The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed the way that companies operate, and the role of Human Resources has changed right along with it. If you want to have a thriving career in HR, it’s important to understand how the function of Human Resources is changing, and what types of roles are going to be in demand moving forward.
It may seem daunting to keep up with the new skills and knowledge needed to remain a top-notch employee and a competitive job candidate in an ever-shifting landscape. But this evolution really represents a tremendous opportunity for HR professionals to be involved in and have a chance to shape the changing nature of work in fascinating, dynamic areas. Below, we’ll take you through the top HR roles of the future, why they’re going to be so in demand in the coming years, and what you can do to prepare yourself to land one of these desirable positions.
Head of Remote
In March 2020, the pandemic forced many companies to abruptly shift to fully remote operations. And while businesses may not have been expecting or prepared for this change, many are finding that there are major benefits to remote work, from higher employee retention to lower overhead costs, and are making the shift to remote permanent. In fact, recent Gallup research found that of employees in white-collar jobs, 67% reported working from home either all of the time (41%) or some of the time (26%) as recently as this past September 2021.
But managing a remote organization is vastly different from operating in person, and companies will need HR to lead the charge on remote work. “New roles that cater to facilitating remote workers will be in demand [in the future],” said Janet Candido, founder and principal at HR consultancy Candido Consulting Group.
The Head of Remote (which, depending on the company, might also be called Director of Remote, Head of Remote Work, Chief Remote Officer, or a similar variation) is in charge of all things remote within a company, from remote strategy to hiring and onboarding, and every aspect of a business related to remote practices. This is a senior level role, which means that in order to land a job as a Head of Remote, you’ll need to have extensive experience in Human Resources, and more specifically, in HR for a remote company or working on remote-related projects and initiatives. The Head of Remote typically manages a variety of more junior HR professionals, including the next position on our list: Remote Culture Manager.
Remote Culture Manager
Maintaining a strong company culture can be challenging when your team is working in different locations, whether that’s across town, across the country, or across the globe. As more companies make the permanent leap to remote work, they’re going to need HR to develop and implement strategies to maintain their culture, no matter where their employees are located. That’s where the Remote Culture Manager comes in.
The Remote Culture Manager’s role “will be about building a sense of belonging and community in a virtual environment,” explained Candido. This can include things like developing programs to communicate the organization’s mission and values to remote employees, planning virtual team-building events, and working with managers and directors to ensure consistency in company culture across departments — even when employees may be in disparate locations scattered across the country or even world.
Recruiting is a longstanding foundational function of Human Resources. But as more companies go partially or fully remote, recruiting — and the part recruiters play in finding, engaging, and hiring new talent — will be more important than ever.
One reason recruiters will be so in demand in the future is that in a remote environment, companies have access to more talent than ever. “If a company is committed to remote work, then HR can bust open the recruiting doors,” noted Eric Mochnacz, senior consultant at strategic HR and change management consultancy Red Clover. “There is a greater pool of applicants available nationwide than just in a commutable area.”
With more talent to consider, organizations will need more skilled recruiters to help sift through candidates — wherever they may be — and find and attract the best talent for each role.
Learning and Development Manager
“Leading a remote team is much different than leading an onsite staff,” Candido pointed out. “This means leaders may want to go through additional training to ensure they successfully manage and lead their remote team that reflects the new ways of working.”
Because organizations are going to need to provide ongoing training to their leaders and managers on how to navigate the constantly changing workplace, they’ll need someone to plan, develop, lead, and facilitate that training, which is why Learning and Development (L&D) Managers are going to be a hugely in-demand HR role in the future.
While L&D Managers are already staples in many HR departments, their role is going to become even more integral as the workplace continues to evolve. For example, as companies implement more remote work tools, L&D managers will need to coordinate trainings on those tools. Or, as new managers are hired, L&D managers will need to develop programming to ensure they have the skills necessary to manage a remote or hybrid team.
In order to stay on top of the learning curve in this rapidly changing environment, learning and development needs to be a priority — and not just a check-the-box exercise — for fully and partially remote organizations. The Learning and Development Manager can spearhead this effort in innovative and creative ways that will ensure employees are up-to-date on all the knowledge and skills they need to succeed, and keep them interested and engaged in the process.
Chief Wellness Officer
The past year and a half has taken a major toll on employees’ health and wellness, both physical and mental, and many organizations are stepping up to give their staff the support they need during these especially challenging times.
“It’s...becoming increasingly important to ensure the workplace and internal processes are supportive of individuals' well-being and mental health,” Candido said. “More attention will be given to mental health concerns and how their employees’ work is being affected because of it.”
While we can only hope that the COVID-19 pandemic will soon be a thing of the past, the need for leaders to advocate for employee wellness isn’t going anywhere. And as companies start funneling more energy and resources into employee wellness, they’ll need someone to oversee the entire process, which often takes the form of a Chief Wellness Officer.
