What did Human Resources look like 20 years ago? While the landscape itself is everchanging and the technology becomes more advanced yearly, there are still several aspects of the HR practice that continue to evolve daily. The way we look at and treat employees has changed, and company culture is now the term that has the most inquiries from job candidates on online review sites. 

Almost every dimension of the Human Resources role has changed in the past two decades, its core functions now surpass the old expectations of just employment compliance, payroll, and headcount that once monopolized the position’s tasks. Let’s take a look back at Human Resources 20 years ago versus what the space calls for in 2020: 


  • Human capital: The world of Human Resources used to refer their employees as ID numbers on printed nametags that clocked in every morning and clocked out each evening. The “employee experience” wasn’t under consideration, much less in existence, and many people would fall victim to the disengagement epidemic day after day. More often than not, the psychological needs of employees were overlooked, and performance evaluations were based on a top-down feedback system that focused on hard skills as opposed to the added integration of soft ones. 
  • Payroll technology: Old school HR technology focused primarily on payroll and compensation. There was no attempt to make the technology relevant to the employees themselves, it was a system of record with no social media look or feel that personalized the HR experience, and no employee-facing software that allowed people to keep track of automated workflows or view their company’s org chart. Traditional technology was cut and paste processes only that couldn’t be personalized to fit unique profile needs or preferences. 
  • Corporate culture: Corporate culture lacked flexibility, the opportunity for growth, and workplace bonding. This type of structure was also modeled on a top-down hierarchy, as opposed to a matrix organization, which prevented employees from getting to know management, HR, and their team leads, creating a rigid, hierarchical and sometimes negative or toxic company culture.  Most important, it was not expected that the HR teams will find the solutions or changes required to improve or enhance company culture.


  • People trends: Work-life balance is of the utmost importance and as far as new trends go, employees want to be recognized as something more… people. As people, they crave consistent feedback, monthly performance evaluations, benefits that surpass standard healthcare packages, and flexibility or the chance to work from home and work remotely. HR today is constantly working to create a safe workplace that the modern workforce can come to and feel valued, while feeling a sense of purpose. HR also works tirelessly to satiate the cravings of their people to make them happy because, well, happy employees are people that stay engaged longer and with a company for the foreseeable future. 
  • HRIS solutions have become systems of engagement as part of people management: Tech today allows for predictive analytics, automated and personalized workflows, network hubs, anonymous surveys, and performance evaluations. Through these functions, HR leaders are now able to collect feedback, keep track of paid time off, and customize their people’s profiles based on distinct characterizations, personal preferences, and sensitive information. HR solutions and admins can now tend to people as opposed to the requirements of an outdated system.  
  • Learning culture: People today no longer believe in the corporate 9-5 work structure; they want more than a salary or a biweekly paycheck. They want opportunities for growth and learning or development tools that give them access to new skill sets. Your people like to learn for the sake of learning, not necessarily for a promotion. Today, HR is giving its people the necessary tools and resources that aid their personal and professional growth by offering extra training courses, a dynamic tech stack, and classes they can take in their spare time to gain knowledge in a particular area of interest.  

The world of Human Resources keeps changing… and we certainly expect it to. However, what we didn’t expect to see was the advancements in technology that help blend the human and digital experiences, allowing HR to really take its role and responsibilities to the next level.HR now has the numbers and data needed to effectively analyze their talent and performance, as well as compensation. This sort of analysis is an integral part of the future of work, allowing HR leaders to reduce turnover rates and help their people grow. 

What do you think the next 20 years will bring for the Human Resources space? HRIS systems are definitely moving towards becoming systems of engagement, employee directories will include not only your name and email, but your hobbies, and interests, recognition, and networks. Teamwork will be facilitated with new flexible org chart setups available to support the company growth goals and above all HRIS will support HR by bringing data and insights about the people in their company, allowing HR leaders to understand the cost and benefits of a great company culture, less attrition, talent growth, and positive networking. These terms will be able to be backed up with hard numbers that emphasized the value of HR done right.

You are welcome to write to me and we would be happy to evaluate posting your thought leadership on our Hiblog.

Stephanie Stevens

From Stephanie Stevens

Stephanie is Content Marketer at Hibob. She has a background in Clinical Psychology and Crisis Management, and enjoys abstract painting and watching horror films in her spare time. She believes that people can connect with themselves, their peers, and the world around them through creative writing, helping them foster a deeper sense of self and their life goals in the process.