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HR in 2020 – contrasting the views of today’s leaders with those of tomorrow

1st April 2015

Students from Northumbria University, Newcastle, have impressed the region’s most senior public sector HR professionals with a survey looking at perceptions of the sector in 2020.

The Human Resource Management (HRM) students from Newcastle Business School, led by Drs. Kate Black and Russell Warhurst, presented their findings to more than 100 delegates at the North East HR Summit held in March at the Baltic. They were exploring how the expectations and perceptions of current HR students, Generation Z, compared and contrasted with those of today’s HR leaders. Their aim was to better understand the challenges and opportunities awaiting them in the profession and the key capabilities needed to lead it in 2020 and beyond.

At the conference, the students first presented initial findings from a questionnaire completed earlier in the month by HRM undergraduates from Northumbria, Liverpool John Moores and Chester universities to more than 100 senior managers. They then distributed the questionnaire to the delegates, including HR professionals from all the region’s councils, NHS Trusts, Fire Services and Police Forces. The questionnaire was completed during the conference with the combined data being analysed and compared by the students, and then revealed in a second presentation at the close of the conference.

Among the findings it was shown that Generation Z had typically been prompted to specialise in HRM due to family or educational influences and their perceptions of significant career prospects within the profession. Many also suggested a driver behind taking a specialist HR degree was a view that the discipline was a growing area with a rising profile and characterised by increasing professionalization. This can be contrasted to the established HR professionals at the summit, who reported their key influences had beenwanting to work with people, having a wider business interest and liking the variety of the role.

Peter Cheese, CEO of the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development said: “I was very pleased that I attended today’s summit, an insightful event with really interesting results from the survey presented by Northumbria students. We all know the world of work is changing and the role HR and people development must of course change with it. The first step is identifying current perceptions of the profession and the challenges it faces as it looks to make organisational change in evolving contexts, and so today’s research was very timely and well-received. The next step is for HR professionals to make sure they are on the front foot, adapting their skills and roles to the changing landscape and the CIPD is taking an active interest in these emerging trends and debates, conducting research to help HR professionals navigate the winding road ahead.”

Dr. Kate Black, Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader at Newcastle Business School added: “Our HRM course is extremely popular with students, not just because of the strong career prospects it provides but also because of the outstanding learning experiences they can gain by taking part in events like this. They were professional and extremely confident in their delivery – a fact reflected by the positive feedback from the delegates.”

The summit was hosted by Gateshead City council and the North East Regional Employers Association (NEREO), supported by the CIPD and sponsored by The Guardian and the MJ amongst others.

For a copy of the student presentation please visit
For further information please contact

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