Student workshop: engaging with the HR profession

Students studying the MSc Human Resource Development and Consultancy recently had the opportunity to participate in a workshop focusing on the transition from their studies and onto the next stage of their careers in Human Resources. In addition to a number of informational sessions, the day included two visiting speaker sessions. In the morning we were privileged to welcome James Davies, a partner and joint head of the Employment, Reward and Immigration Department of Lewis Silkin LLP. James is recognised as one of the leading employment lawyers both in the UK and internationally by a range of independent guides.

In the afternoon, we held a panel session based on the “Question Time” format. We were delighted that Tony Leahy, (Head of Human Resources & Communications, Bank of Cyprus UK); Rob Griffiths, (Sales and Marketing Director, Exemplas); Gordon D’Silva, (Social Entrepreneur) and Sian Grinter (Group Financial Controller at James Hambro and Partners LLP) were able to join us for this session – a broad range of senior professionals with an impressive range of business experience who could each bring different perspectives to a debate on the role of HR – and HR roles – in contemporary organizations. They fielded a huge range of questions from the students and provided some very thought provoking responses.

We are hugely grateful to all our guest speakers and panelists at this event for giving their time to engage with our students. This was our final workshop session with those students completing their MSc HRD and Consultancy this year. As always, it will be sad to see them leave but I have no doubt they are destined for great things.

Dr Katrina Pritchard
MSc HRD and Consultancy, Programme Director

Employment legislation and the internationalization of Human Resources Management (HRM): A reflective perspective.
By Obi Aguiyi

A brief but engaging session with Jamie Davies of Lewin Silkin LLP provided valuable insight into current international human resources management (IHRM) trends and broader socio-political changes in employment law legislation, particularly in Europe. It is evident that the EU has had a massive influence over employment law rights, and several changes have been made to British legislation to comply with European employment laws. EU employment law rights continue to influence issues in discrimination law, from unfair dismissals to maximum weekly working hours. Most importantly, recent developments in unfair dismissal legislation, data protection issues and increasing emphasis on business ethics continue to pose considerable challenges to most global organizations as they continue to transcend national borders.

As an aspiring HR practitioner in a globalised world, one cannot underestimate the ways wider socio-political and economic factors continue to influence the manner in which HR professionals operate. The session provided an understanding of the relationship between changing trends in employment relations and the role of HR in enhancing employment law practices in today’s world. Furthermore, recent socio-economic changes may drive HR practitioners to play a more active role in the way employment issues are addressed and reformed (where required). As organizations and governments continue to seek microeconomic reforms, particularly in European countries, similar attention must be paid to wider global employment and legislative issues as all industrialized nations approach a common level of growth and emerging countries are likely to converge toward the same level of income as more developed nations. Similarly, politicians and law makers must endeavor to make sound decisions on employment issues and support HR practices in general.

Question Time at Birkbeck for MSc HRD and Consultancy Student
By Craig Fergusson

The panel discussion was an opportunity to get real-life perspectives on the HR function from some highly-respected business people. We’ve spent the past year backing up our experience as practitioners with theory, and here we had on-the-ground reports about the challenges and opportunities facing HR practitioners. While some of the dialogue reinforced the academic learning, there were some real points of contention where practical application seemed to be falling short. The panel was very honest about how they envisaged the value that HR could add and where they felt its limitations were. I suppose what was invigorating for me was being able to appreciate an argument while disagreeing and, more importantly, being able to articulate (to myself at least) why I was disagreeing.

Gaining insight into how senior business people think about HR, and how they discuss it among themselves (and quite often argue different viewpoints) was a lesson for the future in dealing with senior management. If HR is to increase its credibility as a business function worthy of a board presence we have to learn to answer our critics, address their concerns about efficacy and demonstrate our value. If a reasonably sympathetic panel can provide so much food for thought it demonstrates what we can expect to face in the boardroom.

Interestingly, one panel member pointed out that they felt their successful engagement with people was precisely because they weren’t HR – the implication being that HR was on the side of the management and therefore not to be trusted. This was an interesting reminder that while there is clearly a strategic management angle to the function, HR departments have an ambiguous role.

Finally, the session was another reminder of the value of interacting with others and harvesting differing viewpoints. While we might not always like what some people have to say, or the arguments they make, a head-in-the-sand approach is not going to progress anything. People will still have those views whether we listen to them or not, and at least if we hear them we have a chance to challenge them, discuss why they think like that, and perhaps refine our own understanding to incorporate new learning. We assume we’re right until someone shows us otherwise – it’s important to give them that opportunity.

Meeting people from diverse backgrounds and sharing [arguing!] with them has been so much part of the learning experience during the MSc HRD and Consultancy at Birkbeck. By that measure, the panel session was an extension of that general approach.

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  1. Pingback: Student workshop: engaging with the HR profession | Katrina Pritchard's Blog

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