Chief Wellness Officers develop and implement programs that help support employee wellness, in all the various forms this may take. This can include tasks like securing a budget to provide ergonomic workstations to remote employees, evaluating benefits plans to ensure adequate mental health coverage, developing corporate wellness programs, and hosting wellness events, such as virtual yoga or midday meditation sessions.
Employee health and well-being are at the core of a healthy, productive organization. And burnout, stress, and poor work-life balance can easily chip away at your staff’s physical and mental health. A Chief Wellness Officer helps put the health and well-being of your employees where it needs to be: front and center.
Employee Engagement Manager
Engaged employees are critical to an organization’s success, and it takes different skills and methods to keep in-person and remote employees equally engaged — which is why you can expect Employee Engagement Managers to be a coveted role in HR in the years to come.
In an Employee Engagement Manager position, “the focus is on employee engagement and relationship-building, and creating a positive employee experience across every aspect of the employee lifecycle,” Mochnacz said.
For example, an Employee Engagement Manager might be responsible for conducting employee surveys to identify areas where engagement can be improved. They’d then work with leadership to update existing processes or develop new programs to drive engagement, whether that’s overhauling an organization’s virtual meeting procedures or developing a new program to increase team engagement across hybrid teams.
Employee Engagement Managers keep employees engaged, no matter where they’re working — and because engaged employees will continue to be the foundation of successful organizations, these roles will be in major demand in the future.
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) Manager
There are few realms of HR more critical than diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB), and as more companies turn their focus toward DE&I initiatives, they’ll need to hire more DEIB Managers to develop and lead these initiatives across the organization.
As the title suggests, DEIB Managers are responsible for creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environment for all employees. This includes developing programs to hire and retain more underrepresented talent, planning and providing training on DEIB topics, managing DEIB-related complaints in the workplace, and reviewing company policies and procedures to ensure they’re in line with the company’s DEIB goals — and changing or updating those policies and procedures as necessary.
Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging has proven to be paramount to the success of an organization and creating an environment where its employees can thrive, and DEIB Managers will become increasingly important to HR teams in the years to come.
How to Set Yourself Up for Success in an HR Role of the Future
These positions are poised to be some of the most in-demand HR roles of the future. So how do you set yourself up for success, and put yourself in the position to land one of these coveted roles? Here are three expert tips to help ensure that you’re a competitive candidate with all the skills and experience necessary to thrive in these positions.
1. Get clear on what you’re looking for.
When it comes to HR roles of the future, there’s a huge variety. Some are entry-level, while some are more senior. Some are focused on strategy, while others are focused on People management. With so many different types of HR roles available, it’s more important than ever to get clear on exactly what you're looking for — and then go after a role that fits the bill.
“Know what you're looking for,” advised Mochnacz. “If you want to be an HR [administrative assistant] or coordinator, then apply for those roles. But if you want to be part of impactful change that drives a business forward, focus on finding roles where strategy is featured prominently in the job role.”
2. Seek out remote experience.
Many HR jobs of the future have to do with the shifting workplace either to fully remote or hybrid operations. So if you want to set yourself up for success in the future, look to gain experience in the remote realm. For example, if your company is making the shift toward permanent remote work, volunteer to work on remote-related initiatives, like creating policies and procedures around effective remote work or leading a company-wide training on remote team management.
The more remote experience you can get, the better you can position yourself to secure an in-demand HR role in the future — and thrive in that position.
3. Develop a well-rounded skillset.
The most competitive HR candidates are the ones who bring a variety of skills to the table: They’re just as effective at managing the administrative or logistical side of HR as they are at handling the People side. If you want to make yourself the most competitive candidate possible and land an in-demand HR role in the future, it’s crucial to work on developing a well-rounded skillset.
“Become a well-rounded professional and understand every aspect of the employee lifecycle so you can effectively serve a company in an HR role,” Mochnacz recommended. “You want to be able to write a handbook, but also have the ability to communicate the policies effectively. You want to have the skills to have direct, difficult conversations with employees, but also have developed the [emotional intelligence] to help an employee who is in your office and needs guidance on how to work with a difficult coworker.”
The most competitive candidates will have a variety of HR-related skillsets, so if you want to land one of these HR roles in the future, don’t wait to start acquiring and honing these skills — start now.
The workplace is changing, and Human Resources is at the forefront of this evolution, as organizations must create and fill the HR roles needed to help successfully navigate these changes. There are many challenges of remote and hybrid workplaces, but there are just as many opportunities to find creative solutions and do things differently in ways that lead to more business success and increased employee engagement, satisfaction, and happiness.
HR teams are uniquely positioned to bring remote and hybrid teams together, and lend their skills and expertise to shaping the future of work. Now that you have this overview of the types of HR professionals companies are going to be hiring in the months and years to come, you can get started on the path to landing one of these roles — and building a long, fruitful career in whatever the future of HR may hold.