Paul Gallagher is director – professional services for the finance & accountancy, HR and legal divisions at Kelly Services Hong Kong.
You don’t need an MBA to climb the HR ladder in Hong Kong
I love HR, but have been stuck in a middle management position for about seven years. I’d really like to climb the ladder and secure a position as a director or head of department, but am unsure how to do so. I’ve been thinking about an MBA in HRM, but the programmes available seem so expensive. Is it really worth the investment? How much of a pay rise can I realistically expect if I complete the programme and apply for a new role?
It can take time to move up the ladder in the HR function, as promotion to a senior role depends on a lot of factors that are outside of your control. These include the size of the company, the size of the company’s management team, changes in the demand for hard and soft skills, a business expansion or restructure, or changes in the HR demands of the company’s stakeholders.
However, what you can control is your performance in the company, and possessing the right qualifications will support your move up the ladder.
Without knowing your other qualifications, it’s difficult for me to determine whether or not an MBA is right for you. I would need to know if you obtained an undergraduate degree in human resources, or a master’s degree in human resources management. If you have either of these – and the qualification was awarded by a reputable university – then I would say that you are already academically equipped for your field, and an MBA may not justify the investment.
On the other hand, if you have an undergraduate degree in an unrelated discipline, an MBA in human resources can be beneficial. Be aware that this is only one of the many factors that management looks for when considering a promotion.
If you decide to do an MBA, I would recommend a locally taught executive programme. In my opinion, online MBAs do not offer their students personal interaction with fellow classmates and professors, which is vital to enlarging your network in the field.
Depending on how your HR function is structured, it should act as a strategic partner to the other business units. This requires the HR director to possess not only strong HR know-how on subjects that matter most to the business – such as compensation and benefits, learning and development, and organisation and development – but also a strategic mindset, so as to advise business heads on HR issues, recommend solutions, and lead the HR team to deliver.
You need to consider all the above factors when preparing yourself for a senior role in HR. An opportunity to become an HR director with another company may be just around the corner. Personally, I believe that sufficient experience in a role or sector far outweighs the importance placed on an MBA in the current market.
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as You don’t need an MBA to climb the HR ladder.