the future of workWe kicked off our first interview on the Future of Work with Liz Brenner, who explained that unlimited access to information through the internet and social media has significantly altered recruiting and the relationship between the employee and employer.

This week, Susan Galer (@smgaler) explains how technology has dramatically transformed human resources and how millennials are bringing a whole new set of expectations to the workplace.

How is the role of HR changing?

HR has already sprinted long past its historical personnel administration role. As technology innovations like cloud, in-memory computing, and mobile transform business, they are effecting change that goes to the very heart of what HR and its practitioners do for the company. The internet of things brings end-to-end visibility across supply chains from product source through retail floor, giving companies the opportunity to bring HR into strategic planning and operations. Real-time data gives HR a seat at the business table allowing companies to better predict the talent they need, develop what-if scenarios based on multiple variables, and source the highest quality candidates at any time. Somewhat paradoxically, as technology innovations proliferate, connectivity brings people to the fore. HR’s newest role is that of business partner, fully connected to every mission critical business process and department, including the boardroom.

How has the internet shaped the expectation of the emerging millennial employee?

I’m loathe to generalize about people based on any superficial characteristic, including age. That said, so-called digital natives, meaning employees that never knew a time without computers or the internet, definitely bring unique expectations to the workplace. The consumerization of IT was behind this at first, but the next phase will be fueled by the internet of things. As sensors connect everything, millennials will be even more empowered, expecting connectivity that’s not just always-on but seamlessly integrated across company systems, processes, and procedures. This has tremendous ramifications for how companies do everything from recruitment through onboarding and training and development to the work itself. The rise of gamification is a prime example of how companies are responding to the demands of millennials, as are MOOCs (massive open online courses). It will be interesting to see how this demographic alters the workplace over time, especially as they move into management roles. After all, easy, flexible, and accessible is attainable on a personal level. But complexity increases with wider responsibilities. Will millennials be able to keep it simple as they become seasoned pros?

What role should companies play in higher education?

Business and higher education need each other more than ever. Students are literally the next generation of business, while companies need to help educate students as innovations are developed. Indeed, students help spark innovation. Business has always partnered with higher education for research but it’s even more crucial during this era of fast-paced innovation. I would also argue that while educational institutions pride themselves on their renowned faculties, and rightly so, they have to rely on business to keep them updated on the most forward-looking trends and technologies. This year I’ve written a number of articles and blogs about the rise of MOOCs as an efficient, cost-effective learning alternative. I believe that MOOCs can be complementary to paid education for both institutions and business organizations. Working together, both sectors can help prepare students to join the workforce and stay abreast of what they need to know over time.