HR As A Specialization


“Which specialization should I choose?” is the dreaded question that every MBA student (well almost) tries to avoid as long as possible. But it does come up and hits you hard akin to the sudden realization that you have attained the marriageable age.

Not digressing from the point of discussion, this dilemma basically throws in itself in any one of these three phases:

A. Before joining the course
B. Shortly after joining the course
C. After having completed one year of the course

No matter what the time or the experience, I have found students getting trumped in almost identical fashions in all three phases. Although the newbie veterans do fool themselves into thinking that they know what each specialization and the related career entails.

That said, today I am going to talk about the specialization which has always been a fallback option for most of the students. Yes, you guessed it right – Human Resources (HR)!!

A. Can’t think of an option, take up HR.

B. Not interested in Marketing, Finance or Operations, take up HR.

C. A big proponent of gender diversity, take up HR!

D. Want an easy job with good pay, take up HR!

E. Love interacting with people, take up HR!

F. Want to give Cute poses?? Take up HR!

To add on throw up some random jargon in the classrooms and get through the course! Couldn’t get any easier than this, right?

I wish I could reply to the aforementioned question in the affirmative. Sadly, the rosy picture created around HR as a function has always been shrouded by myths. HR, as a function, suffers from the fact that it’s not as easily comprehensible as, say, marketing or finance. And there lies the root cause of the problem.

I am no stats champ but still from my experience, I can easily quote this as a fact that more than half of the MBA junta is mainly motivated by the CTC that the companies visiting the campus offer.

And in such a scenario personal preference for specializations usually takes a back seat. I am no one to judge whether this is the correct parameter to base one’s decisions on. My main motive is to make all of you aware of what HR involves so as to help you make a well-informed decision.

Human Resources is not just about interacting with people and alleviating their problems. In fact, barring a few disciplines, interaction is not even required on the level which people presume to be.

In a typical setup, the HR department constitutes the following disciplines:

1. Talent Acquisition (or Staffing)
2. Organizational Talent Development
3. Compensation and Benefits
4. Industrial (Labor) Relations
5. HR Analytics

1. Talent Acquisition (or Staffing)

To begin with, Talent Acquisition or Recruitment as we generally perceive it as is the function which gives you the opportunity to interact with people on a regular basis. As a manager in this function, you are handed over the charge of taking care of the organization’s staffing requirements (includes both blue and white collars).

So apart from the interviews and the campus relations, you have to maintain, evaluate and forecast the requirement of manpower in the company. The job also involves getting in touch with the HRs of different departments and units (if yours is a multi-location organization) to coordinate and ensure that the vacancies are filled within the time frame.

Maintaining a talent pool (as some of the IT giants are known to do) is also a part of your work.

2. Organizational Talent Development

Next in the pipeline is Organizational Talent Development which basically articulates the skills, competencies, and capabilities of the workforce and tries to enrich the same by encompassing areas like on the job training, job enrichment, job rotation etcetera.

The OTD strives to better the non-financial aspects of the employee reward package. Thus be it training to facilitate knowledge enrichment, rotation to give varied exposure or introduction of mentoring programs to develop a leadership pipeline, OTD ensures that an employee gets every opportunity to grow and progress within the organization.

3. Compensation and Benefits

A Compensation and Benefits Manager is entrusted with the vital task of handling the most important motivating factor for the employees. The C&B personnel has to stay abreast of the latest industry standards and keep inculcating the best practices for his company, to whichever extent possible.

He has to ensure that the pay structure is employer-friendly and helps them to manage their funds (including save on taxes) effectively. The different parameters on which the variable pay and the benefits (company car, medical insurance, LTC etcetera) depends, are also largely decided by this sub-function.

4. Industrial (Labor) Relations

Industrial Relations or IR as it is widely abbreviated, has so many intricacies involved in it that it can form a specialization in its own! An IR manager caters to the blue collared employees and hence they are usually not to be found in IT/ITES companies.

The scope of work in IR involves a lot of legal compliances and statutory requirements that need to be met. Consequently, it requires the person to be completely knowledgeable of all the labor laws and policies at all times.

Excellent negotiation skills are also a prerequisite for an IR manager since wage settlement forms important accountability of his job. A dereliction of duty by him can lead to disaster for the company (strikes and shutdowns)

5. HR Analytics

The last discipline on the list is also the newest on the block. Those days are gone when HR used to be all about theories and intangibles. Today every business needs its departments to talk in numbers and HR is no exception.

HR Analytics creates a single view of all relevant workforce and talent data and uses it to arrive at business driving processes and initiatives. So parameters like turnover, optimization or cost of the employees are all presented in a single view to be positively used to impact the business.

It’s like establishing a cause and effect relationship between what the HR does and the business outcomes.

Now that you have a clearer picture of what the box contains, choose wisely cause you don’t want the frustration of being caught in the wrong job to add on to your woes at a later stage in life.

Consider the decision of choosing your specialization to be at the same importance pedestal as your decision to do an MBA and I am sure that you will sail through the rest of the journey!


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