Family business

My 21-year old son wants to follow in his mother’s footsteps and begin a career in HR. I have advised him to tackle a general business degree first, but several schools are now recommending specialist HR-focused programmes.

Dear Laurence, My 21-year old son wants to follow in his mother’s footsteps and begin a career in HR. I have advised him to tackle a general business degree first, but several schools are now recommending specialist HR-focused programmes. I know the profession is much more popular now, but do aspiring HR professionals really need more than a basic understanding of people management before starting their first jobs?

Family business, Singapore

 

There are two schools of thought.

Increasingly we see Chief HR Officers being selected from outside HR. That’s a global phenomenon and the logic behind it seems to be that too many HR leaders – while administratively efficient – are lacking the strategic vision skills, the business savvy, and also the credible activist capability to influence within the organisation.

Having said that, the other school of thought says that grooming HR professionals through development programmes, masters, and bachelor degrees does give them a stronger capability to execute HR strategies within their employers’ teams and organisations.

On reflection, a good HR programme should have a strong focus on that business savvy that is required at every level.

If it doesn’t, and is purely focused on HR administration, don’t  advise your son to go down that path. A generalist MBA or business degree with a focus on HR, or people development, or organisational development would be much more advantegous.

I think the future will be about competent HR people who have strategic awareness and are strong at navigating the ambiguities of business strategy and organisations.

And it’s not just entry level recruits that should be taking stock of their skillsets in these areas.

Laurence Smith is a board-level advisor to Smartup.io. With 25 years of working experience in consulting and HR, his career has spanned across different industries and countries, including stints and projects with LG Electronics, GE Capital, McKinsey, the World Bank, and as Managing Director of Learning and Development for DBS Bank.

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