My strong belief is that the best HR professionals are those who have a truly blended and generalist core first and foremost. This skill set can be used and drawn from throughout one’s HR career, whatever focal area is selected. As a means of depicting this concept it may be useful to diagram out the learning process itself as a means of picturing these critical overlaps in the HR body. The diagram below (click on it to expand) is one tool I’ve developed in a current masters HRD program as part of a school project. It’s one possible way of dissecting the HR learning model, though there can be many tools for this. The below diagram only captures a portion of HR fields. In reality of course there are additional branches. However, as a means of practical learning and development I have started with some very standard functions. The core would represent the more basic junior generalist or HR assistant role. The branches on all sides of the plus sign from here then show focus areas such as training, benefits, payroll, or the more traditional pure generalist to generalist management.
I don’t know about you, but my philosophy is never stop learning. In mapping out all of these areas I myself began to build out my own personal development plan a bit more. Do you have a personal development plan? If not I would suggest it as a wise practice. I learned this from a boss I had a few years back. She was a VP of Finance but the most entertaining VP of Finance I’ve ever known. Leslie was known for being a pro at lifting the human spirit and helping a person stay on target. It was the little things like the fun bag she once brought me with clown nose and motivational DVD inside. Then it was the more serious things like helping me map out my goals and objectives, and learn how to use successes and failures to guide my course and learning. She is the one who also helped me learn how to always have a personal development plan. So, if you don’t have one, I’d recommend it! Leslie if you are reading this, thank you for your coaching in this area!
Whether you are in HR or another field entirely, the below model is a possible place to start. First map out the core elements that every junior person in your field needs to have. Then, begin to build out the branches of each focal area. As you diagram this you might actually find yourself gravitating in one direction or another. It’s never a bad thing to learn some things from the other branches as well, even if you don’t plan to work exclusively in those areas. For example, I am a pure HR generalist by trade. However, I’m choosing to study HRD because I see that as a huge value add to build out the HR leadership side. There is only gain in being multidisciplinary in how you think because therein lies the cutting edge.