Saturday, February 8, 2014

Preparing HR Managers: B-schools Should Change their Approach

Human Resource Managers should be taught more of HR and less of Management
T V Rao
As I keep reflecting about the role of Human Resource Managers and the Institutions that prepare them, I come to the conclusion that our HR managers are more “Management Focussed” and less HR or “People Focussed”. The reasons for my conclusion because, I notice that the main concern of most HR managers seem to be managing systems than people, while it should be managing people and empowering and enabling others managers and supervisors to manage people.
Managing people starts with self management. If you don’t recognise your own “talent” (a more popular name in recent times to “resources”) or resources and have respect for yourself, you cannot manage others. First prerequisite to managing people is the ability to recognise talent. Recognising talent or resources requires an understanding of the nature of resources or talent. Another term that is currently in use is competencies. You may or may not have some of them and you can grow some or most of them in yourself. There are some which are difficult to grow (for example if you are an extreme introvert it may be difficult to become an extravert and you may not even want to be) and some others you may not even want to develop in yourself. However some of them, you may want others to have and some others you may not want anyone to have (for example dishonesty or not honouring commitments).
The competence or talent or human resource world is vast, versatile, contextual and continuously developing. The factor analysis of qualities of people,  discovery of human motives, values, attitudes  dates back to over a  hundred years and perhaps centuries and they are valid even today (Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, Carl Jung, H J Eysenck, Raymond B Cattell, Henry Murray, Abraham Maslow, David McClelland, Gordon Allport, Allport-Vernon- Lindzey values, etc). For example almost a hundred years ago Gordon Allport identified 17,953 traits (4.5% of words from dictionary). He classified traits into three categories: Cardinal trait - a trait so dominant that a person’s entire life revolves around it; Central traits – qualities that characterize a person’s daily interactions and Secondary traits - which characteristics that are exhibited in specific situations.   
With change of time and development taking new directions in  life, the dimensions that were not there in yesteryears crop up (for example networking, technology savvy, respecting diversity, retaining, inspiring etc.). McClelland’s competency movement and Spencer’s list add a number of new competencies including self concept, emotional intelligence etc. Some of these may have existed in different forms but are now getting more focussed and differentiated. Indian scriptures and ancient wisdom outlines many of the new forms of qualities in old language. For example Dr. Ammineedu former Director of HR of BEL worked on Divine and Demonic personalities using Vedic literature and created a 360 feedback tool.
Managing self therefore involves continuous understanding of self, developing qualities that one likes to develop, avoiding situations that put the person or the team to disadvantage and making choice of situations to succeed, emotional self control, interpersonal management, making contributions to team etc.
All HR people should first learn to manage themselves. Helping a HR person to develop right attitude des to manage self requires in my view at least a year’s focused study of psychological foundations of human behaviour. In my view at least a year should be devoted to this and several courses of psychology and applied psychology including the nature of the man as depicted in Vedas and Upanishads,   Emotional self control through yoga and modern forms of meditation (Vipasana, Art Of Living etc): interpersonal management (TA, Coaching, conflict management); team work and team management through exercises etc. should also be offered. Thus understanding self through listening, reflection, emotional self control, developing self (motives, values, attitudes, traits etc.) forms and integral part of HR. Developing Interpersonal relations and teams is another significant part.
It is only after this self management, understanding of the individual in the context of society, organizations, teams and their dynamics and understanding and managing people in various settings becomes another part. Understanding the context and managing self and others in this context becomes part 2 of the preparation. It is in this part what is now taught as Management subjects should figure out: Nature of organizations, the way they function, Strategies, Production, Marketing, Finance and Accounting, Economics, Personnel Management & IR, Quality, Supply Chain, Service Delivery etc.  The third part of the preparation of HR people has to be on developing others to manage themselves. Every person has to be his/her own HR manager. The purpose of HR is to discover self, apply self, grow self and enable others to discover, apply and grow. The job of a HR person is to enable each individual in the organizational context to mange themselves.  HR Systems are aids to continuously discover, apply, develop or multiply and manage talent. This can be best done by each individual and the role of HR professional is to create conditions that enable each person to continuously discover and rediscover and apply talent, nurture one’s own talent and use it for self and organizational growth.
Over emphasis on theories without having the perspective presented here will lead to developing text book HR managers that focus more on management and less on People.

The job of a HR person is to enable each person to manage his/her internal resources. Excessive preoccupation with organizationally controlled methods of using talent through regulatory means is highly limiting view of HR. B-Schools need to change their attitude and expertise in preparing HR professionals for the future and redraw their curricula and faculty towards this end. There could be many on-line programs to prepare this breed of HR professionals whose single most important mission is to enable every employee to manage self.  

Some times I wonder if B-Schools are the right places to develop HR Managers. Think of the most successful Institutions that developed some good HR Managers: XLRI and TISS, XISS,  not  B-schools to begin with.  

2 comments: said...

Good Article.
I liked it.
Thanks for sharing
Varada Murthy


Sir, an excellent article. You rightly pointed out the deficiency ..people focus. Surprisingly study of psychology is not included in the syllabus of MBA. Unless one understands how and why people behave the way they do, how can one get results from them..In my opinion to understand what drives people is vital to lead them.Most MBA grads see their subordinates as objects, means to achieve the goals management has set. They do not make an effort to allign individual goals to that of management. People lack empathy and humane approach while executing their tasks and just follow the book. Which does not help the organisation to evolve as a united force.