Clarity regarding the scope of human resources management may be absent in people fresh out of schools or even colleges. Not surprising, since this line of work is not something that we are pre-exposed to during our academic years.
When youngsters ponder over the line of work they should opt for in the future, a career in HR is rarely the first thing that comes to mind. To a great extent, this can be attributed to the fact that there is a clear outline regarding the specific academic achievements required to venture into various careers or fields other than HR.
Take a career in engineering, for instance. Aspirants are aware that they need to study science subjects at the senior secondary level, then obtain a bachelor’s degree in technology or engineering before pursuing a post-graduate degree, if required.
“When I started my career in HR, industrial engineering was preferred. Later on, however, social work became the most preferred line of education, followed by psychology, sociology and economics”
P Dwarakanath,, former chairman, GSK Consumer Healthcare
However, to enter the people’s business, there is no clear-cut path as to what a person needs to accomplish. For HR, it is more open-ended. People hailing from diverse backgrounds, academically speaking, can make a mark in this profession. However, what sort of degree or subject at the graduate level one can pursue at the graduate level is a question that is still open for debate.
Veteran HR and IR leader and former chairman of GSK, P Dwarakanath, spells out the four subject areas that can serve as a stepping stone for a person’s career in HR. The areas in his order of preference are: social work, psychology, sociology and economics.
He goes on to elaborate that there was a time when people coming from a social work background formed the majority. Nowadays, however, 50-60 per cent MBA grads are engineers. Entrance exams too are more skewed towards quantity and not quality of talent. He recalls, “When I started my career in HR, industrial engineering was preferred. Later on, however, social work became the most preferred line of education, followed by psychology, sociology and economics”.
He has personally observed that core HR professionals, even today, come from a social work background.
“Students can be better oriented towards a career in HR if they inculcate the basics of management at the graduation level”
Sriharsha Achar, CHRO, Star Health and Allied Insurance
“Social work deals with every aspect of HR — productivity, welfare, personal relations and so on — all of which come under the ambit of this vast subject, the application of which directly translates into HR,” he enunciates.
Dwarakanath also draws attention to the growing presence of engineers in the field of HR at the moment.
Sriharsha Achar, CHRO, Star Health and Allied Insurance, says that students can be better oriented towards a career in HR if they inculcate the basics of management at the graduation level. “Back when we were studying, there used to be a subject across graduation level that dealt with basic management. I believe, such a subject — which explains what is management and cuts across human resource management, product management, business management and so on — taught in the last semester is crucial to obtaining a basic understanding of what management is all about,” he says. Achar adds that the subject needs to hold more weightage because the basic understanding of management before pursuing a postgraduation is beneficial for a person, irrespective of his line of work, and not only HR.
Ravi Mishra, SVP-HR, Aditya Birla Chemicals, asserts that to be a successful human resources executive, a deeper understanding of human psychology is essential. He believes that while a person can build this understanding during his career, a pre-exposure to it can definitely provide a much-needed boost. “At the end of the day, HR is a people’s business. What one needs is a deep understanding of how people think and feel in particular situations or when presented with certain challenges.
“To be a successful HR professional a deeper understanding of human psychology is essential”
Ravi Mishra, SVP-HR, Aditya Birla Chemicals
The veteran HR leader states that in order to get the maximum productivity from the people, “it is essential for an HR person to understand the basic concept, ‘performance is the multiple of a person’s ability and motivation. To nurture both of these, a deeper understanding of people mentality is helpful’.”
He also believes that it would be useful for HR people to have an understanding of the geographical and sociological specificities of the area and people they may be working with.
In a culturally diverse country such as India, one will have to work with people from different cultures and communities, possessing a different mental and cultural bend, all the time. Hence, a general geopolitical and sociological understanding is also a sought-after quality for an HR person.