As changes in the economy pose new challenges for HR professionals, the education sector has responded with the introduction of programmes which provide them with an increasingly sophisticated level of training. According to Randy Chiu, head of the Management Department at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU), education in all aspects of human resources has developed rapidly in Hong Kong in recent years and is well up to international standards.
"Several well-known Chinese universities are starting to run degree programmes in human resources management (HRM), but institutions in Hong Kong, with their advanced courses, are still the cradle for talent," Dr Chiu says. Founded in 1991, HKBU's undergraduate programme has produced HR managers who now fill key positions for multinationals, regional head offices and major local companies.
"Even during the economic downturn, all our graduates found work within a few months of completing their studies," notes Dr Chiu. The programme's success undoubtedly lies in its combination of theory and practice. For example, HR managers from the world of business serve as guest lecturers and mentors, and positions as interns are arranged during the second year of the course to enable students to gain practical work experience.
HKBU is also offering a postgraduate diploma for those contemplating a possible career change and an MSc in strategic HRM for more seasoned professionals. As course director of the MSc programme, Dr Chiu received an elite award last year in the annual China HR competition for his contribution to both teaching and research in the field.
Nowadays, the management of risk and change plus knowledge of issues affecting multinationals are becoming more important. In addition, advances in technology are causing structural change within the profession and leading to a reduction in the number of junior staff and assistants. "There is a growing emphasis on expertise," Dr Chiu explains. "HR professionals must now work on developing a corporate culture and nurturing employees as strategic partners for their companies."
This focus on relationship management is a result of the more streamlined structure adopted by most companies in Hong Kong. In this area, they clearly differ from the majority of industrial enterprises in mainland China. "With their factories and the number of workers they employ, the emphasis for Chinese manufacturers is still on more traditional HR practices," adds Dr Chiu. "They still have to concentrate on tackling recruitment issues and general policy implementation tasks."
However, with the CEPA agreement encouraging greater integration between the two economies, HR practices are also expected to move gradually towards a common standard. HKBU is therefore offering courses with a distinctive China focus and Dr Chiu is confident they will become increasingly popular.