Prioritizing the HR Education

Why does it matter for the corporate sector and what needs to be done for meaningful collaboration between b-schools and organizations?

the HRM

At a time when organizations in Nepal are facing different challenges, managing people has become an area of utmost importance for them. Human resources management (HRM), which used to be neglected until 15-20 years ago, has now become a priority area to succeed in business and achieve organizational objectives.

In this context, academic programs related to HRM have become popular for students looking to build their careers in the area of people management. As organizations are realizing the need for human resource professionals, who are still scarce in the country, for business and the overall organizational growth, the increasing number of students graduating in HRM studies every year indicates a brighter future in the development of the HR domain in Nepal.

In Nepal, specialization courses in HRM are still few and far between. But business schools have been offering HR courses to students in BBA and MBA programs. Kathmandu University is credited for starting an HRM course in the country 15 years ago.

As per KU’s MBA syllabus, students can choose HR as an elective subject in the third semester of their MBA program. Likewise, at the bachelor’s level too, students can choose HR as an elective subject. Currently, only Purbanchal University has a specialized HRM course at the master’s level.

Growing Attraction
Principals of b-schools say the number of students in HRM in the master’s program is increasing every year as of the total students enrolling in MBA, almost 15 percent choose HRM. According to LP Bhanu Sharma, Principal of Apex College, a b-school produces at least 20-25 HR graduates annually. “This number is increasing lately,” he said. “In our college, 15-20 percent of MBA students choose HRM.”

Likewise, in Ace Institute of Management, which has been providing management education for the last two decades, the number of students in HRM studies is increasing as corporate organizations have realized the need to have efficient human resources for business growth. “A couple of years ago, b-schools used to have few students opting for HR courses and it was not rewarding as the corporate sector had not realized the importance of the HRM system,” said Ashish Tiwari, Principal and Director of the Ace Institute of Management. “Now the corporate institutions have realized the importance of HR management to stay ahead in the competition. As a result, the number of enrollment of students in HRM has increased.”

According to HR professionals and academicians, MBA students who used to generally go for either finance or marketing in the past, are later attracted towards HRM after observing the opportunities in career growth. HR courses not only train students on various aspects of people management in organizations but they also get to learn about the Constitution of Nepal, various laws rules and regulations related to human resources and organizational management. Realizing this, there are many instances of students quitting finance and marketing courses to join HR studies, say principals of b-schools.

In recent years, many b-schools in Nepal have started MBA courses accredited by foreign universities. Principals of the educational institutions say that they are teaching the courses are at par with foreign colleges and universities. “Although b-schools have tied up with foreign universities to provide world-class HR education, the corporate sector is yet to fully realize the importance of HR professionals,” said Tiwari. “Many corporate institutions still do not give priority to having trained HR professionals like they do in having people in areas such as sales, marketing and finance.”

Kalpana Gurung, Principal of Presidential Business School, however, sees things differently. “The curriculum and the teaching/learning approaches in Nepali b-schools have yet to be updated to be at par with that of foreign universities.”

Commenting about the HR course offered by Presidential Business School, she said the college is affiliated with Westcliff University, US. “The courses we offer are more analytical and research oriented requiring ample student engagement throughout the program,” she said, adding, “Our HR concentration courses focus on preparing students to become effective, change-oriented leaders by fostering people skills such as critical thinking, decision making, effective communication, negotiation and conflict management skills and developing ability in leading and working in teams.”

Collaboration Between B-schools and Corporate Sector
The Nepali corporate sector has yet to go a long way when it comes to collaborating with b-schools. The HRM team talked to officials of few organizations and b-schools and found that only a handful have been collaborating for the placement of students.

“Collaboration between b-schools and corporate institution is crucial. Academic institutions should take proactive initiation to bring industry experts, corporate leaders and academicians in one platform to discuss contextual business and identify the gap in the required skill and knowledge. Furthermore, an academic institution will be credible in its existence only if it can collaborate with the corporate world to produce graduates who can meet the skills and knowledge requirements of the workforce,” opined Gurung.

According to Tiwari, the corporate sector should approach b-schools for collaborations. “If b-schools are producing HR professionals with the quality of foreign universities, the corporate sector should also realize the need of human resource management,” he said, adding, “Only a few organizations and b-schools have collaborated for job placements.”

Although corporate institutions are yet to form definitive policies for the placement of students, some colleges like CG Institute of Management (CGIM), run by the Chaudhary Group, are ensuring placement of the students on the companies of the group. “ CGIM graduates are placed in CG Group. We make sure those enrolled in CGIM get a real flavor of MBA in Nepal. There is no discrimination when it comes to placement,” said Er Dr Mithlesh Jha, Head of CG Learning.

Gurung of President Business School stressed on forging partnership between b-schools and corporate sector for the development of human resources. “On one side companies are not getting people with the required skills and on the other side educated unemployment is increasing in the country. One reason obviously is the lack of a fully developed culture of having a structured and dedicated HR department in companies that would work to analyze the required HR skills and go that extra mile to collaborate with business schools who are the ultimate source for these human resources,” she mentioned. Gurung further added that large companies in Nepal are family-owned businesses and it has a direct impact on the hiring processes.

She views the aspects related to the scalability of the business as another reason behind this. “If the companies have the vision of expanding on a global scale, then they may not feel the need for such collaboration, unlike in India, where we see corporations collaborating closely with business schools because they have identified the human resources requirement to scale up in the global arena,” Gurung concluded.

Rather than collaborating for placements, b-schools and corporate institutions have been joining hands in organizing events like job fairs. “The job fairs are untrustworthy. How do you ensure to find brilliant undergraduate students in job fairs that are organized for 2-3 days?” said an HR professional who wished not to be named.

Admin and HR Departments in Same Basket
Although the corporate sector has realized the need for HRM, HR experts say that companies are still putting administration and HR departments in the same basket. When companies announce vacancies for the human resource department, they want someone who can handle both departments–HR and administration.
According to HR professionals and academicians, to reduce the cost many corporate organizations mostly look for people who can handle both HR and administration jobs. But companies don’t understand that HR departments are not a liability, but is a long-term investment, they say.

There is a misconception that the HR department has to be set up just for the recruitment process. “The corporate sector still perceives the HR department as a burden. In such a situation, how can students get motivated to join HR courses?” questions Laxman Pokharel, Executive Director of Phoenix College of Management.
“The culture of having dedicated HR departments is yet to be fully realized by people across corporate sectors. Until recently, HR functions were just limited to payroll systems and were managed by the general administrations and operations department. So, from that background to having a dedicated HR department that works for the effective management of human resources and developing strategies for training and development programs for their HR so that they add value to the organizational strategy is a huge leap. With this, we are seeing some changes in the last few years. BFIs in Nepal have a more structured and dedicated HR department compared to other corporate sectors,” said Gurung.

According to academician Madan Lal Pradhan, even an amateur can handle the HR department, but not efficiently. “HR graduates would handle everything in a trained and skilled manner,” he said arguing even the HR professionals have failed to define their roles.

Giving an example of how HR professionals failed to define their roles, he said when a company announces vacancies who can handle both HR and admin departments, HR graduates apply for the job. “Though HR graduates don’t have administrative skills, they apply for the job and get the job. Then the corporate sector always wants to hire those who can handle both the departments. This will reduce the cost of the company,” said Pradhan.

According to Rojish Shakya, Program In-charge of DAV College, HR professionals are required for the internal management of employees. “They are trained and skilled to manage human resources. The focus has been shifted from the recruitment process to make strategy and plans,” said Shakya, adding, “Realizing the importance, students are also opting for HR as an elective subject, rather than finance and marketing.”

Understanding the Importance of HR Department
According to Er Dr Jha, HR departments in corporate institutions in Nepal have come out of the staff appraisal process and have now been involved in strategic planning. “Earlier, the HR department was involved in only recruitment, appraisal, and other small stuff. Now, the HR department makes strategic planning, sets goals, organizes training, among others,” he said. “The students are taught to face challenges and set priorities during the MBA courses.”

Likewise, academician Ananta Raj Ghimire, said organizations have their policy to hire the same person for the HR and admin departments. “But, if a company hires a skilled HR professional, the output would be different. There should be a massive awareness in the corporate sector so that they understand the importance of HR professionals,” he said.

There is a misconception among business students that getting into the HR department would make them stagnant. They think there would be no promotion, and there is no room for growth after getting into the HR department. The HR department is a strategic department that makes planning for the whole organization, say HR professionals.

Are Nepali Colleges at Par with Foreign Colleges?
Principals of b-schools with foreign affiliations say that the MBA courses they teach in their colleges are of international standards. Even though the courses are at par, many corporate institutions hire undergraduate students as interns just to make them work in minor jobs.

“The corporate sector has been hiring undergraduates just as messengers and for photocopy purposes. How can students get motivated this way?” questioned Dyuti Baral, Head of Capacity Building Cell of SAIM College.

Although the course of content is similar, the approach by students and lectures is different. “In other countries, you can never imagine a student asking for notes from professors. Students, themselves, have to make notes. Professors just give lectures and make students understand the concept. But in Nepal, the situation is exactly the opposite. If professors don’t provide notes to students, it’s considered a failure,” an academician told the HRM Magazine.

According to Baral, doing MBA in other countries is all about case studies, case analysis, but in Nepal, it is all about theoretical knowledge. “How will students get to know about the corporate world just by theoretical knowledge?”

Baral also pointed out another problem. “Getting a 4.0 GPA in finance is relatively easier than in HR. The HR courses are all about theories, analysis, logic, but finance is numerical. Getting points is quite easier in finance. This is also a reason why students are choosing finance even when they want to pursue HR,” said Baral, adding there should be a different grading system for those opting for HR and finance.

