From HR to senior management

by Ella Lee

Randy Chiu, professor, Department of Management; course director, Master of Science in Strategic Human Resources Management, Hong Kong Baptist University
Photo: Ringo Lee

Masters programme turns HR practioners into strategic business partners

In order to support HR professionals seeking career advancement, in 2002, Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) launched the Master of Science in Strategic Human Resources Management (MSc in SHRM) programme — the first of its kind in Hong Kong.

"It is an executive development programme aiming at providing advanced management knowledge and HR skills essential to create corporate strategies and practices with a global perspective," says Randy Chiu, professor from the Department of Management of HKBU and the course director of MSc in SHRM.

The programme is specifically tailored for experienced HR professionals wishing to raise their academic level and climb up the senior management ladder. As a result, only degree holders with five years' work experience can apply. In practice, however, HKBU has found that those taking the course have on average 12 years' work experience including nine years in human resources.

Professor Chiu stresses that it is HKBU's principle to upgrade the standard of HR management by raising the professional qualities and abilities of senior HR officials. Throughout the programme, emphasis is placed on the human context, and the international HR management practices and standards used by different organisations.

Good interpersonal skills

Professor Chiu believes an HR leader must be able to understand the interaction between people and the environment, and possess good interpersonal skills. "It is the structure and systems that form the culture of an organisation, which will eventually determine the behaviour of individuals," he adds. As a result, HKBU includes the subject of industrial-organisational psychology in the MSC course — currently the only master's programme in HRM in Hong Kong with psychology as one of its core subjects.

"For example, we don't focus on the actual and possible practices that cultivate team spirit, but the underlying factors that affect morale and human behaviour," says Professor Chiu. "This higher level of theoretical understanding gives our graduates the know-how to motivate staff members effectively."

He also stresses on a strategic approach and an international focus, rather than the functional or operational level of HR management. The purpose is to enable graduates to develop workable strategies and tactics to influence and support business growth, acting as skilled change agents for corporate development.

Another core subject is international HR management, whereby students can learn how to design and manage expatriate assignments and handle cultural diversity. It also covers key issues in international employee relations and multinational corporate ethical responsibility in HR.

The study of human resources measurement is another area that makes the programme different. Students can learn how to audit HR activities and measure the effectiveness of different practices from recruitment, training and staff development. This enables them to acquire the concepts and techniques for maximising human capital.

"Human resources measurement has been practised in the international marketplace for only around 15 years, so we have invited a US authority to come and deliver the course," says Professor Chiu.

He recalls that HKBU spent three years to develop the MSc in SHRM programme, undertaking comprehensive market research and in depth discussions with leaders in the field. As a result, the curriculum was forward-looking enough to anticipate the emerging trends.

The benefits of the course are well proven, says Professor Chiu. "Even before their graduation, many of our students have already been headhunted or promoted."

HKBU's School of Business has been at the forefront of advanced HR education, offering the first undergraduate and master's programmes in HRM in Hong Kong. Their BBA, HRM Major, says Professor Chiu, has been ranked the first in Hong Kong in recent surveys on the public ranking of university courses. In addition, the business school established a research and development centre of HR strategies last year, acting as a consultant to public and private organisations to promote the best HR practices.

Learning beyond HRM

  • Executive development programme equips HR professionals for elevation to senior management
  • Offered in a two-year part-time mode
  • Students must complete 10 subjects, including a degree project, and one elective
  • Assessment based on class discussion and participation, assignments and projects, and test and examinations

Taken from Career Times 12 January 2007
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