What Are We Learning?

Why are we learning old knowledge in old ways when we’re going to apply for jobs requiring innovative thinking and new methods?  I’m not bashing my professors.  They were all very knowledgeable, and I learned much from them.  They all had experience in the private sector, but none had worked in industry for years.

My college experience was different from that of many of my peers.  I worked two jobs full time and attended college full time during the evenings, too.  I never went to a party or lived in a dorm.  I graduated at the top of my class, and when I hit the workplace, it was like a bucket of ice water.  I can’t imagine how those that didn’t already have work experience actually handle the leap into the workforce.

But I digress.  The tools and technology utilized in the HR field were never even covered in my college classes.  My first look at a HRIS (human resource information system) was on the first day of my first HR job.  I’m good with technology, but I know that many people don’t have those skills, either.

Steve Boese, a friend and graduate HR professor, teaches his students about the intricacies of the HR technology world.  Mr. Boese often says, “It’s hard to decide what information to include in the class syllabus, because there is so much information available.”  The simple fact that he squeezes as much into a semester as possible, and he still isn’t able to get it all in, shows that at least some of that should be taught to HR students.

Colleges and professors should be preparing HR students by getting them involved in projects that reflect the valuable job skills necessary for a successful career.  Students shouldn’t settle for learning the same stuff other students were taught five years previously.  The world outside college is changing rapidly.  Students will be pushed or pulled into the fast-paced corporate world, whether they like it or not.  However, proper preparation could greatly reduce the difficulty of that transition.

For the students out there, do you think you were adequately prepared?

13 thoughts on “What Are We Learning?

  1. Steve Boese

    Ben, thanks for mentioning my HR Technology class, as you know I feel very passionate about the importance of technology in HR and that today’s HR professional and leader really needs more of an understanding of the potential of technology to improve efficiency, streamline process, and help deliver results. There is so much to explore, that it is indeed difficult to fit it all into one class, but it is a fun and interesting challenge to try. Keep up the good work.

  2. beneubanks

    Thanks for the comment, Steve. This is only the early stage of my rant. :-) I just had to let something out, because I saw yet another example of the unpreparedness of someone, and I wondered if we were taught anything of use beyond the legal parts of HR.

    I agree wholeheartedly that if HR is going to move forward, they’ll have to use some tech to do so. Especially if they’re still using forms like the one on your latest post!

  3. adowling

    There’s so much more to HR than the regulations and models. Had I joined the HR workforce right out of college, I would have been lost. College was great, I maintained a 4.0 gpa but most of that was because I was living it as I learned it and could provide depth to what we were learning. Students need HRIS trianing, experience handling employee relations issues (beyond the legal perils) and in some cases hard core business writing skills.

    Good post Ben, agree 100%.

  4. beneubanks

    April, that’s what I was driving at. Those skills that I would deem invaluable were seemingly left by the wayside during the educational process. We have to change that.

  5. Karen E. Brennan

    Hi Ben,

    We had one HRIS class as an elective. I recognized that it would be necessary, but for some reason it was a hard sell to the students.

    The professor was current in the industry, but the information, text and actual lab technology was very dated and superficial. We were told it was due to cost. We were given a “how-to” in choosing a system (RFP) rather than any in depth on the technology itself.

    While I was in school full time, I also had 2 full time internships and an outside part time position. Because of the nature of my positions, I didn’t have much exposure to the technology used in larger companies and still find it a challenge.

    A Catch-22…I need the training to get the job, but need the job to get the training.

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  7. Chris Ponder

    Hey Ben,

    I cannot agree with you more on this subject! I came out of school back in ’04 with a Bachelor’s in Management & Admin w/ an HR Concentration and I can definitely tell you that most of what is taught today does not prepare you for the “real world” of HR.

    Of course, I had one professor that was fantastic and kept up with the latest research and how HR really worked in today’s environment, but the other professors were just clueless. Many of which have never even worked in HR – they just achieved degree after degree and then preceed to tell me how HR works. Or you have the few that worked in HR when it was Personnel and we can both say that HR today has left Personnel at the station.

    I currently teach Performance Improvement as an adjunct and I don’t have a single test in my course, but rather a course project that the student has to apply the Performance Improvement model to a real life client. How much more can you appreciate learning – you are applying what you are learning and can put this on a resume!!! I only wish more professors has done the same when I was in college.

    The technology side will always be hard to teach because it is hard to get HRIS companies to provide software to universities (PeopleSoft, AS/400, etc.) because the software costs quite a bit and it requires a great investment on the universities part with a server that could run the software. However, this one I am still trying to figure out because I am trying to put together an HRIS course to teach without just teaching from a book – what do you learn from that? Technology is very hands on….especially if are going back to using AS/400 which is the “green screen” days and “F” keys.

    Great post!

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  9. Jessica

    *reposting this because it didn’t transfer from old blog*

    Great Post!
    Somehow I stumbled upon your post from a variety of other HR blogs…
    I graduated last month with my B.S from Purdue- Organizational Leadership with a certificate in HR. I maintained a 3.9 overall, straight A’s in the HR classes..
    I am currently interning for a nonprofit, but not doing as many HR duties as I would like to. I have not tinkered around with HRIS at all, only maintained a large Access database of volunteer files and developed a few position descriptions. Even though I received perfect scores in my HR classes, I feel lost and confused in the “real world”. There is only so much you can teach a class about HR. Most of it is so industry- or organization-specific. My university offered credit for an internship, but it was not mandatory or strongly encouraged by advisers.
    I’m still struggling to gain valuable HR experience- even in a HR internship role! I’m given loosely related HR tasks that a well-trained monkey could do. And I can’t blame them… it’s a daunting task- trying to teach a new grad about everything HR in 20 hours a week- much easier to have them do data entry and then let them slap it on their resume.
    And as Karen mentioned, the catch-22 is frustrating. I need years of exempt level HR experience before I can earn the PHR, yet… how do I get that experience without the certification? I don’t want to be an intern for 4 years…

    *heavy sigh*

  10. ammara jamil

    great post…
    well i have done mba conentration in HR.i m working as management trainee from last three months .i have not been given any task which can utilize my intellect and i m very depress how long it will take to do something worth while….

  11. Ben Post author

    If you’re looking for ideas to get more experience while you’re stuck in a dead end job, then I think you should find a local nonprofit and volunteer to assist them with coordinating volunteers, planning events, etc. It helps to build your network AND it gives you some experience worth talking about! Let me know if I can help further.

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