Another problem Baral points out is that HR professionals in Nepal don’t have finance skills. “HR professionals have to take support from the finance department. The department is not independent. Business schools should provide basic skills of finance to students,” she said.

Dyuti Baral, Head of Capacity Building Cell, SAIM College   

The graduate courses are similar everywhere in the world. However, the teaching approaches can be been different. In other countries, there is the participation of students in lectures. There are case analyses. But in Nepal, lectures are just limited to giving notes to students. The MBA course is not only about getting theoretical knowledge. You need to have knowledge of how a system works.

Another difference is the internship in the corporate sector. The corporate organizations in our country have been using undergraduate students who go to the offices as interns for minor jobs. There is no real on-the-job training the interns can get.

But some corporate leaders want to bridge the gap. Still, there is a long way to go. Having said that, job fairs are not going to change the scenario. There should be a collaboration between the corporate sector and business schools.

Another problem with HR courses is the grading system. As getting a 4.0 GPA in HR is tough, students choose finance as it has numerical. There should be a proper grading system as getting a 4.0 GPA is tough as the course is all about theories, logic, analysis.

Likewise, students opting for HR as an elective subject get no knowledge of finance. This is the reason why HR professionals have to get support from the finance department while releasing salaries.

LP Bhanu Sharma, Principal, Apex College 
In the last few years, the number of students opting for HR as an elective subject has been increasing every year. The HR course makes students versatile as they are taught the skills to solve problems related to human resources management.

In our college, 15-20 percent of students chose HR as an elective subject.

Although HR study is garnering popularity among students, the corporate institutions are still to recognize HR functions as an important part of their activities. In many companies, the administration department is given the responsibility to perform HR functions.

Recognizing the importance of collaboration, Apex College has already tied up with several organizations for the placement of students. This approach has instilled confidence in our students to build their careers in HRM.

Er Dr Mithlesh Jha, Head, CG Learning

Earlier, HR professionals used to recruit staff and work on the appraisal process. With time, the HR department has started working on making strategies, setting up goals, making plans on facing challenges, among others. After the corporate sector, especially the banking sector prioritized the HR department, students have started to opt for HR as an elective subject rather than finance and marketing.

The CGIM started MBA in general management in 2014. We try to give a real flavor of the HR course to students. We give placements to students in the Chaudhary Group. At least one-third of students in the MBA stream choose HR as an elective subject.

Madan Lal Pradhan, Academician

The corporate sector is yet to fully realize the importance of the HR department. But in the last few years, the scenario is slightly changing. The new generation is opting for HR courses.

Still, there is a conflict between the HR department and the management. These instances demotivate students. The management still thinks the HR department is only limited in hiring staff. This is completely wrong.

Likewise, the admin department is given the responsibility to look after the HR department. HR graduates would handle everything in a trained and skilled manner. Even HR professionals have failed to define their roles. When they are asked to do an admin job, they do it. This certainly means they have failed to define their jobs.
There are many instances of students quitting finance and marketing to join HR. After students join the corporate sector, they realize they need HR skills.

Ananta Raj Ghimire, Academician

Lately, the number of students in HR courses has increased, thanks to the corporate sector for prioritizing the HR department. Now the corporate sector is the department that has become an integral part. Not only the recruitment process, but the department also makes long-term plans, sets vision and goals.
The department also analyzes the performance of staff. The HR department is not a burden or liability, but it is a long-term investment. Big companies have prioritized the HR department, and it has paid off well. An efficient HR department increases the turnover of the company as it works on the goals, targets and priorities.

Companies are hiring admin people in the HR department. Organizations have the policy to hire the same person for the HR and admin departments. But, if a company hires a skilled HR professional, the output would be different. There should be a massive awareness in the corporate sector so that they understand the importance of HR professionals.

Rojish Shakya, Program Incharge, DAV College

Earlier, HR professionals were considered as a liability for organizations. They are now considered assets to the company. Lately, HR professionals are involved in making important decisions, giving suggestions to the management. Looking at these things, students are joining HR courses. They are encouraged.

Human resource professionals are required for the internal management of employees. They are trained and skilled to manage human resources. The focus has been shifted from the recruitment process to making strategies and plans. Realizing all these importance, students are also opting for HR as an elective subject, rather than finance and marketing. As many as 10-12 students opt for HR every semester.

Laxman Pokharel, Executive Director, Phoenix College of Management

There is still a misconception that the HR department has to be set for recruitment of employees. The corporate sector still perceives the HR department as a burden. In such a situation, how can students get motivated to join HR courses?

In the last few years, there has been a change in HR courses. HR students are taught about the skills required for the corporate world in the colleges only. Every semester, as many as 15-20 students are enrolled in the HR course.

To reduce the operational costs, companies have been setting up a small HR department. This would not help efficiently run a company. Unless the government comes up with an HR policy, I don’t think the situation would change in the corporate sector.

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