One of the many things that drew me to the Fisher MHRM is how it combines theory with practice. I must say that the faculty— including the mix of faculty– does a very nice job of this. There is a real sense that what we’re learning and actively discussing truly does have real-world implications. This year, in particular, the full scope of HR’s infuence hit me. In no particular order, here are five ways that HR impacts everyone:
“I may sometimes be willing to teach for nothing, but if paid at all, I shall never do a man’s work for less than a man’s pay.”
— Clara Barton
Compensation — Having just started this class, I am no expert in the subject matter. However, we’ve done enough work so far for me to see that there may be no other HR competency that creates a greater “ripple effect.” Among the big questions: How do we decide what to pay? Do we pay employees based on performance (i.e., a bonus)? Do the bonuses get awarded to individuals or teams? Do we pay people in the same job function the same amount or allow for differences given the value of contributions? How do we ensure equity? These questions just scratch the surface.
“We discourage any companies that have unions from wanting to come to South Carolina because we don’t want to taint the water.” – former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley
Labor Relations — While the number of unionized employees has dwindled to about 11 percent, their impact on business practices remains. In my Labor Relations class, we’re working on a mock contract ratification that includes costing out demands and understanding the financial impact. What’s come to light is how the employer-union relationship affects all employees– whether because benefits are extended to non-union employees, because the employer decides to give non-union employees different benefits, or maybe even because the employer decides to open a new facility in a state where unions have little power (meaning hundreds or thousands of jobs are at stake). Everyone is affected, including those not in a union.
“The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.” — Henry Ford
Learning and Development — I must admit that this course really opened my eyes. Before coming to grad school, I was a frazzled manager who felt that training was extremely hard to accomplish. I also questioned how to justify the expense. Among many things, this class taught me that some organizations have a very committed and effective approach to bettering their employees, that great companies believe this training is owed to its employees starting on day one (not just an extra thing they’ll get around to doing), and that the results of training can and should be measured. Training not only helps the employee, but every other stakeholder, including co-workers, customers, and shareholders. Pretty impressive!
“It’s not the people you fire who make your life miserable. It’s the people you don’t.” — Dick Grote
Performance Management — This is probably one of the most fascinating parts of HR: how do we fairly judge employees’ performances? The answer leads to important outcomes like promotions, development opportunities, and terminations. The short answer is: it depends. And it is opinion– ideally based upon factual observation. We’ve discussed a variety of methods used by businesses, including what I call the “no performance management” method (not my favorite); the social method (where co-workers weigh in); and the “we’re going to monitor and judge everything you do” method (including software that tracks behaviors, surveillance cameras, and wearable technology). Everyone is impacted by performance management, and it can be done fairly and effectively with the right effort.
“We have talked long enough in this country about equal rights… It is time now to write the next chapter – and to write it in the books of law.” — President Lyndon B. Johnson
Employment Law — Last, but not least, this a recurring theme throughout the MHRM curriculum. In almost every class, there is some kind of discussion about legal ramifications. As you can imagine, topics of particular interest this year have been: sexual harassment (protecting employees, creating a culture that discourages such behavior, and following the law), wage disparity, and overtime pay. What’s so challenging (and frankly, a little anxiety-provoking) about law as related to HR is that people are unpredictable. Although law is black and white, each situation is unique and there is much more “grey area” than you might imagine.
Underscoring these topics is the reality that every decision has consequences for individuals. Each decision requires deep thought, consideration, and appreciation of others– and impacts the world at large in ways that are sometimes forgotten.