CHICAGO—Sara L. Rynes, Ph.D., happily admits that she has a real passion for research and the human resource profession. The combination of those passions has led her to become one of the most respected researchers in the field of HR management and to being named winner of the 2011 Michael R. Losey Human Resource Research Award.
“It’s an honor and humbling experience to be recognized and receive this prestigious award,” said Rynes, who is the John F. Murray professor of management and organizations for the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business. “I truly love what I do, and it’s tough to put into words the gratitude that I feel from this recognition.”
Rynes was recognized for her accomplishments on Oct. 5, 2011, during the opening general session of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 2011 Strategy Conference here. The research award is named for Michael R. Losey, who retired as president and CEO of SHRM in 2000. The boards of directors for SHRM, the SHRM Foundation and the HR Certification Institute voted to establish the award in Losey’s honor as a way to recognize excellence and lifetime achievement in HR management research.
Rynes is well known among fellow researchers and HR management academicians. Her nomination was strongly supported by her colleagues at the University of Iowa and from past recipients of the Losey Award.
“Sara Rynes has been and is a tireless proponent of productive collaborations and enhanced communication between HR researchers and HR practitioners much to the benefit of both and our field,” wrote Lee Dyer, chair of the human resource studies department at Cornell University and winner of the 2004 Losey Award, in a letter supporting Rynes’ nomination. “It is difficult to imagine anyone who is more qualified to receive the Losey Award this year.”
Five former recipients of the Losey Award endorsed Dyer’s letter.
Rynes is the first woman to win the award, which was first presented in 2002 to Edward E. Lawler III, Ph.D., director of the Center for Effective Organization and distinguished professor of business at the University of Southern California. While some colleagues refer to Rynes as a pioneer, she says that more women are certain to follow and will receive the Losey Award and others like it.
“I believe that I am the first of many,” Rynes said. “I started my career just when women were accepted to graduate programs and given equal footing in the HR field. Since then, the number of women earning advanced degrees and participating in substantive research projects has taken off and grown exponentially.”
Rynes has been recognized for her groundbreaking research on employee recruitment. One of her first scholarly articles, “Individual Reactions to Organizational Recruiting: A Review,” was published in 1980. In the article, Rynes concluded that there was a lack of high-quality recruitment research and proposed ways to increase the quantity and quality of surveys and studies. The article was well received among researchers, academicians and HR professionals. In 1991, Rynes was asked to review recruiting research for the second edition of the American Psychology Association’s Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology.
Her continuing research on recruiting led Rynes to collaborate with HR practitioners and recruitment professionals at such leading organizations as AT&T, Prudential Financial Inc. and Citibank.
According to her colleagues, Rynes’ research on the differences in academic and practitioner knowledge and the transfer of knowledge had a major impact in the HR management field. In 2002, Rynes co-wrote the paper “HR Professionals’ Beliefs about Effective Human Resource Practices: Correspondence Between Research and Practice,” which grabbed the attention of researchers and HR professionals alike.
Rynes and her co-researchers found that many HR professionals did not know about the major studies and findings in HR research. The research revealed a sizable gap between the work of HR academicians and the practice of HR in corporate America. The paper received the 2003 Ulrich and Lake Award for HR Scholarship.
While receiving awards and being recognized by her peers are an honor and humbling, Rynes says, the most satisfaction she gets from her work is when she hears directly from HR practitioners who have found her research to be thought provoking and helpful.
“I get a lot of satisfaction whenever I receive a note or an e-mail from someone who says my research led them to examine or think differently about the way their organization works,” she said. “Notes like that really motivate me to work harder and do more.”
Receiving the Losey Award is another great motivator, Rynes added.
“Whenever you are recognized for good work by colleagues, I feel like they have put their trust and confidence in me, and that motivates me to try harder and make sure I have earned that trust,” she said.
Rynes receives a $50,000 prize for the Losey Award. She says that she plans to use the money to help fund other research projects and to make charitable donations to support HR education and job search skills for the unemployed.
“So much good work is being done right now and I feel this is a wonderful way for me to give back to a field and profession that has given me so much,” Rynes said.
Bill Leonard is a senior writer for SHRM.