Everyone knows HR people love a good workshop. And so I found myself recently sitting with other HR specialists at a CIPD event on how broad economic factors are going to affect the future of HR.

It was one of those days that were full of moments that lifted you from the day to day, and in particular, I was struck by one quote from Jackie Orme, CIPD CEO: “The credit crunch is temporary but the talent crunch is permanent.” It was a big statement, and likely to be so true.

So what is going to happen in the future? Well, apparently unions may become a lot less important but we’re going to become more worried about ethical matters. There’s also likely to be even greater regulation.

Like Jackie said, talent is going to be increasingly scarce. But then we may find benefits in outsourcing to contractors in emerging markets, which will also affect the balance of opportunities in Europe.

Of course, chat is easy, but getting back into work mode, what does this all mean for businesses recruiting HR specialists today? How do they make sure that they get the right HR team in place for the coming years?

Now the other things we HRs love is a good three point plan – so here’s mine.

I think first it’s really important for businesses to be clear about what it is that HR means to their business. HR is a very broad role and in my experience, what companies expect can vary enormously. But it seems to me that there’s a sliding scale.

At one end there are those organisations that focus HR on compliance and processes. This could be because they operate in a very regulated sector where there is a high potential for people-related risks. The most important thing is to ensure that the technicalities are correct, because getting them wrong could be very damaging.

At the other end, HR is about leadership. Businesses want the HR team to focus on the big picture, and to come up with a wide-ranging strategy that delivers against the business’ ambitions.

Now it seems to me that in the future businesses are going to need to have both. They are going to need really outstanding legal compliance as well as a really imaginative approach to attracting and retaining the right people.

So the second point in the three point plan is to think about how you recruit both types of HR person.

I find the majority of HR job specs focus at the technical end.

The issue is that sometimes, people who are really good on the compliance side don’t necessarily want a strategic role within the business.

On the other hand, the people who do want this role often don’t come from a specifically HR background, and may be overlooked if there is too much focus on a long list of technical requirements.

In these cases, my role as recruiter is to help spot potential rather than find someone who fits the exact bill today. It means that the list of CVs that I shortlist may not include the job title or function of the role that the client wants to fill.

Some companies are really comfortable with this. I was recently recruiting for John Lewis and I got a long job specification. I then had to ask: do you want me to find someone who ticks all of these boxes today? Or do you want me to find you someone who is going to grow into your team for where you want to be in the future?

Now with John Lewis, the answer is always, find me the potential, and that’s what they value in me as an experienced recruiter. The ability to find people who are good at what they do now, and who are just ready for the opportunity to excel somewhere new.

Because this leads on to my third point which is that recruitment has to be ‘win-win’.

It’s easy to forget that when experienced, skilled people are looking for a new job, they are also looking for a new challenge. They want a job they can grow into.

We recently did research which showed that HR specialists in particular move job because they want more opportunity – the money is much less important.

So whilst it’s of course important to make sure that you get the right skills, giving somebody the scope to grow into a new role will help you to attract a different type of talent.

I left the workshop thinking that whilst we’d discussed many challenging issues, there was definitely a silver lining.

Because these challenges mean that HR people may become even more important to businesses.

And if the HR role changes, so people working in this area are also going to have a new chance to acquire new skills in the future.

And isn’t that just like an HR? Seeing the positive in every negative?