Monica Belcourt ended up in human resources by accident more than 30 years ago. When she graduated from the University of Manitoba with a master’s degree in psychology, her first job was in the personnel department of the federal government.
“Looking, back, three decades ago, almost everyone ended up in HR accidentally,” said Belcourt, who is now the director of York University’s School of Human Resource Management in Toronto.
While HR wasn’t her planned career path, she enjoyed it once she got into it. But she also thought there should be a more systematic way of teaching HR rather than relying on a supervisor or colleagues at a conference.
“I always thought there was more science in HR,” she said.
Over the course of her career, Belcourt has strived to develop that science, creating a series of 10 HR textbooks, ranging from training and development to international business development.
She was also instrumental in the development of the National Knowledge Exam for the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) designation and developed Canada’s first human resources management degree at York University.
These accomplishments, as well as others, are why the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) awarded Belcourt the Fellow CHRP award in January.
“Monica has made a significant impact on the HR profession through her professional and volunteer efforts,” said Susan Marlow, chair of the HRPA awards committee.
Belcourt is the fifth member of the Ontario association to receive the honour (see sidebar).
Belcourt has been a volunteer with the HRPA over the past 15 years. She was president of the association in 2003 and was instrumental in developing a strategy that doubled the association’s membership, said Marlow.
She was also a founding director of the International Alliance for Human Resources Research, which creates and disseminates HR research and fosters a dialogue among researchers, policy makers and practitioners.
When Belcourt started out in the profession, most universities had one course in HR management and HR was seen as touchy-feely rather than a strategic contributor to an organization. Now, at York University alone, there are 22 courses in HR management and three degrees — a bachelor, master and PhD — and HR’s strategic role has become more apparent.
“My goal originally was to set out to build the profession and get it recognized. I think we’ve accomplished that. HR truly is a profession. It’s recognized, it’s valuable, it’s moving slowly towards the kind of recognition that accountants and lawyers get,” she said.
One day the profession may be licensed, as with lawyers and accountants, but “considering where we’ve come from in a couple of decades, I am very proud,” she said.
When Belcourt started teaching HR, the only available textbooks were American. The textbooks contained United States laws, which didn’t apply in Canada, and U.S. cultural norms, which didn’t work in the Canadian workplace, she said.
In an effort to advance the profession in Canada, Belcourt created a line of Canadian-specific HR textbooks, which is her proudest achievement, she said.
Going forward, Belcourt would like everyone who practises HR to have an HR education. She would also like to see more recognition of the difference the HR function makes to the management of organizations, where the most important person, after the CEO, is the person in charge of HR.
“You get a very sophisticated human resources function and people cannot duplicate that. It’s a very valuable set of skills,” she said.
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Recipients of Fellow CHRP award
The Fellow Certified Human Resources Professional (FCHRP) award is reserved for individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the HR profession. Here is a list of professionals who were awarded the FCHRP, according to the Canadian Council of Human Resources Associations and the Human Resources Professionals Association:
• David Anderson (British Columbia)
• Lorne Armstrong (British Columbia)
• Gordon Storey (British Columbia)
• Betty Black (Manitoba)
• Barbara Bowes (Manitoba)
• Colleen Johnston (Manitoba)
• John McFerran (Manitoba)
• Jan Spak (Manitoba)
• Wilf Hiebert (Saskatchewan)
• Michael McPherson (Saskatchewan)
• Yvonne Blaszczyk (Ontario)
• Dan Ondrack (Ontario)
• David Weiss (Ontario)
• Tom Dawes (Ontario)
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