on physical health, leaders must view employee wellbeing holistically. For HR professionals, that means architecting an approach to wellness that encompasses the emotional, mental, and spiritual health of workers, along with the physical. To turn this 360-degree vision into a reality, there’s a new crop of emerging HR roles that put wellness at the forefront. Some popular examples include Employee Wellness Champion, Chief Wellbeing Officer, and Health and Wellness Manager.

While every organization might not need a Digital Transformation Catalyst or an Employee Experience Lead just yet, these emerging roles tell us a lot about the future of work, and the changes we’re going to need to make if we want to thrive in it.


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