to the HR profession through research, innovative ideas, contributing
to the broader community and teaching excellence.
Singh embarked on his HR career in 1989 and from there he has
steadily built his academic and professional credentials over nearly
three decades, with a particular focus on strategic compensation.
HR Professional caught up with him shortly after he received
the DHRP award to discuss his teachings, research and advice for
those who are just launching their own HR careers.
Congratulations on receiving the HRPA’s
inaugural DHRP award. What was running
through your mind when you learned you
would be receiving this recognition?
Parbudyal Singh: I felt honoured and a sense of accomplishment.
I place a lot of importance on the relationship between the academic
and the professional communities. By giving these awards,
HRPA highlights what the academic community is doing; for the
academic community, it suggests our work is important and valued.
When did you decide you wanted a
career in human resources?
PS: It was about a decade after teaching high school in Guyana, in
South America; I really liked teaching, but I felt a move into the
HR corporate world was a good move. Many of the competencies
of a teacher can transfer to HR, including how to deal with
inquisitive minds in a learning organization and resolving issues in
a respectful environment. I thought it would be a worthwhile challenge
and I’ve never regretted it.
What was your first HR job?
PS: I was an assistant personnel manager in a manufacturing firm.
We produced sugar from sugar cane. I was responsible for most
of the day-to-day HR functions, including training and development,
performance management and hiring. But I also found time
to learn about the organization, from the sugar cane fields to the
factory, to selling the product. The HR job had many of the typical
responsibilities we have today, but I was learning it from the
ground up. I was there just over two years and then I went back to
school to do my graduate degrees, and then I became a professor.
Tell me about your current job. What are
your main areas of responsibility?
PS: As a university professor, we not only teach, but we also do
research and have a lot of service responsibilities. York University
may be the only university in North America with human
resources management degrees at all three levels – undergraduate,
master’s and Ph.D. – and I teach in all three. Besides teaching,
I do other research and I have two books I have co-authored: one
on strategic compensation in Canada and the other is an introductory
text on human resources management. Both are used in
many universities across Canada. The third aspect of my job is service.
Since I came to York, I’ve been a director of the school of HR
management and a graduate program director. Others are doing
those roles now, but I’m still on a lot of committees, helping the
university to manage itself.
Describe your HR research and its primary focus.
PS: My focus has been on a few areas, but primarily compensation.
I look at how compensation systems drive employee
behaviour and organizational performance. I look at all aspects of
compensation: profit sharing, stocks, base pay, pay equity and so
on, plus its overall strategic role. I also look at new pay systems and
increasingly the move towards the use of organizational and team
rewards. I’m now looking at something new called green human
resources management. That is how HR can help organizations
become sustainable over time. In this area, we look at what we call
the triple bottom line: the organization’s social, environmental and
What do you love about your job?
PS: I like all three aspects. On the teaching side, I like being in
the classroom and interacting with students. On the service side,
I like working with colleagues and developing and maintaining
high quality programs. On the research side, I love looking at new
organizational phenomena and how they impact human resources
management and the world of work.
What are the challenges you experience in your job?
PS: I think one of them is adapting the material for different contexts.
As I mentioned, I teach compensation. It’s very challenging
sometimes to teach it to undergraduate students or those without
much work experience. It has a practical side to it, so adapting the
content for those without much experience is challenging. And,
it’s sometimes challenging to navigate the political space in a university.
As a former President of the United States once said, it’s
perhaps more difficult to manage a university than a country!
“YOU NEED TO KNOW WHAT
YOU WANT OVER THE
LONG TERM, AND THEN
YOU NEED TO ACQUIRE THE
RESOURCES AND BUILD
A TEAM AND A PLAN TO
MAKE THAT HAPPEN.”
38 ❚ JULY 2018 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL