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Regardless of where you’re located in the world, in all likelihood, your local HR association will be promoting this idea of HR becoming a profession, and they’re wrong. We face some incredibly interesting and challenging workforce issues, the single most complex challenge being an aging population with the resulting exit of baby boomers through retirement. In addition to a myriad of challenges localised to our city, organisation, and work teams. Why this matters and how it relates back to my topic on why HR shouldn’t be a profession is this, we don’t need more of the same people, we need greater diversity working within the HR space to help organisations solve these quite dynamic and changing issues. And that’s the real issue with a profession; it reduces the diversity of knowledge because everyone has to have a specified entry-level knowledge set. For professions such as medicine, this doesn’t matter in the same way, while our knowledge of human anatomy and physiology is increasing daily; our fundamental knowledge has remained quite consistent for the past 50 years or so. So it’s really important that doctors for example all enter that profession with the same baseline understanding. In HR, however, my view is that it's critically important to have a diversity of knowledge and this is much more important than everyone having an HR certification or a specific degree which adheres to certain criteria. The people that I’ve worked within HR have very diverse backgrounds, and this adds value to the solutions or approaches they take. So many of my readers will know my background academically is Organisational Psychology, which has a much stronger focus on statistics and the scientific method for example than an HR degree does. What this means is that I approach HR issues in a different way from my colleagues – this ad value and is in part a mechanism of increasing innovation within the workplace. The same as colleagues I have worked with who have degrees in Finance, Accounting, Communications, and Information Technology, all these people come from a different knowledge perspective so can view the issue differently – and in doing so add value.

Now if for example, HR became a profession, most of those people would never enter HR, and thus the innovation and value that we bring would disappear. Now at this point, I want to make this very clear, I’m not saying that I or others without an HR degree are better than those with one, rather what I’m saying is that we’re different and that’s the point. At the same time as these HR bodies are providing seminars on increasing innovation in the workplace, they’re trying to kill innovation in HR through making it a profession. And they’re doing this often for no better reason than increasing their own coffers, professional bodies are very lucrative and powerful, if you are a professional body endorsed by your host countries legislation then you can charge almost what you like as an annual fee. And that’s the real pity of it.

HR as a profession is bad for most of us, for the few managing and working for these professional bodies it would be a dream come true for all the wrong reasons. So please, just say no to this drive to make HR a profession, and let innovation and diversity live and grow through the practice of HR.

By Brendan Lys

Operating at the intersection of Human Resources and Data Science, I leverage extensive specialist experience within Human Resources, with the methodologies and approaches of Data Science. This focus on the discovery of actionable insights from data, has been applied to areas such as: remuneration & benefits, workforce planning, recruitment, health & safety, diversity, and training. But what does the application of data science to HR challenges and opportunities actually look like. Within an HR framework the data we work with typically comes directly from our HRMIS, an advantage of using data science methodologies is that we can bring in additional data either held within the organization or from external sources - data which is out of reach from a pure HR analytics approach. Consider for example position descriptions, these contain a wealth of data that we typically ignore as its not in a analysis ready format. A side project I'm working on currently (April 2019) is using text mining on job descriptions to provide insights into which job family the position may fit into. The insights of my work have been enjoyed by organizations across a diversity of sectors including: Government (Australia and New Zealand), ASX and NZX listed companies, utilities, not for profit and higher education.