Human Resource Knowledge and Skills Needed by Non-HR Managers: Recommendations from Leading Senior HR Executives
Van Eynde, Donald F., Burr, Richard M., Organization Development Journal
This study was conducted to determine which HR knowledge and skills should be taught to non-HR managers. A Delphi research methodology was used to survey the opinions of 16 leading senior HR executives who are members of the Human Resources Council, American Management Association. From a total listing of 57 HR-related topics, 33 were rated by the experts as important for instruction. Also included are the executives' recommendations regarding specific knowledge matter and skills.
To be effective, line and staff managers alike need to be knowledgeable in areas of Human Resources (HR) such as employment law, discrimination, employee recruiting and selection, and labor-management relations. One way that organizations supply this knowledge is through training. But what if the time for HR-related training is limited? Which HR issues would be the most important for a new manager to learn?
The same issue exists in the field of Business Education. According to the Society of Human Resource Management's State of Human Resource Education Study (American Institutes for Research, 2011), 58% of business programs require a course in human resources as part of the core curriculum. Other universities, especially smaller ones similar to where the authors work, offer only an elective course in Human Resource Management. Using one of the many mainstream Human Resource textbooks available, the classes teach the knowledge needed to become a Human Resource (HR) professional. The problem is that most of the persons who enroll in these courses are not destined for a career in Human Resource Management; rather, they are specializing in areas such as Accounting, Finance, Marketing, or International Business and take the course to learn what to do when they encounter a human resource problem as a manager. If the course content is designed to train people to become a Human Resource professional, then much of what is taught is not needed by a non-HR manager and some of what is essential is either not covered or not taught in enough depth.
So, it appears sensible to ask the question, "If we are almost certain that most of the people in such courses will never work in an HR department early in their managerial careers, are they being taught the right issues? The same question asked in a broader and more exploratory fashion is: "What human resource related knowledge and skills are critical for a junior level, non-HR manager to possess?" It is this question that this research study attempts to address.
When we began our review of the literature, our expectation was that we would encounter several studies related to our question. Much to our amazement, the literature was totally bereft of such information. We searched on-line, in the library, and even asked an HR research firm to see what they could find. Nothing...not a single shred of research information surfaced that was targeted to the question of what non-HR managers need to know about HR. A search of the internet revealed a plethora of companies that offered HR workshops for non-HR managers, but we were unable to uncover any information that the curricula were based on research findings. The information delete closest to what we were seeking was a curriculum guidebook published by the Society of Human Resource Management (2010), but a query to that organization confirmed that the guidebook and related studies were focused on topics specific to a student or manager seeking a career in human resource management.
It quickly became obvious that we were going to have to take a more indirect approach to discover the answer. We first decided to focus on what experts had to say about the value of HR-related knowledge and skills to non-HR managers. Ron Pilenzo (2009), an executive with over 23 years in Fortune 100 companies and the President of the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) for 10 years, answered that question as follows:
HR must create a sphere of influence, driven by best practices, that involves the transfer of as many HR competencies as possible to managers and employees at all levels. …