‘More placement opportunities for HR graduates from top B-schools’

Vinay Kamath | Updated on January 27, 2018

TV RAO, Chairman, TVR Learning Systems

TV Rao, currently Chairman of TVRao Learning Systems, was a Professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad from 1973 to 1994 and a Visiting/Adjunct Professor till recently. With over 40 years of extensive work in the field of HRD, he is popularly known as one of the ‘Fathers of HRD in India’. In this wide-ranging interview, Rao speaks on why the HR discipline needs to undergo a change, whether bright students are opting for HR and if HR professionals are finding a place at the high table.

Why and how does the discipline of HR need to change?

HR exists in a context. The context needs to be understood and appreciated along with the role of HR.

HR managers need to understand a lot about organisations, their business, customers, suppliers, various business processes and functions before they learn about people and HR. They should appreciate the role of intangibles or soft variables in business.

In many new economy industries, such as IT, financial services, e-commerce, and other new economy industries, a large part of the market value of organisations is intellectual capital. Such capital outweighs the tangible assets in modern organisations.

It is people who make or break business. Developing an appreciation of intellectual capital (intangibles) that make organisations sustainable and build long-term capital is still not being understood by most managers. HR managers seem to work for tangibles whereas their success is in creating intangible assets.

Even CEOs don’t recognise this. It is not their fault as they are driven by the mad rush for quarterly tangibles — results.

Modern developments in HR theory and practice, including competency mapping, assessment and development of talent using assessment centres and 360-degree feedback, are not being given adequate importance by managers.

In colleges, students are still learning routine HR than development HR or business HR. Though at one level HR has become more critical and has come closer to business, its integration needs to be managed better.

How are students viewing the HR profession and the courses offered by B-schools today? Are more opting for it?

I’m afraid the respect for HR in most prominent B-schools remains at the same low level as before. When I joined IIM-A in the early 1970s there were many takers for the personnel management elective courses besides manufacturing and systems related courses. Over the years, that percentage has gone down. Partly because specialised schools to promote HR and even a Masters programme in HR have come up.

For example, institutions such as XLRI, TISS, XIMB, IIM Ranchi, MDI and SCMHRD have full-time two-year dedicated HR courses, the registrations are good and bright students do join them. Some schools of social work are also able to attract good HR students. However, whether they attract the brightest of the lot into HR is doubtful, though this has tremendously improved. A large number of engineers opting for Masters in HR courses is an indication of the same.

Placement opportunities for good HR graduates from good schools have gone up. Where it is still focused on industrial relations and human resource management, and not so much on HRD, the demand may not be so high. Students view HR more positively now than before. The number of HR conclaves organised round the year by most colleges (though for placement purposes) is an indicator of the increasing popularity of HR.

Has the career path to the top improved for a new HR recruit? Does the HR professional today have a seat at the high table?

Definitely it has, for a talented HR candidate. Talented HR professionals are in short supply in spite of the increase in the number of institutions offering a HR specialisation.

The HR profession has earned its position at the high table. It got built up in the last 20 years gradually. Some HR Directors are paid very well, even better sometimes than others Directors. Some good HR Directors have made a mark, become successful CEOs, handled other functions very effectively and boosted the image of HR. However, these are very few, perhaps in less than 5 per cent of our corporations across the country. Over 90 per cent of the CEOs still consider HR as a support function and not as a business driver or business partner.

I personally consider HR as business and a step above being called a strategic business partner. In my view there can be no business without good HR or talent and it is important for even CEOs to take over the role of HR. The scope is high and we still have a long way to go. The credibility of most HR professionals is weak.

They shift jobs frequently, use consultants to do their work, focus on tangibles at the cost of long-term intellectual capital building, don’t use self-reviews or seek 360-degree feedback for improvements and are more eager to please their CEOs than to guide them. All this affects their credibility. If HR professionals raise the bar, focus on nurturing intellectual capital and stay relevant and competent, their place at the high table is ensured.

With more start-ups, younger CEOs and a young workforce, has HR needed to redefine itself to deal with a new animal at the workplace?

It is only after liberalisation that organisations in India started seriously focussing on competency building through assessment and development centres, leadership development programmes and 360-degree feedback.

Technology has totally changed the nature of learning. Culture and commitment surveys existed from the early 1960s and 1970s. Unfortunately, they got more commercialised and are being used for brand-building than for genuine improvements. For young CEOs and younger professionals, HR has to be totally redefined and repositioned. In future we need to move from HR as a job to HR for everyone. All CEOs need to be HR-sensitive, if not proficient. Talent-spotting, nurturing and developing skills are going to make or break businesses.

Published on December 08, 2015

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