We explore whether HR is an Art or a Science.
Whether you have a large or small business, HR is a component which everyone needs to consider.
A core part of building success, HR policies need to be flexible, and to evolve and grow to take into account the needs of the company and relevant legislation.
However, HR is a grey area; one which combines many different approaches so it’s hardly surprising there’s much ambiguity over how it is perceived. We ask whether HR is an art or a science?
HR as an Art
In some circles, the value of HR can be dismissed because of its inexact nature and the inability to predict the result of any actions.
In parts of the business such as logistics, the correlation between a given action and a result is much clearer, with each action leading to a definable and predictable result.
In HR, when creating strategies and policies it’s often much more difficult to measure the outcome. Being primarily relating to the actions of individuals, it’s simply not possible to predict what might happen with any accuracy, nor replicate exactly the same results each time.
A recruitment strategy, for example, might produce stunning candidates on one occasion, but struggle on another. This doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the underlying policies, but with so many other factors influencing the result, there’s no guarantee of success.
Because of this it's necessary to be able to adapt, react and change, rather than sticking to a single tried and tested formula.
For these reasons, many believe that HR is more of an art than a science. While it may be loosely based on a defined pathway, the need to apply the principles fluidly means that it couldn’t be described exclusively as a science.
HR as a science
We all make mistakes; good HR will approach avoiding future mistakes in both an “arty” and scientific way
To understand whether HR could be described as science, its first necessary to define exactly what a science is.
One definition could be that a science has clearly defined rules and patterns which must be followed and adhered to.
If we follow this description of science, it’s hard to see how HR wouldn’t fall within.
Part of HR is about ensuring all staff understands what’s expected from them and the consequences of failure to follow the rules. Setting out a code of conduct, how recruitment will take place and how decisions may be reached are all also integral parts of HR.
This is a very scientific approach as rules can’t simply be disregarded if they present a barrier. HR policies make sure that every business acts in a way which is equitable and consistent, providing what could be described as a scientific outcome.
One of the key trends is HR is the use of Big Data and this relies on the use of technology to both provide the information and analyse it. This certainly is as far removed from “art” as it’s possibly together, a very scientific strategy which is increasingly being popular within the industry.
Art and Science?
Considering all of the above, it would seem that somehow HR has achieved the impossible: a fusion between both art and science.
There’s certainly no denying the need to apply a creative approach; HR often entails dealing with staff so a rigid and inflexible attitude won’t help anyone. But conversely, you have to enforce policies to ensure everyone is dealt with fairly and consistently. The key is striking the right balance between the two.
HR has had to evolve and grow to continue to be as relevant for the future; to do this it’s embraced modern technologies. Big Data and other strategies now sit alongside more traditional methods to create a HR which has the ability to add real value to any business.
Image Credits: Academics and Jelly Turtle