Sunday, June 17, 2007

HR and Nobel Prize

Can HR ever win Nobel Prize? Joseph Rasquinha and Mohammed Zaheer Hussain opine that the problem with HR is that the overdose of irrelevant jargon and a lack of objectivity, measurement and empirical study.

What HR desperately needs is a new body of thought which should be termed quantitative HR.’ This should be independent of what present practitioners and theorists of the subject are doing. Quantitative HR should look to take a leaf out of the Economics’ book and start by incorporating ‘measurement of the residual’ which is a major part of econometrics.

Today, everyone accepts that HR is important. But very fewcompanies actually practice what they preach and put HR people in strategic positions. If Quantitative HR is in place this will happen automatically, as the statistics will show that the HR people have made a difference to the company. Finally, it is people who make a difference to a subject. The Nobel prizes have been given to people. The possibility of larger numbers of people being attracted to HR due to quantitative theories or measurement will be strong. A lot of these people could be from other disciplines (like mathematics) as is happening in economics. This would be the best indication that HR has really arrived on the ‘science’ scene.

It would also be the best chance for HR to become a Nobel prize for the 21 century. Effective ways of measuring these people processes will ensure that these people processes are credible. Logically, we must accept the assumption that one per cent measurement of a situation is better than no measurement at all.

I really didn’t know how to react to this article. I don’t think the authors are aware about the quantitative practices which have been the adopted over the year by HR students and practitioners to bring more objectivity and predictability in HR practices.

I am not sure if we as HR professional have ever considered Nobel prize as a way benchmark for recognition of HR as a body of knowledge and acknowledging its social impact. HR is a discipline has evolved from multiple subjects and efforts to compare it will traditional social sciences may be futile.

The comparison with economics is also inaccurate as it’s a common error which people make while comparing beahvioural and social science. Wiki defines it as “The term behavioural sciences is often confused with the term social sciences. Though these two broad areas are interrelated and study systemic processes of behaviour, they differ on their level of scientific analysis of various dimensions of behaviour.

Behavioural sciences essentially investigate the decision processes and communication strategies within and between organisms in a social system. This involves fields like psychology and social neuroscience, among others. In contrast, Social sciences study the structural-level processes of a social system and its impact on social processes and social organization. They typically include fields like sociology, economics, history, public health, anthropology, and political science.

Also, Behavioural sciences include two broad categories: Neural-Decision sciences and Social-Communication sciences. Decision sciences involves those disciplines primarily dealing with the decision processes and individual functioning used in the survival of organism in a social environment. These include psychology, cognitive organization theory, psychobiology, management science, operations research (not to be confused with business administration) and social neuroscience.

On the other hand, Communication sciences include those fields which study the communication strategies used by organisms and its dynamics between organisms in an environment. These include fields like Anthropology, Organizational behaviour, Organization studies, Sociology and Social networks.
Human Resource as a field of study has evolved from both these aspects of behavioural science and also relies upon statistical and mathematical analysis as much as economics.Herbert Simon who won the Economics Nobel Prize in 1978 for his pioneering research into the decision-making process within economic organizations has also made considerable impact in the field of HR /OB and there’s no way HR can be considered as an independent field of enquiry as it draws its origin to other behavioural and social science.

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