Thursday, February 25, 2021
Monday, 11 July 2016 11:19

21st Century Implications for HR

Written by Edwin Mouriño Ruiz, Ph.D.

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There are numerous trends taking place in modern society that have implications for organizations. These trends include the technological explosion, an aging workforce, four generations currently in the workforce, and a shortage of qualified candidates for future jobs and organizations. It’s no wonder that there is urgency to accommodate the rapidly changing workplace demographics in the US while simultaneously keeping up with the ever increasing speed of change within in our organizations. There are many factors vying for the attention of HR professionals processes and all are occurring simultaneously and have significant implications for both organizations and HR.

Technical advancements

When it comes to technology, who would have believed that when the radio first came on the scene that it would take it fifty years to reach fifty million people while it took the IPod a little over five years to reach one-hundred-million? Or that today there are more mobile devices on the planet then there are people and that this is expected to grow to between twenty to twenty four billion in less than four years or by 2020? These changes have had incredible impact on how the present and future workforce can work and when it comes to work-life balance…or integration as it is now called.

Supply and demand

There is an aging global workforce. It is estimated that by 2030 there will be only two countries that will be able to accommodate their societal demands with workers: India and Mexico. The US is in a borderline position for having enough workers in the future. This will present immense challenges and opportunities for organizations when it comes to knowledge sharing amongst the various generations and the potential loss of organizational memory as the older workforce looks toward retirement.

Generation gaps

In the workforce today there are four generations with the two biggest being the Baby Boomers and the Millennials, who are getting a lot of press. The older portion of the workforce is retiring at a rate of two every thirty seconds. This has positioned the Millennials to be the next biggest generation in the workforce in this decade. Contrary to popular belief, the Millennials are also considered the least skilled when it comes to literacy, math, and smart use of technology. Being an able text messenger does not necessarily make one tech savvy.


When it comes to education and having a skilled workforce for present and future organizations, the US ranks twenty-six out of thirty-four countries in math. By 2018 the US will need twenty million college educated workers and by all accounts we will be three million short. The skills needed for the future will be critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, initiative, and interpersonal skills. The American primary educational system—and some would argue colleges—are not preparing students for the workforce that organizations will need.


There have been thousands of books written on leadership and billions spent on leadership development. Yet very few organizations can say they have an overabundance of excellent leaders. It has been estimated that over half of employees leave organizations due to poor leadership. Those who leave companies say they do so because the organizational culture is lacking recognition and respect, harbors favoritism, accepts incompetence, and offers only limited development opportunity. This is probably why over ninety percent of CEOs believe it is imperative for their leaders to collaborate. This is probably one of the reasons why engagement has gained so much popularity especially when it is estimated that seventy-six percent of employees are in limbo—neither engaged nor disengaged—costing American companies an estimated five-hundred and fifty billion dollars. This is an expense that could be minimized if there were effective leadership in organizations.


Demographics change is a major concern. In the US there are fiftythree million Hispanics and Latinos, which makes it the number two Spanish speaking country in the world, second only to Mexico. The average age of the white worker community is forty compared to just twenty-seven of the Latino community. Lastly for every white worker who dies, one is born while for every Latino who dies, eight are born. If we consider the aging population mentioned earlier and that every thirty seconds two non-Hispanics retire while one turns eighteen, organizations should reflect on what this means for their future workforce. The upcoming boom of Latinos in the workplace is further reinforced by the fact that in 2017 Latinos will be the largest entrants into the workforce, as Latinos are also the largest segment of this group.

Ability to change

These trends, along with the increasing globalization, have dramatically caused organizations to address change in a proactive manner. Over ninety-percent of senior executives believe the challenges faced today are more complex than just five years ago. Today only seventy-percent of the original Fortune five-hundred companies still exist. Today, over two-thousand of these companies have come and gone. While organizational change has dramatically increased in importance, organizations are not as good at change as they need to be. As an example, it is estimated that over ninety percent of organizations have failed at executing strategy effectively and sixty to seventy percent of technological insertions have been ineffective with other failures continuing to occur.

All of these trends and changes provide HR professionals an opportunity to play a strategic and proactive role in their respective organization. This will be especially important since the competition for the limited and changing workforce needed over the next decade will be increasingly intense. Executive leadership will need to take a holistic and systemic view of their organization in their respective industry in a very fast changing world.

HR has an opportunity to play a strategic partnership role with their respective organizational leadership to help create a human capital plan that prioritizes strategies based on their need in order to edge out the competition. Just like organizations are having to evolve and adapt based on the current societal changes taking place, the same has been happening to HR. This is particularly important for organizations and the HR professionals everywhere but especially in the state of Florida, as the state continues to grow and has now surpassed New York as the third largest state. With more people comes more organizations. One consideration is to re-emphasize the human in human resources.

Holistic – Organizations need to take not only a proactive approach to these changes, but also take a holistic approach to them. HR is in a position to demonstrate its value by showing how the different components such as succession planning, knowledge management sharing, leadership development, diversity awareness, recruitment and retention strategy and employee development can make a difference.

Underestimate – Never underestimate the impact that these trends will have on organizations and its leadership. HR managers need to position themselves to be on the forefront of these changes and informing the organizational leadership about what is coming and then propose strategies to address them.

Managing – Prioritizing the management strategy and developing a comprehensive human capital action plan will be key to the success of any organization going forward. It cannot or should not just be about a quarterly financial focus.

Analytics – Quantifiable results is the language that organizational leadership understands and HR is in a key position to tell the story. HR needs to show through numbers and anecdotal stories what the current and future state of the organization will be based on present trends.

Never – The power of taking care of employees should never be underestimated. Research has continued to demonstrate that an engaged workforce leads to a satisfied customer base, which in turn leads to an overall more positive bottom line impact.

In summary, as was said in the movie The Wizard of Oz, we’re not in Kansas anymore. Today and tomorrow’s organizations are dealing with more complex, broader, global, different expectations from its employees then it did in the 20th Century. HR is in a unique opportunity to demonstrate its value by engaging in a strategic and proactive partnership with its organization’s leadership team to position the organization for success.

edwin mourino ruiz

Edwin Mouriño Ruiz, Ph.D. An experienced professional with over thirty years of leading key elements of organizational change projects. Dr. Mouriño is a USAF veteran who brings extensive experience in leadership development, organizational change, executive coaching, team development, diversity, and learning and development. Presently, he is a professor at Rollins College educating Business undergraduate and graduate HR students. He is the author of The Perfect Human Capital Storm: Today and Tomorrow’s Workplace Will Be Different