Bryant’s HR program includes work/life balance among other lessons to be learned

College students understand that balancing work and life can be tricky with projects, exams, part-time jobs and family commitments.  At Bryant University, this issue is addressed in several classes across the curriculum, but there’s a direct emphasis on it as part of the Department of Management’s Human Resources degree program.

The school’s concentration in Human Resource Management prepares students for managerial positions in the field.  In designing the program, Bryant took note that all organizations recognize that human capital is a source of competitive advantage in the global marketplace and having a strong, proactive HR department is critical to a company’s success.  No longer just involved in hiring and benefits planning, the HR department is a major player in an organization’s strategic planning.

Dennis Brine, Ph.D., Chair of Bryant’s Accounting Department, points out just how important it is for young professionals to be exposed to the myriad of HR issues they are likely to encounter when they venture off campus and into the real world.
“Many of our students will advance in their organization and will be managing a group of subordinates at some point in their career,” said Bline. “In fact, many of them will be supervising within three or four years of entering the profession.”
This reality places great responsibility in the hands of college faculty.

“There are so many areas that are important for students as they transform into young professionals.  Faculty have to make important choices as to what they will address in the context of a course,” he said. “The need for students to be able to evaluate uncertain situations and form potential solutions to problems, the requirement that young professionals be able to analyze data and draw inferences, and the importance of work/life balance information come from the employers in the form of presentations to students at the Accounting Association meetings.”
The way Bline sees it, today’s students need only to look at themselves in order to understand the pressures of work/life balance.

“Work/life balance is crucial if we are to understand the demands placed on us from a number of different directions,” he said.  “However, there are some who view work/life balance as a basis for saying that they should be able to do less while being rewarded the same as others. I see some students who want to take a full course load, be active in several clubs, have a part-time job, and have an active social life. These students then complain when they do not do as well in class as they would like because they did not have enough time to do all the work required. Work/life balance is about prioritizing and making resource and time-allocation decisions.”

John Poirier, PhD., SPHR, is a lecturer in Bryant’s Department of Management and coordinator of its Human Resources Management program. He sees Bryant’s HR program as setting a good example of how to achieve a work/life balance as it prepares students for the real life challenges they will face in the future.

“Work/life balance issues are embedded across the curriculum,” said Poirier. “One key issue for 2015 as identified by the Society for Human Resource Management is what they term the ‘overwhelmed’ employee.  This is manifested, for example, when employees need to care for young children and elderly parents at the same time.”
At the core of these issues rests the challenge of the work/life balance and an employer’s inherent desire to reach one.  The work/life balance is a topic very much included in the HR program.
“Our HR concentration prepares students for careers in human resource management in which they can be strategic business partners and assist managers in overcoming these challenges,” he said.

Poirier points out that as the workforce has evolved, so have the issues that fall within the HR spectrum leaving today’s college graduates with much more to understand.

“We are experiencing greater diversity in the workforce, especially with regard to generational differences,” said Poirier. “It is the first time we have four generations present.  The skills gap seems to be growing larger for jobs in the health care and high tech sectors. There are also other public policy issues such as the minimum wage, paid sick time, same sex marriage and employee privacy that HR needs to have an understanding about.”