On Wednesday, a new digital book titled The Rise of HR: Wisdom from 73 Thought Leaders arrived in my inbox.
The book—edited by Dave Ulrich, William A. Schiemann and Libby Sartain—is unquestionably ambitious in scope, running 582 pages and featuring essays from more than 70 thought leaders. Yet it’s also very straightforward in its approach, asking all of its contributors a single, simple question: What do HR professionals need to know or do to be effective in today’s and tomorrow’s business world? The end result: an impressive collection of diverse points of view covering a wide range of topics.
As the book’s website puts it, “the essays describe how HR practitioners must live up to and even extend expectations of their profession’s growing and evolving role. They focus on how HR professionals and the tools they use must adapt to shifts in demographics and the impacts of technology on the workplace.”
(The HR Certification Institute underwrote the e-book and plans to share it with its database of 140,000 individuals who have received HRCI certification.)
As you’ll see, the book is divided into seven sections—Context to Strategy, Organization, Talent Supply, Talent Optimization, Information & Analytics, HR Governance and HR Professionals—and features lots of gems.
For purposes of this post, here’s just one of many perspectives featured in the e-book, this one offered up by John Boudreau, professor at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business …
“Can any human do human resource management? That’s what HR constituents and clients sometimes seem to believe—especially when leadership teams admonish their HR leaders to adopt practices such as “rank and yank” performance systems simply because they read about them in a book about Jack Welch and GE, or when they appoint leaders with little professional HR training to top HR roles. Although these practices do have value, they can also seem to dilute the profession’s stature by implying that professional HR qualifications are unnecessary.
HR professionals and professional associations work hard to banish the idea that HR is just common sense, and to establish valid professional standards for HR professional status and practice. As the historical development of the medical profession in the nineteenth century shows, emerging professions strive to establish common qualifications, adjudicate professional practice, establish a monopoly on professional practice among members, and carry out science to build knowledge and inform practice.
There are promising efforts to establish HR as a proper profession, including proposed standards for human capital reporting, several efforts to set HR standards with the ISO and others, renewed attention to certification by SHRM and HRCI, and an increasingly clear and independent role within organizational leadership teams and boards.
In an effort to protect the HR profession, it is tempting to draw a line and say, “You cannot practice unless you meet these standards.” Indeed, sociology research shows that placing such limits is one of several paths to transforming an occupation into a profession. Though tempting, it is important that HR not fall into the “profession trap” by using exclusion to define its professional boundary. Evidence from our work on the future of HR at the Center for Effective Organizations (CEO) suggests a more inclusive approach—one that properly welcomes the contributions of disciplines beyond HR while advancing the profession’s stature and evidence-based platform.”
The above excerpt reflects one of a number of threads that runs throughout the volume: that organizations, as well as HR leaders themselves, can no longer afford to view and approach HR in the same way they’ve done in the past. To contribute to their businesses in substantial and meaningful ways, HR professionals, going forward, have little choice but to look at their organizations through a much different lens than the one they’ve used in the past and exhibit a very different set of us behaviors.
Before I conclude, I probably should add I was flattered to be invited to contribute an essay to The Rise of HR. With our “What’s Keeping HR Leaders Up at Night” survey finding “ensuring workers are engaged and productive” to be the No. 1 concern year after year, I figured I would focus my piece on raising the bar on engagement. You’ll find it on page 257.
I’m personally looking forward to spending more time reading what my fellow contributors have to say on the state and future of the profession.Twitter It!