In the past it was common practice for companies to recruit their managers from within. While these people had the industry knowledge, they may not have been well-suited for the role of manager for several reasons, from lacking people and decision- making skills to being weak in technical areas.
To meet the growing need for capable and qualified managers, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University's Graduate School of Business offers three Master of Science degrees in Management. These include MSc in Management (Health Services Management); MSc in Management (Human Resource Management); and MSc in Management (Public Sector Management).
Public sector management refers to anything from the government, NGOs to not-for-profit organisations. Cheung Kai-chee, programme director, MSc in Management (Public Sector Management), says that the difference between public and private sectors is one of focus: "Public sector is mainly control-oriented while private sector is basically profit-oriented. This does to some degree affect the style of management expected," Dr Cheung says.
He describes the main benefits of the programme as three-pronged: "It equips students with skills to run administrative duties efficiently and effectively; provides up-to-date theories; and raises the student's administrative ability." The programme is generalist in nature, as it doesn't focus on one specific sector. It combines theory with practice, and includes visits to public organisations in Hong Kong, China and other countries.
"The feedback from our students is that the programme has helped them achieve their career objectives. Now that more younger people are attending postgraduate programmes, they are able to use them for a longer period in their career life than has been the case in the past," Dr Cheung notes.
The students of the Health Services Management postgraduate degree programme are all health care professionals, from doctors, nurses to pharmaceutical company staff. Due to the high demand for qualified managers in the health care sector, both public and private, in the 2009/2010 school year PolyU will offer a two-year mixed-mode programme to meet this need.
Geoffrey Lieu, programme director, MSc in Management (Health Services Management), remarks, "There is dire need for people with proper skills who can work at all levels of management, from frontline to the top."
As with the aforesaid programme, there are three main benefits to the Health Services Management students. Dr Lieu explains, "We provide students with a thorough understanding of health care management, which includes the similarities as well as the differences. We impart the knowledge and skills to interact effectively with patients, families and colleagues; and ensure that students understand the importance of proper deployment and effective utilisation of health care resources, the main one being people."
Nowadays human resources has become more specialised and is a booming market in its own right. While many companies have their own internal HR departments, others outsource their HR functions to external agencies or specialty HR firms. Therefore the need for people who know what they're doing, which includes everything from keeping up to date on changing laws and regulations, which are external factors, to being people savvy when it comes to hiring and promotions, is vital to the smooth running of any organisation.
Theresa Lau, programme director, MSc in Management (Human Resource Management) says, "HRM used to be just a supporting and advisory role. Now, with companies getting more concerned with HR issues, it is becoming more demanding. People want everything to add value, and HR is no exception."
Dr Lau adds, "However, top management of companies need to be more broad-minded when it comes to the role of its HR managers. HRMs should play a larger strategic role, and if they are not in the 'boardroom', they should at least be attending senior level meetings so that they know what the decision making is on a corporate level."
She also explains that more than just soft skills are required of HR managers. "People considering working in human resources also need to possess hard skills like manpower planning, compensation, employee testing and selection, and so on. Our programme equips students not only with these, but with the knowledge applicable to that of a general manager."
The three programmes offered are of top quality but nevertheless require a high level of commitment to the disciplines they have chosen.