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Ten in Ten: Ten Things That Changed HR This Decade

Posted by Elaine Varelas  February 1, 2010 05:21 PM

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By Elaine Varelas

Is it just me, or did the decade whiz by? It can’t be ten years already since the Y2K scare, yet I can’t remember life before reality TV, crocs, and iPods. Over this last decade, there have been countless changes to the business world: advancements in technology and cultural shifts have transformed the way we work. Here are the top ten developments that changed how HR managers do their jobs:

Seat at the leadership table—In the year 2000, HR professionals were fighting for a spot at the leadership table, as they tried to prove that workforce issues are one of the most important components of any business’ success. The issue has finally been resolved, as research and financial evidence verified that the most competitive and innovative companies have an effective HR presence on the leadership team.

Google—Google and other search engines have made millions of gigabytes of information available to us with just the click of a mouse. HR managers can now gather information about a candidate, fact-check a resume, peruse the competition’s job listings, and keep informed about what is happening in any industry—all within minutes. This vast database of information also poses some challenges as people’s work and personal lives become increasingly digital—and accessible. HR managers may now be saddled with handling a damaging blog posted by a disgruntled former employee, an embarrassing lawsuit from years ago that surfaces in a Web search, or the fall-out from discovering compromising photos of that “star” candidate.

Multitasking—Multitasking seems to be dominating how we work, so much so that doing one thing at a time seems almost lazy! It isn’t uncommon for many of us to be emailing a client, speaking on the phone with our boss, reading a text message from our spouse, and eating lunch all at the same time. When we try to do so much at once, we have to be even more diligent about errors (Did I just send my grocery list to my client?)

Smart phones—Smart phones are one of the prime catalysts for our multitasking ways. We can now access email, texts, calendars, photos, video, and files all from our phones. This technology helps us stay connected 24/7, and allows immediate communication. Of course it is also starting to blur the line between work and private time—and creating some HR dilemmas: Are employees expected to be “on call” after business hours? How quickly do managers expect to get a response to a message? What are the policies about using company equipment for personal use, or conducting personal business on company time?

Social Networking Sites—Websites like LinkedIn and Facebook have made it more convenient to connect with friends and colleagues and build a network. These sites have created a new avenue for recruitment, and an additional way for teams and colleagues to stay connected. They have also led to the further mucking-up of the line between work and personal time, and can present some quandaries: Should employees “friend” their managers or clients on Facebook? Is creating a LinkedIn profile a personal or professional endeavor?

Security—It used to be that the word “security” only referred to job security. Since 9/11, that has changed. Organizations now need to ensure their employees’ safety; when they travel, in the office building, and by making sure their personal information is protected on the company’s servers.

Paperless recruitment—Green is no longer just a color, but a movement. As organizations look to reduce, reuse, and recycle, many offices are going paperless. Resumes are now emailed (no more paper cuts!) and interviews are set-up via email. The recruitment effort has also gone multimedia: want ads in newspapers and magazines are being replaced by online job boards, TV channels devoted to job seekers, and networking websites.

Meeting technology—Meeting software, such as GoToMeeting, and webinars allows for people in disparate locations to gather for meetings or seminars via computer. Companies can now have a global presence without constant travel.

Heath care benefits—As health insurance costs skyrocket, many organizations have cut back on what they can offer employees. In the past, most employees and their families received extensive health coverage at no cost or for a nominal fee. Today, many organizations offer fewer health benefits (and some offer none), don’t extend coverage to employees’ families, or have asked employees to kick in a larger portion of the cost.

Texting—Once the domain of teenagers, texting has become a viable way of communicating with candidates, especially those who are employed. HR managers can schedule interviews, request information, or confirm meetings during the workday by accessing a candidate’s personal phone.


Many of the developments of the last decade present enormous opportunity for pioneering new ways of doing business, staying connected to one another, and recruiting new employees. Some of the progress we’ve made also creates challenges, such as sticky situations that may arise as the line between work and private time blurs. It is more important than ever for HR professionals to work with company leaders and develop policies, set boundaries, educate managers, and communicate to employees. HR managers need to stay ahead of these developments. After all, who knows what exciting changes this new decade may bring?

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