HR: not just for your paycheck

Before I moved to industry, I never realized that Human Resources does more things than giving you your paycheck and make you fill out a billion forms. Now, in the company that I work in, HR does a whole lot more. Not only do they do those personality tests that Chall just wrote a post about today, they also make help all the managers manage people and they try to make sure everybody has the job that they can perform best in. Because like our HR manager said yesterday:"There is nothing more fulfilling work-wise than to do the job that makes you bike* to work faster and with a smile on your face each day". In order to make sure everybody has that job, there are individual development plans and training to make sure you can be in the job that you want to be in.

I never realized HR did all these things and I wonder if academia wouldn't benefit from more of this? Or does that already exist and I just never knew it did? I know that in my previous university there were trainings but only for people with tenure - which seems a little late if you want to discover exactly what that job is that makes you bike to work faster. Or is this just too expensive for most universities..?


*Cause as you know everybody bikes here, even if it rains every single day these days.

5 responses so far

  • qaz says:

    The modern university is a strange agglomeration of a confederation of small businesses. Each lab wants to have its own hiring practices, bringing in only the students and technicians that the lab head wants. In practice, what this means is that the university is covered by lots of hiring laws that only pertain to big businesses (with more than X employees) but the hiring decisions are being made at the level of the laboratory. (And most laboratories wouldn't want it any other way. I know I don't want HR deciding who I get to have as a technician!)

    I'm sure that all universities have an HR division. But the HR at my BigStateResearchU is generally tasked with covering the university's back[side] and not necessarily with getting the best interests of a given laboratory. In practice, this puts a conflict between HR and the faculty on the ground. I suspect this may be different in a business which has a more single-purposed goal than a university. (But I don't know and am curious.)

    • babyattachmode says:

      Well first, HR doesn't just do first hires but also helps people and their managers decide where they go next. This wouldn't really pertain for academia where you usually move to a different place from GS to PD to TT position, but it might hold up for faculty, where for example HR might help them decide what kind of strategy to use for things.
      And regarding your second point, a business has a single goal (make money), but also different goals like what their vision is. Similarly, a university has a goal (publish papers/educate students/get grants?) that is similar for everyone. And when hiring faculty there is usually a theme that a department decides on. For all these kind of things HR helps in a company but not in academia - at least not that I'm aware of.

  • whizbang says:

    At many universities, HR does just what you describe with administrative staff. Faculty are often considered "above" such things; after all, we are there by choice so it must be what we want. The staggering variety of faculty success paths in the modern university (especially the academic medical center) makes this approach more important.

  • chall says:

    Thanks for the link 🙂

    As for the HR. I'd say that the unis I've been involved with do a lot of the same things as the pharma place and the non-profit I work with now. Main difference would be that unis training people who they know will leave (students) so the additional training (personality types etc) and "extended training" is not as important as for the fulfillment as it is for the staff and "permanently hires". Also, a main cost for a company (and universities) is hiring (more importantly Faulty hiring) since a new employee will take about 6-12months to train and become a 'productive' employee so they want to get the right fit and if it isn't, get the right for the next job within the company.

    Does that make sense?

  • Our students take these tests their senior year as part of their group senior thesis. Since I'm supervising a group thesis this year I got the option of taking them too. Some of them are more useful than others. The Myers Briggs (which I didn't take again because I've already done it twice) was actually more insightful than I thought it would be-- it's really helpful knowing who in the group are extroverts and who are introverts.

Leave a Reply