The future of HR in the social field

Name it as you please: HR, HR, and OD, People and Culture, People, Culture & Growth, head of, director, generalist, partner. Or in many other ways, but, either way, the position reflects the role of a professional response with the most relevant, valuable, and challenging organizational resource.

Besides bringing significance and the feeling of contributing to a higher purpose, working in the social field also implies assuming a different organizational culture, structure, and strategy existing in the nonprofit sector, even if important differences may arise from the organizational dimension, its maturity, and other influencing factors.

The overall goal of working in the social field, the strong motivational and (often) vocational choices of people to join this labor environment, the dynamic of relations and specificity of culture, as well as the typical organizational structure and financial limitations are all factors that such HR responsible should manage with grace while navigating within a social context described by needs in constant change (VUCA is the new term for it!).

On the other hand, society expects that the social support system can deal with problems and generate appropriate, customized, and efficient solutions, at all levels (from individual to global scale).

And all this is maybe right and fair, only currently slightly impossible.

So what should the people in charge of people’s well-being and professional and personal development do?

In the FOCUS project, we think that they should begin by talking about that and this is what we are doing involving professionals from Austria, Denmark, Italy, and Romania. About 170 practitioners, managers, and decision-makers (44 from Austria, 46 from Romania, 47 from Italy, and 34 from Denmark) agreed with us that learning from mistakes and having the solution-oriented approach, looking at the future, and preparing the professionals and organizations just in time to not be caught off guard, arises as to the best solution. As they call it nowadays, manifesting organizational resilience and agility.

It sounds great, you might hopefully say, but how?

You may explore the main conclusions of the consultations organized between September and November 2020, in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, in the article below, but please let me stress one idea that for me is the key question – how can we motivate/encourage employees and collaborators to put to work their knowledge and competencies, to fully express their attitudes and capacities/capabilities, bringing added value and do this with generosity, while finding satisfaction in working with valuable co-workers?

In addition to this individual perspective, according to which the practitioner should be directly interested in personal and professional development, the results of these consultations brought up also an organizational perspective. More precisely, put on the table how the organization defines its structure, culture, values, and modus operandi to attract, preserve, retain and motivate high skilled professionals, with trained resilience, capacities, and articulated responses.

The participants to the 17 consultation events organized in face-to-face and online format in the four countries discussed multidisciplinary and intergenerational teams, feeling safe at work, social marketing, digitalization, and many other topics that you may discover in the report HERE.

But, at the end of the day, from an HR perspective my main takeaways are linked with the following questions:

  • How can social organizations (public and private) provide working environments that are a source of continuous learning and improvement?
  • How can we encourage people to develop themselves and share their learnings with others, feel part of a team, and belonging to an organization?
  • How can we recognize the value of people by offering them decisional autonomy, space to express their competencies, and take initiative?
  • How our organizational values, mission, and vision are attracting the “right people” and how are the people influencing the organizational culture?

I am confident that together we may find and pilot the best solutions, and this is what we intend to do in the next stages of the FOCUS project – the definition of the Inventory of Future Skills, the development of a workplace learning policy and of a training program for HR managers that will involve about 80 such responsibles in all partners country.

So, what do you think, are you ready to step into the future and lead the change?

Article by Irina Adăscăliței, director and founder of CONCORDIA Academia.

The perspective on the social field in 2030

The first stage of the FOCUS project – Forward Looking Social Europe Skills is over! The result of the consultations involving about 170 professionals, employers and social decision makers from the four countries participating in the project – Austria, Denmark, Italy and Romania, is available briefly below.

We invite you to go through the following things that we found most interesting in the research report.


  • Sharp individualization in society, which often leads to the fragility of families and increased loneliness and isolation. This trend seems to be reinforced by the digitization process that is increasingly moving human interaction into the virtual world;
  • Clients of social organizations are affected by growing poverty (a result of an unstable economic environment), which is beginning to invade the middle classes;
  • Clients seem to have greater difficulties in relating to others;
  • There are increased needs for individualized services located at the border between different spheres of the social field (socio-medical, socio-educational, socio-economic), and customers have increasingly different needs.


  • Complex customer issues require a holistic approach;
  • The specialization of organizations is growing and, implicitly, the activity of professionals;
  • There is a need to promote networks and exchanges between private and public social organizations.


Social organizations are active in an environment strongly influenced by public policy and often based on public funding. The lack of a common vision from the political sector, civil society and the private sector seriously affects the social sphere. Leaders of social organizations need to engage in a more intense dialogue with decision-makers and politicians.

Future skills

In the analysis phase of the consultation results, an interdependent model of holistic competence was used that groups the skills and competencies needed in the future on three levels: personal competencies, organizational capacities, respectively relationships and networks.

  1. Personal development and soft skills

The attitudes that employees bring in the work they do, attitudes that the selection/promotion/development processes should intercept and subsequently stimulate (such as: flexibility, creativity, courage and authenticity) are very important. But key elements are also intrapersonal skills, such as self-awareness and interpersonal skills such as relationship skills.

  1. Think, know and act

And in the future, employees will need to have good cognitive skills and a solid knowledge of general theories and methods of social assistance. Future training needs to be much more practical, and learning – experiential. This presupposes the existence of feedback mechanisms from other professionals and experts, as well as a systematic reflection on one’s own actions and those of others.

  1. Organizational capabilities

In order to attract and retain them, the organizations of the future must give employees a clear picture of their vision. It must be based on a well-communicated and lived organizational culture. Leadership will need to be able to better express the uniqueness of the organization. The skills to communicate the results and the impact generated to the decision makers and stakeholders at the community level will be essential in ensuring the sustainability of the organizations.

The organizations of the future will need to be more agile, innovative and creative, in order to attract qualified staff and provide quality services, which requires a professional management that will deal significantly more with the development of employees and the organization. Innovation and digitalisation will remain challenges and opportunities for social organizations, which need to create a digitalisation agenda and invest in the digital skills of their employees.

  1. Relationships and networks

The social organization and its employees are always in a network with clients, communities, volunteers, other social / business organizations and decision makers. Networking primarily requires communication skills related to argumentation and conflicting communication. Regional and personal networks in which people feel safe could gain importance in the future. In this regard, social workers should have skills that allow them to participate in activating, moderating and generating ideas in the community.

Instead of closing

We hope that these first conclusions will be just a starting point in a discussion with and about social professionals. We invite you to share with us your opinion on the Facebook page of the project. And if you think that other colleagues or partners might be interested, share it so that the future will find us all better prepared.

Draw the profile of the professional from 2030

If you want to contribute to shaping the profile of the professional in the social field for 2030, you can do it by May 31, 2021, by filling in the questionnaire available on the project website. We need your opinion!

The next step towards the future

The FOCUS project continues, and between June 9-10, 2021, over 60 social professionals from Austria, Denmark, Italy and Romania will meet online to define the Future Skills Portfolio. Also in June 2021, you will be able to participate in an event in which we intend to share with you the conclusions about the future employee in the social field. So, add the date to the calendar and see you online, on June 17, 2021, starting at 16:00.
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The contents of this document represent the views of CONCORDIA Humanitarian Organization and its partners and are their responsibility. The EACEA and the European Commission are not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.