Deakin University recently worked with other universities and the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) to survey the State of the Human Resources Profession. It found the HR sector has changed in many ways. We explore seven of the most interesting ones.

1. From a male- to female-dominated industry

The survey noted that over the past five decades, the gender composition of the HR sector has changed out of sight. In 1976, less than 10% of HR practitioners were women. By 1997,  the number of women in the profession had grown to 50%. By 2022, when the survey was taken, the original figure had almost entirely reversed. Today, an incredible 84% of people working in HR roles are women. 

2. High turnover in HR positions

The survey found that, recently, there’s been a significant turnover in HR positions, with almost half of people surveyed saying they had been in their current role for less than two years. 

The survey found this trend may have been influenced by the pressures experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, HR professionals’ roles expanded significantly to include understanding and communicating government regulations and restrictions, managing transitions to remote work, and assuming roles as wellbeing and risk managers.

3. Transition to an advisory role

The survey noted that the HR profession is increasingly moving towards an advisory or consulting role, with line managers now responsible for many traditional HR responsibilities. In other words, HR professionals are carrying out fewer administrative and operational functions and are becoming strategic partners and advisors.

Today, only a small percentage of HR teams assume full responsibility for HR management, with the majority reporting a devolution of these responsibilities to line managers. 

The survey found this shift indicates a broader trend in HR functionality, and has increased the need for HR professionals to develop and refine skills in areas like consultancy, strategic thinking, and influence. 

As HR takes on an advisory role, it could lead to a stronger influence on shaping organisational culture and development initiatives. However, it also posed challenges, especially when it comes to ensuring line managers are equipped with the necessary HR skills and knowledge. 

4. Growth in HR teams

Over half of the survey respondents reported growth in their HR teams over the past five years. The complexity and breadth of what HR does have expanded, particularly due to the pandemic. And this has necessitated a larger and more skilled workforce. 

For instance, HR departments were at the forefront of navigating the challenges brought by the pandemic, including remote work transitions, health and safety protocols, and employee wellbeing.

As this happens, more HR practitioners require specialised skills in areas such as digital transformation, data analytics, employee experience design, and mental health expertise.

5. Shift to ‘people’ based team names

A significant trend observed in the survey was the renaming of HR teams with a focus on ‘people’, such as ‘People and Culture’. This was more than just a change in semantics; it reflected a shift in the HR focus to people-related supports such as employee wellbeing.

The new nomenclature also suggests that HR is increasingly seen as a key player in driving business strategy, particularly through talent management, organisational development, and fostering a positive work environment.

6. New priorities in recruitment, retention, and turnover

The survey noted that, since COVID, a top priority within HR has become addressing the skills crisis and also the challenge in attracting and retaining workers. The lack of available workers, particularly due to reduced overseas workforce entry during the pandemic, has been a significant concern for sectors including hospitality, retail and tourism.

With remote work becoming more normalised, the survey noted that companies are now competing in a global talent market. This opened up opportunities but also challenges in attracting and retaining top talent. 

There was also a new focus on retention, with many employers focusing on improving their Employee Value Proposition (EVP) by offering competitive salaries, flexible working conditions, career development opportunities, and a positive workplace culture.

7. A focus on mental health and employee wellbeing 

Finally, the survey found that, in recent years, the importance of mental health and employee wellbeing has been amplified. Organisations are now looking to attract and retain employees by actively prioritising their health and wellbeing. 

As this happens, HR has been at the forefront of implementing wellbeing programs, while also advising companies on how to facilitate open conversations. HR has also taken the lead on flexible working arrangements – a serious priority for many workers in the post-pandemic world.

In short…

The survey found that Australia’s HR profession has undergone a significant transformation in recent years, with the pandemic particularly shaping both organisational and HR priorities. 

Recruitment, retention, and turnover have become more challenging and the growing focus on mental health and employee wellbeing reflects a broader societal recognition of the importance of these factors in the workplace.

These changes point to a future where HR is not just about managing personnel but about shaping organisational culture and strategy, underlining the critical role of HR in both business success and employee satisfaction.

Want more?

If you’d like to know more about how the changing trends in HR impact your business, get in touch