Future Focus: Teaching Human Resources

By Jennifer Schramm Jul 1, 2013
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Human resources professionals are in the fortunate position of working in an occupation that is forecast to grow faster than average.

This is obviously great news for those already in the human resources profession, and it could help persuade many of the best and brightest students to seek a career in this field.

From 2010 to 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 21 percent increase in the number of HR specialist jobs created. At the same time, an increasing number of Baby Boomers are retiring from the profession.

With these trends converging, there is likely to be a growing emphasis on HR education in the coming years.

The rise of HR as a teachable science has been under way for generations, but there have been key developments in the past decade.

More business schools and undergraduate programs have developed curriculums specifically focused on human resources—a trend that is likely to continue because of the growing demand for HR professionals.

Meanwhile, there have been concerted efforts to create more consistency across these HR education programs and to ensure that they cover all the HR topics needed for students to succeed.

Since 2006, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), through its Academic Initiative, has helped define and develop HR education at university business schools across the United States and globally.

Though the initiative will have multiple phases over several years, it has already been hugely influential. As of May, 317 programs in 238 educational institutions throughout the world have been recognized by SHRM as being aligned with the Society's suggested education guides and templates.

In 2011, SHRM established the Assurance of Learning Assessment, an exam for students who have taken the requisite HR courses toward bachelor's or master's degrees. The exam is designed to demonstrate that students have the knowledge required for entry-level HR work.

The subject matter that HR scholars study and academics teach is likely to evolve further as the business landscape changes. While the general topic areas will likely stay the same, issues within these subjects could grow and wane in importance, depending on outside forces such as economic, environmental or demographic changes.

As HR becomes even more central to business decisions, the teaching of metrics and the measurement of HR practices may expand to include more financial analysis tools such as organizational scorecards, dashboards and benchmarking information to manage business enterprises.

Teaching methods may also change in response to the continuing evolution of the e-learning platforms used by universities.

The progress of HR education is undoubtedly a positive trend for the profession. It will attract high-potential students to the field and to the academic study of human resource management.

These individuals, in turn, will help move the profession forward and will create the next generation of HR leaders.

Jennifer Schramm is manager of the Workplace Trends and Forecasting program at SHRM.

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