It was not an easy decision to make when I was offered a platter of courses during my MBA. There was high paying Finance, dynamic and glamorous Marketing, Techno-freak Systems, Brawny Operations, and then in the end, the bratty, obnoxious and free-riding (that’s what they say), HR. It was a decision that was going to mark my value in the bloodthirsty job market, for the rest of my life. So, I still say it was not an easy decision to take HR as a career-starter.
Yes, I am an HR, and every other day, from every other person, I get to hear the same words over and over again “what’s the big deal with HR? Anyone can do that.” I don’t disagree. Of course, anyone can do HR, or Marketing, or Finance, or Operations, or even Systems. What’s the Big Deal in all of these streams.” Well, the finance guy says – “O, business is all about money, and I deal with money.” Well, so where does the money come from anyways? Does it appear from thin air, or a person of flesh and blood works hard to earn it for you? Over to the flamboyant marketing, “O, without me, nobody will know the existence of the business.” So, what if there are no people in the business to make it exist? O, here comes operations, “I make the product, I deliver service. Without me, there would be no product, no service, and hence no business.” Hmm, so the machine runs on its known, the service gets delivered automatically; no person is required to switch the machine on, or take the service to the customer, is it? And the systems person boasts, “I work with no people. Everything I do is through the computer.” Well, so when the computer breaks down, it repairs itself? And in the very end, the argument is concluded by “O! We can’t win from you. You HR people just know how to talk and baffle others. Anyone who is a good talker and well versed in English can do HR.”
Okay guys, let’s have something straight here. Firstly, without people, a business doesn’t exist, doesn’t make money, and doesn’t produce goods or deliver service. The human capital is and will always be the greatest asset of a business, and HR is the one who deals with this very asset. Bad HR can easily crash a company, and if you care to look it up, you’ll find many shocking examples like Toyota, Microsoft, and if you want a more recent example, our very own Maruti, which lost a good Rs. 2500 million due to labour unrest in 2012. I know you’ll still say that these failures didn’t render the company bankrupt as a failure in any of our fields would do. Well, I don’t think silent killers cause any less sabotage than the vociferous ones. And there are not only bad HR examples, but also good ones where companies have benefitted from great HR practices, like Google which has recently moved to be the 3rd most valuable firm in the world.
Just because anyone who is an HR is doing “Ok”, doesn’t mean that anyone can do HR really well. It takes as much talent to be an excellent HR as it takes to excel in any other field of management. The difference between a qualified HR executive and a non-qualified HR executive is as great as the difference between a qualified Finance exec. and a non-qualified Finance exec. And while an HR guy may fail to notice the 0.09% error in the financial statements, the same way a finance guy will hardly be able to estimate the unrealized productivity that is lost due to disengagement of employees to their jobs. If you are qualified to be in marketing but you are thrown into HR, you’d be as naive as you would have been if thrown into operations. But, you can catch up to it, as you would have in operations too. It depends on you and your talent, not on the subject or the stream.
This article is not meant to change the opinions of anyone who thinks “anyone can do HR.” Being an HR myself, I understand people dynamics a little better that any other non-HR management executive, and I know that it is nearly impossible to change a so deep-rooted opinion overnight just by writing a single article. The purpose of this article is to simply put a small question mark on the backdrop based on which this opinion has surfaced, which I hope I have somewhat succeeded in. I didn’t pick HR because it’s a work-life balance thing, or because I was not fit for anything else. I picked HR because I wanted to do the job, just like any other management grad who wanted to do marketing, or finance, or systems. I don’t get to be bratty, obnoxious and a free-rider, more importantly, even my work-life is pretty much unbalanced.[/sociallocker]