HR role continues to evolve |
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HR role continues to evolve

Published on Friday, 13 Aug 2010
Illustration: Bay Leung
Demand for HR professionals is on the rise, as companies are starting to hire top professionals.
Photo: Bloomberg

All kinds of headline figures track economic progress and the overall job market but, often, the secondary indicators are just as revealing. For instance, underlying trends in the human resources (HR) sector can say a great deal about employers' plans and priorities, and about prospects for recruitment.

It comes down to a simple formula: if HR specialists are in demand, it is because companies are gearing up for expansion, strategic hiring and new training programmes. And that's exactly what's happening at present.

"We are seeing demand for HR professionals is on the rise, as the intention to hire quality human capital grows," says Francis Mok, president of the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management.

"But the role of HR is also evolving from being an expert [in one area]. It is transforming into that of a business partner for senior management, so the need to have the right competencies is getting more and more important."

The institute has highlighted five key areas in which practitioners should aim to upgrade their knowledge, skills and experience. Foremost is the ability to align HR strategy and practice with the general direction of a business. Other factors include effective communication, an ethical approach and a clear customer focus. The objective is to ensure HR professionals move with the times and, by identifying and developing the right talent, they can also play a full part in corporate decision-making.

Mok says the need for expertise in everything from recruitment and benefits to training and talent management will continue to increase. Employers are now making budgets available to lift headcounts, and support learning and development initiatives. They realise that long-term success - and survival - depends on having the best people and giving them the right skills.

"The more visionary companies are seeing this as a priority," Mok says. "To ensure the supply of talent and meet long-term requirements, they want senior managers and fresh graduates in HR, people who demonstrate integrity and have the guts to [point out] when things are not going in the right direction."

Emma Charnock, regional director for recruitment firm Hays in Hong Kong and China, notes similar trends. She, too, has seen a pick-up in specialist HR roles.

"Skilled candidates are most needed in learning, development and training positions," she says. "Compensation and benefit roles are also key, as employers review their pay structures to ensure they remain competitive."

She says the role of HR is becoming less process-driven and more pivotal to the operations of the business. As a result, specific positions focus less on the traditional execution of internal processes, evolving instead into strategic functions like change management and organisational development.

"Companies are becoming more receptive to understanding the value that HR brings to an organisation," Charnock says. "A sure sign is the increase of HR business partner roles in the market.

"Employers are seeking to re-invest in their current platform of employees, [boosting the skills of] their workforce, and seeking ways to retain [good staff]."

Bright future  

  • An increase in HR roles points to broader investment in recruitment and training
  • Employers are on the lookout for specialists in talent management, training and development
  • HR opportunities for graduates and younger recruits should increase in the next 12 months


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