Home > HR Profession > Fewer Pansy HR Courses at B-School, Please

Fewer Pansy HR Courses at B-School, Please

When I was in business school – back…back…way back – there were only three areas of emphasis one could elect as an undergraduate – Accounting, Finance, or Marketing.  I choose Accounting only because it seemed the easiest way to get a job…worked out ok for me.  But Human Resources wasn’t even on my radar screen – couldn’t spell it and even if I could I’m pretty sure there wasn’t anything even remotely related to HR on the course list.  From what I can tell, the profession has come a long way in partnering with Universities to get HR subject matter more prominent in business school curricula.  SHRM seems to have had a lot to do with that.  In fact, their 2005 publication SHRM Human Resource Curriculum Guidebook and Templates for Undergraduate and Graduate Programs does a pretty good job of offering a roadmap for integrating HR competencies with general business competencies at B-School.  I still think there’s something missing here, though.  Much of what I see today seems oriented too much toward developing pansy HR subject matter experts and not focused enough on injecting the HR professional pipeline with people who are Ninjas in navigating workplace complexities, sorting through emotional dynamics, acting with agility, and thinking critically.  Without that stuff, you’re just a commodity; after all, anyone can learn to manage a benefit plan…sorry.  If as a profession we are really committed to making HR more crucial to an organization’s value stream, I think we should see stuff like this in the syllabus:

  • “[Thinking] more nimbly across multiple frameworks, cultures and disciplines,” “Critical and Analytical Thinking,” “The art and science of building new models,” See great article in 1/10/2010 New York Times Sunday Business.
  • Leveraging the hidden benefits of conflict in the workplace
  • Managing a project – soup to nuts
  • Speaking (and speaking up) in public with confidence and conviction
  • Managing change on a broad-scale and without remorse
  • Networking 101 & Selling 101
  • Practicing selfishness (aka Applying the teachings of Ayn Rand to the HR profession)
  • Applying creativity, fostering innovation
  • Challenging the status-quo
  • Jedi-Mind-Trick negotiating
  • Leading through influence
  • Disagreeing tactfully
  • Identifying and disposing of assholes
  • Using aggression as your friend
  • Learning to say “no”
  • Having presence

Can these things be taught in B-School?  I think so.  While undergraduate (or post-graduate) degree from a University in-and-of-itself will not pave the road to success for aspiring HR professionals, it certainly has a role.  And you might as well forget about elevating the profession if those institutions keep sending us the same kinds of people who may know how to pass a certification test, but don’t know a thing about kicking tail.

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  1. G
    January 11, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    Dear Prof. Judy, I would like to take a few of these classes- especially the Jedi Mind Trick negotiating seminar oh and the disposing of assholes class (I have no problem with identifying them). Please sign me up.
    These are general business leadership courses. I never went to B-school but if I did I would be disappointed if this stuff wasn’t taught-whatever my emphasis might have been.

    • January 13, 2010 at 10:21 am

      G, would be happy to have you apply to my university, but you’ll have to take the GMAT. and you are a Jedi so no worries about that. while these topics may smell like “general business leadership courses,” I actually submit that a) those courses rarely go deep enough and b) HR candidates need these things more than any one (as they, generally, are not pre-programmed to be good at this stuff). i think there needs to be a particular emphasis on this stuff in HR curricula. thx for the comments…hope you’re staying warm up in the great white north.

  2. January 13, 2010 at 8:16 am

    I often refer to the use of jedi mind tricks. Much underrated…..

    On a serious note, saying “no” and saying it confidently and not based on supposed legislation….are critical skills.

    • January 13, 2010 at 10:23 am

      @thehrd, so true. saying ‘no’ based on legislation/regulation is one thing. saying ‘no’ because one feels its wrong for the direction of the business is entirely different. that’s the one we have trouble with…

  3. January 13, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    I love the idea of teaching Ayn Rand to HR students. It will teach them the difference between being selfish and being self-centered. And to not be afraid. “The Fountainhead” should be required reading.

    And I’m assuming you have to fill the prerequisite of being a jedi, before taking the class on negotiating.

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