What used to be viewed by many as one of the least exciting areas of an organization is now one of the most dynamic places to work. Human resources is evolving into more than just hiring and firing and having a huge impact on the employee experience and the future of work. I have explored this in my recent book on Employee Experience. Here are just a few of the ways HR is evolving:

From hiring and firing to enabling, empowering, and creating experiences

It used to be that HR was just the place you went to get hired or fired, but those days are long gone. Today, HR is responsible for a wide range of employee activities, most of which center around enabling, engaging, and empowering employees. HR workers are the major players in creating employee experience, which works with an organization’s culture and growth and ensures that employees feel valued and supported along every step of their workplace journey.

From the “police” of the organization to the coaches, mentors, and thought leaders

Instead of being the people within the organization who enforce the rules, HR representatives are now thought of as mentors and thought leaders. Employees used to be scared of interacting with HR employees for fear that they would get in trouble for doing something wrong, but today that mentality has shifted towards viewing HR employees as the people to go to with suggestions or feedback of how to improve employee experience and to gain insights into how to better your career.

From maintaining status quo to destroying status quo

HR was long thought of the department that kept the organization humming along and that was resistant to change. If you wanted to try something new, create a new program, or change your work schedule, it would likely get held up in HR. Now, however, HR is often responsible for obliterating the status quo to keep the organization moving forward. Instead of holding things back, HR is the driving force in building a cohesive work environment where employees are happy and growth can happen.

From not technologically advanced to relying heavily on technology

The new HR embraces technology to expand its role. Using new tools like big data and analytics, HR can better understand employees and make more strategic decisions, as opposed to the old role of using emotion and tradition to make decisions. Internal data is available on just about everything, from how employees are performing to how often they visit certain areas of the office. HR representatives use this data to find trends and create the best possible strategy and employee environment.

From not defining strategy to shaping and leading strategy

It used to be that HR just did as it was told and didn’t have much impact in the overall strategy of the organization. Today, human resources employees help shape and lead strategy, especially as organizations realize the impact employee experience can have on growth and revenue. Fulfilled and happy employees play a huge role in the overall success of an organization, which means HR now helps shape and lead the overall strategy.

From no seat at the table to a key seat at the table

Today, HR is evolving into a more central role in the organization where it has a key seat at the decision-making table. Many C-level executives come from HR backgrounds and work directly with the department to make sure its needs are met. HR is more involved than ever with other departments and often has its hands in many baskets through the company.

From payroll, compensation, and benefits to employee experience

HR now does much more than just work through payroll and compensation. Instead of focusing on the basic needs of employees, it focuses on building a great experience where employees want to come to the office and do their best work. With a great corporate culture, employees show up to work for more than just the paycheck, which means HR also has to work on more than just payroll.

From cost center to profit-enabling center

In many cases, the change in HR’s role within an organization is due to executives realize its profit-creating potential. The old HR was often considered to be a cost center, but by driving strategy and employee experience, the new HR provides the opportunity to create profits and growth. This has helped the HR department get a larger budget because executives can see that investing in HR leads to stronger employees, a better workplace experience, and often to higher profits

From a clearly defined workforce to a dynamic and changing workforce

The workforce is changing right alongside HR, and the department has to be ready to meet those changes. As the workforce changes, so too does HR’s approach to employee experience. More employees are also working in HR to gain experience they can use in other areas, which means the department is constantly getting new points of view, which it can use to create a more cohesive work environment.

From focusing on employee inputs to focusing on employee outputs

As HR evolves, it is having more interaction with employees and playing a larger role in the day-to-day activities and responsibilities of workers. Instead of focusing on employee inputs and what it takes to get the job done, HR today is more focused on employee outputs and how it can encourage employees to do their best work possible.

From treating employees like “resources” to treating employees like water and air

Employees are now viewed as HR less as resources and more as vital parts of the organization that they can’t live without. It used to be that without employees, HR wouldn’t have anyone to hire or fire–employees were simply things HR needed to do its job. Now, employees are seen as more vital–they are what drives everything HR does, and they play a huge role in the department’s success. What HR does now depends on what employees want and is tailored to their needs.

From performance appraisals to real-time recognition and feedback with employee check-ins

HR is now more involved in the everyday employee experience than ever before. Much of this comes from real-time employee feedback with regular check-ins instead of the old way of annual performance reviews. With more applicable feedback, HR hopes to create a dialogue with employees where they feel comfortable hearing ways to improve and are open to making suggestions of their own

From filling gaps in jobs to unlocking human potential

In many cases, HR is now focused on making sure employees get the professional development skills they need to better their careers. Instead of simply plugging employees into positions in the organization, HR works with people to find their best skills, unlock and develop talents that might be below the surface, and shape a position in the organization that meets their skills and interests.

From a “one size fits all” model across the organization to “one size breaks all” approach

The evolving HR department no longer applies a one-size-fits-all solution to the organization and instead uses a one-size-breaks-all approach. HR now realizes that each department and employee is different and that a different approach needs to be taken to meet individual needs. This is often implemented by spending time with individual employees and departments to find how HR can best support them and drive their strategies.

From siloed from lines of business to working closely to understand business needs

HR used to work in its own corner of the office without much interaction with other departments. The result was often a siloed organization filled with red tape if other departments ever had to collaborate with HR. As things evolve, HR has begun working closely with other departments to best meet their needs. There is often a lot of overlap between HR and other departments, and open communication and good working relationships make it easier to join together for great results.

From multi-year project design and roll-outs to fast design, implementation, and iteration

The new approach helps HR quickly design and implement new programs and ideas and stay ahead of workplace trends. Technology is changing things quickly, and HR no longer has the luxury to sit back and create perfectly formulated plans. Instead, the department must act quickly to put plans into action while they are still relevant. The result is an agile department that has to stay close to employee sentiment and trends to build an environment that reflects the current needs of the organization.

From human resource job titles to people, talent, and experience titles

Many companies have moved from traditional HR titles like Chief Human Resources Officer to Chief Experience Officer or Talent Manager. New titles show the expanded scope of HR and how it is involved in many more areas of employee experience.