The term "human resources" has long been synonymous with "compliance"-related tasks e.g., overseeing payroll, coordinating benefits, approving time off, etc. While this kind of work will undoubtedly remain important, the future of HR is going to look a lot different. Over the next few years, we’ll start to see HR professionals focusing not just on work parameters, but also on the workers themselves—from their physical wellness to their psychological safety and everything in between. Simply put, they’ll be putting the human back in human resources.

Writing for strategy+business, National Preparedness Leadership Initiative Director Eric J. McNulty urges the business world to "make HR the chief advocates of humanity in our organizations.” He recommended moving compliance into its own department and to turn HR workers into "fierce proponents of the value of the human spirit."

"As educators, internal consultants, and coaches, HR can help the organization understand and demonstrate how treating individuals as human beings, not as FTEs or other acronyms for units of production, can create significant tangible and intangible value for the company, customers, and shareholders—as well as for the associates themselves," he explained.

Maia Josebachvili, VP of People & Strategy at Greenhouse, recently blogged about HR departments reinventing themselves into people-centric teams. "What I've learned is that traditional HR departments, which have been around for 40 years, have long been focused on ensuring compliance and decreasing liability for the organization," she writes. "On the other hand, the main objective of People Teams is to maximize the value of employees and drive business results. Clearly, there's a difference here—a difference that is just beginning to emerge and will be the defining chasm between good and great companies."

In fact, a 2018 survey of 738 HR leaders by Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and Globoforce revealed that "human-centered approaches in the workplace help organizations better recruit and retain employees." These motions are of urgent importance, too, as 47 percent of the HR leaders surveyed reported retention/turnover as their top workforce management challenge.

"HR's efforts need to go beyond compliance efforts," HR Dive observed, reporting on the SHRM/Globoforce findings. "The survey results indicate that more than organizational culture matters when keeping employees engaged and positive about their jobs."

HR Dive also cited the crucial role of empathy in "humanizing the workplace," drawing upon the same 2018 Businessolver State of Workplace Empathy study that named flexibility as one of the most effective for employers to show care and respect for their employees. As a bonus, empathy and flexibility have both been proven to drive business results.

Becoming more human-centric doesn't need to be a challenge for HR teams anymore. Data, like the kind Werk's people analytics platform provides, offers an excellent starting point. Data can pinpoint employee needs in an ever-changing workforce. Data can illuminate potential pitfalls in your company's diversity and inclusion efforts. And data can identify points of friction that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.

With potential boosts to employee engagement and the bottom line, companies should have no reservations about focusing on the people behind their profits, and HR teams should be feel empowered to make sustainable improvements to company culture. The Human Era is here, and employers should sit up and take notice.