It has been 40 years since the Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC) introduced Hong Kong businesses to the concept of "the effective use of innovation and resources to increase the value-added content of products and services", or, in other words, "productivity". This of course includes the effective management of human resources (HRM).
"We monitor closely and keep abreast of the international trends in HRM. We meet with many companies which confide in us about issues involving HRM. These help us identify the trends and modify our consultancy services," says Raymond Cheng, principal consultant, human resources, business management division, HKPC.
In a nutshell, there exist an employer market and an employee market. The latter, Mr Cheng points out, is the current trend in HRM.
"For example, employees nowadays can ask for a better pay package because the employers may fear losing talented members of their workforce. It is a very different market today from what it was during the SARS outbreak," he explains. "Now employers need to step up measures to retain staff. The trend has evolved from staff satisfaction and staff commitment to what we term today employee engagement — how to win employees' hearts."
To retain talented staff, companies are working on talent development programmes. Ongoing training and development opportunities are furnished to those who demonstrate competence. They may be given opportunities to work with top management, Mr Cheng says.
The diversity in the business sector has led many companies to transform and reshape their operational models. Over the years, HKPC has positioned itself as a one-stop shop for consultancy services, developing an array of programmes that help companies in need of a "makeover".
To reach out to potential clients, HKPC regularly organises public seminars, workshops and public training. Visits to companies and associations are also on the agenda.
"Our mission is to offer industries the most up-to-date HRM technologies," Mr Cheng says. "We aim to enhance their productivity via effective HRM." While serving the HRM needs of SMEs remains a focus, HKPC also includes other industries on its client list such as logistics and retail sales.
To upgrade their service levels, generous resources are allocated for staff training. These include overseas training, workshops, seminars and conferences. "Overseas training allows our consultants to bring the most up-to-date technologies and management tools back to Hong Kong, customise them and apply to the local market to help our clients enhance their HR infrastructure," Mr Cheng says.
He is glad to note that many companies now make obvious efforts to strengthen the many functions of HRM. "HR used to be administrative but has now become more like a strategic partner," Mr Cheng says. "HRM as a discipline will soon become a certified profession."
Part of HKPC's mission is to help Hong Kong businesses "achieve a more effective utilisation of resources" so as to increase their international competitiveness through various support schemes.
As China's economy continues to soar and more Hong Kong businesses extend their reach over the border, HKPC has set up offices in Shenzhen, Dongguan and Guangzhou to cope with the increasing needs for HR consultancy services. Hong Kong staff are also subsidised to obtain China's one and only HRM consultancy qualification.
"Companies may have been running their operations for some time now, and they are faced with many HR issues," says Tina Ng, consultant, human resources, business management division, HKPC. "With our experience and the recognised qualification, we better understand the situations, particularly in terms of culture, required management style and procedures, and so are able to add value to these companies' HRM."
Nowadays, members of the Hong Kong team spend a day or two reviewing the HR aspects of businesses in China, while their mainland counterparts focus on projects in the Pearl River Delta and some in the northern cities. "To meet the development trend in China, we have developed a number of management training courses," Ms Ng notes.
Meanwhile, more than 20 "cultural reshape" workshops are now being offered to leading corporations which have set up operations in major China cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing and Guangzhou.