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5 Questions with Faculty: Janet Marler

ALBANY, N.Y. (Feb. 22, 2017) — Janet H. Marler, Professor of Management in the School of Business, has been at UAlbany for 17 years — ever since she received her Ph.D. from Cornell University in 2000. When not conducting research, teaching or serving on committees and editorial boards, she loves hanging out with her husband, working on perfecting her tennis serve and her home-made pizza, or visiting her two grown sons, who live and work in LA.
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Professor of Management Janet H. Marler. (Photo by Carlo de Jesus)

What are your working on now?

I am very excited about my research on changing the way we think about human resource management in organizations through using information technology and data analytics. Much of this research was recently published in my new book titled, Making HR Technology Decisions: A Strategic Perspective, with co-author Dr. Sandra Fisher.

My research on HR analytics, funded by the Presidential Innovation Fund for Research and Scholarship, is getting a lot of interest in social media and was recently published as the lead article in the International Journal of Human Resource Management. In this research, my co-author, Dr. John Boudreau and I explain why few organizations use HR Analytics despite evidence linking its use to better organizational performance. Building on this, in addition to chairing research workshops on this topic at major conferences in Sydney Australia and in Atlanta this summer, I was honored to be invited to be HR Division Conference Chair for the Academy of Management’s international conference on “Big Data and Managing the Digital Economy” to be held in Britain in 2018.

What made you decide to pursue your field?

After graduating from Cornell University, I rose quickly to become a vice president in a large financial services firm in Boston. However, I saw how organizations were underutilizing talented women in the work force, particularly women with young families. I wanted to conduct research to better understand this phenomenon and to develop solutions. I also realized that I wanted a career in which I felt I was benefiting the community more broadly.

In the mid-1980s, it was hard to find a doctoral program in business that would allow me to conduct research on work and family. Ultimately, I found that the field of human resource management provided the best opportunity for me to pursue my research interests. So I earned my Ph.D. at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations and now here I am, surprisingly, the first female full professor in the School of Business at UAlbany!

What do you see as the challenges confronting those in your field?

There are four key challenges I see confronting my field. First, having been a senior executive and now a tenured professor, I am keenly aware of the communication divide between business and academic communities. Particularly in management science, practicing managers rarely turn to or use the research produced by academics. When I conduct research and teach, I always have this challenge in mind.

Second, an ongoing challenge for the field of HRM, is that in business too much “uncritical” value is placed on numbers, such as profits versus less easily quantified factors such as human and community well-being. Having started my career in finance and now as an academic in human resource management, I believe that organizations that give equal focus to human and community well-being along with profits achieve better outcomes.

Third, another key challenge relates to diversity. The field of HRM is right in the middle of the action here. There are opportunities and challenges to making great strides in how workforce diversity is achieved and managed in organizations.

Finally, as cliché as it sounds, information technology is transforming the way business is conducted and this transformation is unfolding in both expected and unexpected ways. I see the key challenge is to be critical and proactive in the way in which information technology affects our lives.

What was the last book you read for pleasure?

I am currently reading, Notorious RBG: The life and times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She is an inspiration, particularly in these politically tumultuous times.

What’s the best thing about working at UAlbany?

There are several wonderful things about working at UAlbany. First, the public mission of the University to support research, affordable education and our community is so special. Second, I value our commitment to diversity (although sadly, it canceled its D1 Women’s Tennis Team last spring). Third, our campus is beautiful.

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