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Nov 20, 2013

I get asked a lot about the future of HR and I always say  — if I’m not talking to someone totally uptight  — that in about 10 years most of us will be replaced by artificially intelligent machines who don’t whine about money or appreciation.

That’s why I tend to limit my crystal ball gazing to about five years.

(For you doubters, I just watched a science show in which I learned that the biggest obstacle to robots replacing humans isn’t the ability to think or learn, it’s the ability to climb stairs! And between you and me, I think they’re gonna solve that one sometime over the next 10 years.)

So let’s look at the next five years and leave everything beyond that to the clever folks over at MIT. Here are seven (7) trends that are transforming HR as we speak, and by extension, how work is compensated.

1. On Demand Workforce

By 2019 nearly half of the workforce will “rent” their skills to one or more organizations.

Do you know who these people are, what they do for your company and how much they cost?

If not, it’s time to think about visibility into the contingent workforce, how you pay these people, and which roles absolutely need to be in-house because they are core to your business.

2. Talent Without Boundaries

I’ve worked with a couple of folks who had absolutely no boundaries and they were always good for a laugh. But seriously, the exciting thing about this trend is that HR organizations that struggle to ensure they have the right skills now have access to a global and diverse talent pool.

Location restrictions in the workplace are rapidly becoming a thing of the past, and the challenge of how you pay someone living in one location but “working” in another is about to go viral.

3. Data-Driven Talent Management

Big Data and using real data rather than intuition will guide decisions about talent development, benefits and rewards.

Executives love hard numbers because it makes them feel safe and there are all kinds of insights that can be gleaned from information, such as how wellness correlates to insurance costs, how talent practices correlate to market performance and how compensation decisions impact retention.

Of course, we all know the past doesn’t predict the future, so don’t stop listening to the nagging, pessimistic voice of experience just yet.

4. Disruptive Technology

Technology drives or enables most of these trends and has ushered in a new age of informed consumers and networked knowledge workers. As an added bonus, everyone knows that networked employees with smartphones happily require less downtime than non-networked employees so everyone wins.

I also predict that in five years the comparatively clunky video conferencing tools we use today will be replaced by state of the art holographic technology, or at least, they will be headed for obsolescence.

Take note HR that managing a remote workforce is fast becoming a critical leadership skill and in terms of compensation: Who will you pay by the hour, who will you pay for the job, and who will you pay for results?

5. Social Networking

I just ran across this great article on the future of work that talks about how work is likely to change as technology continues to advance.

It’s time to think about new ways to reward innovation, not least of which is creating a corporate environment where people can collaborate, share information and bring crazy new ideas to life.

6. Change as the Only Constant

Business leaders have historically been known to change their minds overnight. But in a world where business strategy can change daily, business strategy may change every day.

How quickly is your organization able to execute new business strategies with new focus, skills and organizational models?

7. Tailored Talent Practices

Otherwise known as “Workforce Segmentation,” this trend recognizes that cookie-cutter talent practices are unlikely to drive higher levels of performance or engage your best people.

At the very least you should look at different workforce demographics when designing rewards programs and for truly critical skills you may need to offer individualized development and incentives.

So there you have it in a nutshell — HR is changing, how you pay people is changing, and most of the changes are positive because they bring such a diverse global talent pool into play.

For roles that require flexibility, creativity, leadership and the ability to apply knowledge to new situations, the selection of available talent will be bigger and better than ever before. Leaders will emerge where least expected, defined not by title or executive endorsement but by, well, the ability to inspire and partner with others. Knowledge will be shared and amazing new ideas will emerge that change the world.

Happily for compensation specialists — at least for the next five years — you still have to pay people. You may just want to do it a bit differently.

This was originally published at the Compensation Café blog, where you can find a daily dose of caffeinated conversation on everything compensation.

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