To be frank, the academic literature on what makes a profession is not very accessible. Here is something of a different take on the topic. For some time, there has been an ongoing debate in the Harvard Business Review as to whether business management is, or should be, a profession. The debate started with an article written by Khurana, Nohria, and Penrice in 2005 entitled Is business management a profession?(1) A cogent rebuttal was published a few years later by Richard Barker in a 2010 article entitled The Big Idea: No, Management Is Not a Profession.(2) The debate drew commentary from many sources, one such commentary was by Roger Martin in an HBR Blog dated July 2010 entitled Management is not a profession — but it can be taught.(3) In this blog, Martin laid out his profession calculus:
So my basic calculus is as follows: If quality can’t be determined in advance and cost of failure is high, the market in question will attract regulation. And if the product/service is delivered by a single identifiable individual, it will become a regulated profession. If it doesn’t attract regulation, it doesn’t matter a whit whether an activity is deemed by its participants to be a ‘profession.’
It is this calculus and its application to Human Resources Management (HRM) which is the subject of this article.