An introduction: New skills needed for knowledge-based economy
The rapid advances in technology and globalisation and the development of a knowledge-based economy have brought about significant adjustments in the human resources (HR) sector over the past couple of decades.
As organisational priorities and employee needs have changed, the function once known “personnel” has evolved into what is nowadays often referred to as human capital management (HCM), emphasising the wide range of responsibilities, forward planning and corporate investment that is involved.
This is definitely not a change of name just for the sake of it. In every major company, the department which manages employee-related issues is increasingly regarded as a strategic part of the organisation, playing a key role in ongoing development and future success. HR professionals are contributing in new ways which influence everything from recruitment policy and training to compensation packages and retention – all areas with long-term financial implications.
Recognising this, the Hong Kong and China HR Yearbook 2012, the eighth in the series, is entitled "The changing face of human resources". The four main sections, on talent management, pensions and benefits, technology and education, discuss the skills and qualities today's HR professionals require to effect transformation and support the sector’s process of evolution. One thing is very clear: HR executives are now seen less as administrators and much more as proactive facilitators and strategists. In that role, they will need to be on top of the issues we highlight in this edition of the yearbook.
For a long time, Hong Kong has been considered the entry point to the mainland Chinese market. With China's influence on the Asia region still growing, Hong Kong is ideally place to facilitate considerable amounts of cross border work, which will create new openings and a greater flow of talent. The shifting balance of global economic power will add another dimension, presenting new challenges for HR managers building teams with an international background and outlook.
The introduction of the employee choice arrangement (ECA) under the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) will not only affect the fund industry, but also prompt scheme members to pay closer interest to retirement planning. The new regulations may also encourage employers to consider using voluntary contributions within the MPF framework as a further mechanism to reward or provide an extra incentive for staff.
More than 1.3 million people in Hong Kong – 36 per cent of the local workforce – are now aged between 15 and 34. In the next few decades, this group will take on responsibility for sustaining the competitive edge of the local economy. One way or another, they will bring generational change to the culture of the workplace.
The introduction of the new 3-3-4 education system should help to produce a different kind of talent pool in Hong Kong with better-rounded, more creative individuals. To this end, universities are redesigning and enhancing their courses to equip students for the changing demands of the 21st century workplace.
As the business world moves forward, new types of executive will come to the fore. It is up to HR departments to anticipate, plan and implement the necessary changes. In exploring those issues, we are especially grateful to the many contributors and interviewees who gave invaluable insights on their areas of expertise for this publication.
Hilda Poon is assistant editor at the Classified Post and project editor of the Hong Kong & China HR Yearbook 2012