Human Resources Curriculum Development, Present and Future

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Nancy Woolever, director of academic initiatives at the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), explores the biggest changes in HR curriculum today, and going into tomorrow.
Nancy Woolever, director of academic initiatives at the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), explores the biggest changes in HR curriculum today, and going into tomorrow.


Nancy Woolever: [00:17] The biggest change in HR curriculum these days has been a movement toward not only showing employers what a recent graduate knows, but also how a recent graduate uses or can apply what they know in how they behave.

[00:31] We've seen a great influx of teaching of competencies, and particularly around the SHRM HR competency model, which includes eight behavioral competencies that have varying degrees of importance, depending on what career level the candidate is currently seeking a job.

[00:51] That's the biggest change. We've also seen, with regard to your typical HR content areas, more of an increase of undergraduates studying things that, in the past, our research has shown are typically only studied by graduate students, either in an MBA with a concentration in HR or a master's of science in HRM, both in the business school.

[01:15] Those topics are things that reflect what's going on in the workplace today, global and cultural sensitivity, mergers and acquisitions, downsizing, rightsizing, corporate responsibility, but most significantly change management.

[01:31] Change management is something that I think is inherent in all levels in a workplace these days. We are seeing information from both faculty who teach HR and employers who hire recent HR graduates that tell us that, yes, everyone needs to know about these topics.

[01:50] Whether or not they're going to be primarily responsible for leading a change management initiative, or they need to be conversant in it in order to guide others on their team through it.

[02:01] The HR profession is migrating and changing all the time, mostly in response to things that happen in the environment.

[02:11] One of the things that HR professionals are responsible for is keeping a finger on the pulse of what's happening not only inside their organization but with competition and in the business environment, what's happening globally because companies are more universally going into the global market.

[02:33] What's happening with labor relations universally, what's happening with all kinds of things that affect how one does business outside the US and inside the US, so cross border and domestic HR.

[02:47] I think that for years to come we will continue to see changes in how the discipline functions and the types of responsibilities are subsumed into the area of HR, depending on what happens in the marketplace.

AACSB: [03:01] Where is HR headed as an academic discipline?

Woolever: [03:07] I think one of the most interesting things I hear about whenever I come to an AACSB event is how universities are interested in reinventing themselves or partnering with other organizations, or collaborating with other units within the university to change how education is presented. The same is true for HR education.

[03:30] We have had a relationship with AACSB for 11 years, now. You support our curriculum guidelines for undergraduate and graduate degrees in HR. We currently have 450 programs that align with the guidelines that are supported by AACSB, and one of the hallmarks of those guidelines is that we're not prescriptive, at all.

[03:50] We don't limit people's academic freedom, at all. Consequently what we've seen is that universities will pursue what we call niche market degrees, depending on the strengths of their faculty, or the interests of their faculty and the research areas of their faculty.

[04:08] We actually have quite a few HR degree programs that are on, what we call, our approved list. This is where we send students who contact us to say, "Where should I study HR?" We first point to the list that has all the aligned degrees on it.

[04:24] We see quite a few niche market types of degrees that do exactly what we intended to do, which is, let the faculty expand their areas of interest and research and offer them the opportunity to dive down into those areas and collaborate across units within the university, or with other organizations, or another university outside of their own environment.


Filmed April 2017 on site at AACSB's International Conference and Annual Meeting (ICAM) in Houston, Texas, USA.

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