Why HR is like childbirth

I’m currently working with a group of final year HR students at Liverpool John Moores University. Our module for this term is strategic HRM.  Last night we were looking at organisationl culture.

I always find culture a fascinating subject. There is plenty of theory and research available.  There too are many models to help us think about the types of culture that exist.  It is a highly relatable subject, as we have our own experiences of it.  It is something that we instinctively understand because we have lived it.  Everyone who has had a job can tell you something about organisational culture, even if they don’t use the official terminology.

Most of us have had our own experiences of a good culture or a bad one – whatever that really means. We know about people who fit in to the prevailing culture, and people who do not.  We understand instinctively the impact that culture can have upon us at work.

After we had talked about the proper, academic theories, we turned to discussing our own experiences. We talked about organisations that we know, either through working there or because they have a brand profile.  We discussed the extent to which we believe culture impacts behaviour and behaviour impacts culture and whether any of those models are ever really 100% accurate.  Our conclusions were that they were not or could not be.  Nothing is ever as clear cut, as simple as a theory might suggest.  They are just frameworks for understanding.  The context, the reality is always more complex.

This particular group of students are all working whilst studying. One student noted how much this helps put discussions like this in context and wondered how much harder it might be for those studying full time, straight from A Levels, with much less work experience.

And then the analogy of the night. One student reflected on her experience of ante natal classes.  The narrative she experienced there was linear, neat.  It will be like this.

Our conclusion? Practicing HR is like childbirth. It’s messier in real life.

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