The war for talent hasn’t spared HR. The leaders of our organizations are constantly working to recruit and develop the best and the brightest for this dynamic career. However, when I speak to audiences of business majors and ask how many of them want to pursue a career in HR, few, if any, raise their hands. Our profession has a prestige problem. That is our challenge.
Human resources is a natural fit for business majors and MBAs, but they may be put off by old-fashioned perceptions about our profession—that it’s not exciting, strategic or a pathway to the C-suite. Those of us in this business know differently: HR is one of the most progressive, creative places to be in the organization right now.
I believe our most critical responsibility to the next generation of practitioners is to hand down an HR profession that is highly valued, highly desired and highly skilled—a field of endeavor that prepares people for the rank of CEO and COO; one that top graduates want to pursue.
While a degree in HR is one entry point into our profession, people find their way here from all kinds of educational programs and work experiences. What makes this occupation so unique and rewarding, in fact, is that our practice can be heightened by new HR degree-holders with state-of-the-art knowledge working alongside people who bring skills and experiences from other disciplines. Many of our most dedicated, creative practitioners worked elsewhere in organizations before moving into an HR role. From the trenches, they saw business through the lens of the HR customer, learning how people interact with each other and their work. And that’s immensely valuable.
Whatever their background, once new practitioners arrive in the HR suite, we should encourage them to begin the process of earning their SHRM certification. Then it’s our duty to mentor them to grow in their careers.
Mentoring works in reverse, too, in mutually beneficial ways. We are blessed with so many clever, curious Millennials who want to bring their passion for social connection, technology and teamwork to our profession. And who better to prepare the workplace culture for the next wave of young people—the digital natives? Let’s let Millennial mentees—as well as new arrivals from entirely different professions—teach us a thing or two from their fresh perspectives.
I have talked about the importance of elevating our profession. That includes lifting up everyone who enters it, from every pathway, all the way through their careers. We will build a generation of HR leaders who will, indeed, raise their hands in excitement at the chance to change the world of work.