HR professionals - have you dropped the ball with your qualifications profile? #hr #qualifications #hrbusinesspartner

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Business vs HR qualifications - we ask the question - what adds the most value (to your career & your organisation)?


After 27 years in the HR and talent development profession, I notice 3 clear divisions of opinion on HR qualifications. Having been a European Sales Director for HR qualifications my experience is also real in trying to earnestly convince HR directors it's all truly worthwhile. It was often a tough sell.

3 camps - those dead set against stepping in the door of a university to follow a tried and trusted (and often job advert expected) route of HR qualifications, those who pragmatically see it as a MUST, to get anywhere for job interviews and those who are passionate believers in the HR Church of Certifications. I've wandered between all 3 at different times.

So let's answer some of these questions...

1) Where's the biggest value?

HR vs Business - it's a straightforward mathematical equation: a business qualification will help you understand how organisation's operate in today's world, so if you want to be a credible HR business partner, how could you drop the ball on this one?

An HR qualification will teach you all about HR models, theories and case studies.

What will get you further and what benefits your organisation? HR qualifications for most a simple pre-requisite for almost all job applications at the early career stage to prove your essential knowledge. That said, later on, when you really want to start adding strategic value, you have to understand how the entire business functions interconnect and speak confidently on issues of business flow, financial challenges and executive decisions. That isn’t possible without a background or deep knowledge of the industry you're talking about. Credible business partners add this kind of invaluable insight, as 3rd party overseers. Do this at a global level and your career could really take off. The statistics on MBAs and their value are numerous :

It’s a globally recognised benchmark qualification in the business world. It can really take you places. Not quite the same for an HR qualification.

To have both an ideal situation? If you were to hedge your bets, I’d take the MBA simply because it contains the HR element in it and gives you a broader perspective. HR and strong commercial experience are an astounding combination gained in the right organisation. Experience will never be a substitute for a qualification BUT, it’s an enhancer for some and blocker for others if you don’t have it.

'Qualifications are often a longer-term career choice. What’s right for you? Check out this page for further information on the un-ending question:'

2) What do others say?

I’ve heard many criticise HR qualifications, see the 3 camps above, but many HR directors don’t believe in HR qualifications. As one said to me recently (HR head of a famous media company), how does a 10,000-word management report solve my business problem now?

At the end of the day, it’s a personal choice based on what your industry expects and your industry pundits tell you. Recruiters have an important voice, ultimately they decide. However, things are changing as HR expectations continue to rise. The life of the HR qualification could be at an end.

3) What makes either route special?

Learning – stretching your thinking. It has to be the ultimate benefit. You can also enjoy the benefits of a global network, depending on the course you choose, which later on, can support you in ways you could never imagine.

4) What’s the evidence say and what makes for a strong, successful, rewarding career?

The stats around HR qualifications are a little thin in terms of value and career paths, with some estimated salary enhancements (check out the SHRM website) but they usually aren’t from the UK. The studies of MBA students is much greater, as you might obviously imagine and therefore stack up far greater from an evidence point of view. Here are some blog post links to some more detailed research:

The knowledge and skill demands for HR professionals have ultimately changed. AI, Data and Analytics, GDPR and other high profile compliance changes along with social media bring new challenges to the HR world, both in terms of organisational operations but questions on value and HR’s role in key issues – purpose and behaviour of managers on a day to day basis.

Your knowledge will take you so far, your behavioural traits much further. Practical experience in a great environment and a learning mindset are a killer combination. Is that you?

John Fillingham

Global Talent Director (Internet Marketing Group) and founder of the Thinking HR group of companies.