Revisiting my masters by connecting with 2015-17 HR Batch of IIM Ranchi

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Recently , I got an opportunity to share my thoughts with the new HR Batch of 2015-17 from IIM Ranchi over a video. One of my batch mate from XLRI is the Professor of Organization behavior in IIM Ranchi and he looped me in to this.  Other than the regular introduction of my standard about me page contents, I tried summarizing my thoughts in to the following 3 main heads.   Below is the transcript of what I had prepared for the speech.


I am not a thought leader in the field Human resources to really say something totally new to this batch. But I consider Charlie Munger,  as one of my role models, who often talks about the idea of inversion - “Invert, always invert” (This was a thought that came from famous mathematician Jacobi). But what Munger tries to explain is -
It is in the nature of things, as Jacobi knew, that many hard problems are best solved only when they are addressed backwards.
So to invert my own situation, I asked this question to myself: If I had an opportunity to redo my MBA in HR, with this additional knowledge I have acquired over the last few years, what would I do differently. Here are the top 3 things I would focus if I get such an opportunity, which would be my thoughts to this batch
1. Understand and define my circle of competence
The career choices in the industry once you finish an MBA in HR can be broadly grouped into three categories Line HR, Corporate HR, HR consulting. I am only focusing on the industry, and hence the career choice of teaching is not included,
As a Line HR, other than a factory setup you would support the business leaders with various people related programs be it hiring, performance management, training, employee relations and investigation and handling lay-off and firing of the employees and managers under the leader’s organization to ensure business success for him. If this is a factory setup, you would have added responsibility and more focused towards trade union management, shop floor productivity.
As corporate HR you would play a center of excellence role, developing programs at a company level like developing training programs, compensation philosophy pay models, and benefits structures, venture integration and spinoffs etc.
As HR Consultant, you would manage almost every category of the activity mentioned in the above two roles for multiple companies as an external consultant. So you could see the first two roles as an internal consultant to the company. But as an external consultant you would focus and work on one or two specific HR areas but across multiple companies and industries.
So in the first few months, spend time in understanding these career options and the various HR functional areas and define clearly what your circle of competence is. It need not be the same as your friends, and need not be a job that is given by a top company in your campus. I remember my batch mates simply went mad for some companies because others considered that was the best company. That is total herd mentality. You define your circle of competence. Identify which is the area you really enjoy and are passionate about. Work on those areas. It may be labor laws, compensation, organization behavior, training and development etc. But define it well and stick to it early. Work towards them, and you would make the best job on that area in campus if you do this.
2. Avoid surface level knowledge, and get deeper understanding
Once you have identified your circle of competence, don’t study at a surface level. Get really deep and understand the concepts really well. Try to read and research as much in that particular area from books, research articles, latest industry trends and working on some projects and assignments. This can happen only if you focus on a few things, if you spread too thin, you would be at surface level. If compensation or organization behavior is your passion, better become an expert in that instead of knowing things here and there which does not help you or your future employer.
3. Focus on Multi-disciplinary Thinking
Identifying your circle of competence, and getting deeper understanding should not stop you from focusing on multi-disciplinary thinking.
This is once again a learning for me from Charlie Munger, in his famous speech on Elementary worldly wisdom he says -
What is elementary, worldly wisdom? Well, the first rule is that you can’t really know anything if you just remember isolated facts and try and bang ’em back. If the facts don’t hang together on a latticework of theory, you don’t have them in a usable form. You’ve got to have models in your head. And you’ve got to array your experience—both vicarious and direct—on this latticework of models. You may have noticed students who just try to remember and pound back what is remembered. Well, they fail in school and in life. You’ve got to hang experience on a latticework of models in your head.
A mental model what he calls out is just representation inside your head of an external reality. So to build a latticework of mental models you would need to read, learn and experience concepts across multiple disciplines.
Let us take an example and go through this, if you have chosen Compensation as your circle of competence and being an HR consultant is your passion. Get a deeper understanding of various compensation philosophies, reward programs, compensating executives, various pay mixes across multiple industries etc. And get really deep in this subject. But to be really good in this one particular subject you would need to know few models across multiple disciplines. Here are some of models you would need from other disciplines if you are going to design an executive compensation package,
From the field of psychology you would need to know, the power of incentives. Different reward programs incentivizes different behavior. From the field of Finance & economics, you should understand the concepts of corporate governance, net present value, compounding, employee stock ownership and vesting, stock option valuation (Black Scholes model) etc. From the field of labor laws and regulations, you would need to understand taxation, disclosure of salaries, and compliance.
So this would give a sense of why you would still need to study various areas which all would add to more than the sum of parts, to get a better outcome of the one area you are focusing.
To summarize – Identify your circle of competence, avoid surface level knowledge and get deeper in understanding and focus multi-disciplinary thinking.
Do not fret about placements, if you focus on these basics right, you would make it to the best job you are really passionate about.

This is the YouTube version of video I shared with them.  If you found something meaningless or useful do share your thoughts in the comments below.

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