HR: A Diamond in the Rough

| July 19, 2011

Recently, as I was perusing industry articles, I stumbled on one that I thought I would share with you all simply because it was further reinforcement for me in terms of making the right decision to pursue a career in HR.  The Article, titled, Why Did We Ever Go Into HR?, gives an interesting look at what a gold mine HR can be in organizations looking to gain a competitive advantage in their respective industries.

The authors, Matthew Brietfelder and Daisy Wademan Dowling – two Harvard MBAs who deviated from the norm career path to go into HR – describe the “new HR” as a “truly strategic function” that promotes active learning, blurs the lines between business activity and people development, fosters creativity and innovation across organizational boundaries, utilizes social-networking to promote diversity in thought within the organization, and seeks to customize roles that capitalize on employee strengths, rather than focusing on trying to “fix” employees’ performance-hindering deficiencies.

Organizations that have exhibited these characteristics, like Goldman Sachs, PricewaterhouseCoopers, McKinsey, and GE are consistently setting the benchmarks for organizational success – and many other companies are catching on like wildfire.  Chief Learning Officer Magazine just recently announced its 2011 LearningElite honorees, a program which recognizes the best organizations for learning and development.  The top 5 on the 2011 list are AT&T, Deloitte, Defense Acquisition University, IBM Corp., and Accenture.  These are just a few of the many organizations who have reaped the benefits of recognizing the potential of their HR departments and utilizing them to gain a competitive edge.

Brietfelder and Dowling present a very convincing argument that organizations which focus more of their time and resources on attracting, cultivating and retaining their most important asset – their employees – just makes good business sense and will, in most cases, result in a mutually beneficial relationship.  Their choice to go into HR at a time when the industry was beginning to embark on a major fundamental shift towards becoming a more strategic asset within organizations was an extremely intelligent move for two Harvard MBA grads to make.  Further, it was refreshing to read about how excited they are about their decision to dissent from the mainstream MBA career path at the expense of being criticized by their peers.   I feel the same way they do – they’re just going to prove them all wrong and may even attract the skeptics to jump on their bandwagon.

In comparison to an article, titled, Why We Hate HR, a provocative essay written by Keith H. Hammonds, it was reassuring to hear their perspective.  In 2005, Hammonds stirred up quite a bit of controversy in the HR world because he highlighted many of the ugly truths about HR.  Even today, in 2011, the impact of this article is still felt as HR professionals continue to examine and debate his claims about HR personnel not being strategic-minded or financially savvy enough to make as great an impact within organizations as they would like.  Instead, Brietfelder and Dowling emphasized the importance of not judging the HR industry so harshly based on past issues, but rather try to find a way to do things differently so that HR can be more beneficial to organizations.  Ultimately, that is what is most important – helping people to work better together for the good of the organization as a whole.  I urge all current and aspiring HR professionals out there to read these articles.  Hopefully you will be encouraged by them as well!