New standards boost profession
"The idea behind it is to look at things from three angles," says HKIHRM president Wilfred Wong Kam-pui. "We want to uplift the branding of HR as a profession that can drive the success of a business. But we have also carefully considered the perspectives of employers and the requirements of employees to understand their expectations and bridge any gaps."
To achieve this, as from this month, the institute is offering a well-structured programme of training courses, certificates, and ascending levels of accreditation. It focuses on three key areas - knowledge, capability and experience - taking individuals from the essentials of reward management, employment law and staff engagement to the complexities of such things as strategy implementation, organisational design and change agents in a corporate culture.
This will mirror and support the development of HR careers as people move from general responsibilities into management roles and then executive positions. Companies can choose which of the courses or certificates to include in their own in-house training programmes, but will benefit from having a clear set of standards against which to compare.
"The point is employers should be able to bring in best practices for their organisation," Wong says. "Our aim is to establish an HR capability not just for HR managers, but for people who are running a business."
As an HKIHRM past president and executive council member, Lai Kam-tong has played a big part in designing the model and determining the relevant competencies. The process took several years, involving detailed discussion with academics, international HR organisations and a wide cross-section of the business community.
"We tried to nail down what the basic knowledge requirements are for each role and responsibility, what perspectives are needed and what the expectations should be at different levels," Lai says. "With the right enhancement and enrichment programmes, we want to create a ladder for the profession and add value, so organisations can make the most of their human capital, which is one of Hong Kong's most important resources."
Having the standards and career framework as a point of reference makes it easier for individuals to gauge their own progress and identify obvious gaps in training or professional experience. It is then up to them or their employers to choose appropriate courses, seminars or workshops from the wide selection the HKIHRM runs or recommends throughout the year.
"Right now, HR practices differ quite a lot between companies," says William Chan Fu-keung, human resources director for the MTR Corporation. "But with a model like this and the accreditation that goes with it, employers can feel more confident about engaging HR professionals, knowing that they are keeping pace with changes, while continuing to grow and learn."
Chan also emphasises that, nowadays, an increasing part of any HR role is to develop a broader knowledge of the operations of the company they work for, and of its place in the community.
"Only in this way can they contribute actively to the needs of the business and be an integral part of the organisation," he says.
As part of its framework for professional development, the HKIHRM recommends specific qualifications at the appropriate stage. These include, for example, certificates in:
- Retirement schemes management, salaries tax and China individual income tax at the foundation level
- Employee coaching and counselling, and supervisory management at the professional level
- Leadership in change and Hong Kong employment law at the "master" level