Human resources management (HRM) is primarily a people oriented profession but anyone looking to make a mark in the field will need more than a strong network and a "can do" attitude. Queeny Wong's career confirms this.
"In the past, human resource departments handled mainly administrative work such as payroll and hiring. Today, we assume a more strategic role, contributing to the companies' overall success," says Ms Wong, human resources director, Asia Pacific, Infor.
As such, part of Ms Wong's job is to attend regional business meetings so as to align the company's talent needs with its strategic development plans. She emphasises that staff are a company's best assets and only effective HRM (human resources management) can achieve sustainable and healthy development of the company.
Ms Wong's career has been driven by a passion and determination from the very beginning. When she graduated with a degree in finance and management 20 years ago, she already decided that she would not allow her qualification to limit her career options. "My first job was to help a US floppy drive company set up a procurement office in Hong Kong. With duties ranging from accounting to management and even sales and facilities, it was great training for a fresh graduate like me," she recalls. "That was when my interest in HRM rooted."
Ms Wong spent the following four years to build her competence and consolidate her strengths. With growing confidence, she took up the position of greater China human resources manager of a French petrochemical company. "The company was forging several new joint ventures in China, giving me great exposure and a new set of challenge," she notes.
Technical competence can be learnt and enhanced through work
In June 1997, Ms Wong completed a master's degree in HRM, which opened a new chapter in her career. She says, "Having worked with the company for more than five years, I realised it was high time I expanded my career into a regional perspective."
Since then, Ms Wong held several regional HR positions in some of the most celebrated US IT companies, and subsequently joined Infor in April 2007. Such a lateral move, according to her, was partly thanks to a strong network in the IT field she has built over the years.
Set up in 2002, Infor is currently the world's third largest business ERP (enterprise resource planning) software provider, operating 125 offices worldwide with more than 9,000 employees among which about 1,400 are based in the Asia Pacific region.
Infor has a short history, but is quick to expand through a series of strategic global acquisition. During the past 20 months, Ms Wong's major responsibilities have been to build her APAC HR team, integrate various benefit schemes and policies into one Infor benefit plan and help acquired employees fit in with the Infor culture.
"Compared to other industries, we have a faster pace of decision making," she says. "For instance, I presented a benefit harmonisation proposal to the corporate HR, with some minor adjustments and recommendations. The proposal was approved within an hour."
Responsible for a full spectrum of human resources functions for the company's Asia Pacific operations, Ms Wong literally works around the clock. "Due to the time differences, I have an early start," she says. "I usually begin the day replying to emails and have a quick conversation with my HR managers in Australia and New Zealand as they are three hours ahead of Hong Kong."
Every Tuesday at 9am, Ms Wong joins the Asia Pacific management call to keep abreast of the company's business updates. "As part of my daily routine, I also meet potential candidates. It's essential to build a talent pipeline," she remarks. The day's work does not end until after another conference call with the senior HR teams from EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) and the US at 11pm. "It's a good thing I have a passion in what I do," she enthuses.
Ms Wong's job also includes injecting new ideas into the company's new hire orientation training programme. Under her jurisdiction across the Asia Pacific region, every new recruit now receives standardised onboarding training, a welcome lunch and a starter kit that comes with a personal welcome note written by Ms Wong.
"A personal touch is essential to the job," she emphasises. "Technical competence can be learnt and enhanced through work. When hiring HR staff, I see little difference in their technical backgrounds. It's their interpersonal skills that matter the most."
She adds that newcomers can specialise in one HRM function like recruitment and training, excel in it and gradually move up the career ladder. However, to take on a regional role like Ms Wong's, having the attitude and aptitude of a generalist is an advantage. "HR generalists can work on any specific streams in the wider HR field," she notes.