StrategicHRprofInDemand

Strategic HR Professionals In Demand

Malaysia is beginning t­o realise the value that strategic HR can bring to an organisation – albeit slowly. The Kelly Services Malaysia Salary Guide 2014/15 reports that the country is actively looking for HR professionals to boost its headhunting and talent management strategies. “There is an increasing demand, from employers in Malaysia, for HR professionals with a consultative background primarily for the implementation of strategic HR programmes (as opposed to engaging a consulting firm to do so),” the report states.

However, the roles in demand within HR in the coming year were found to be payroll specialists, talent acquisition managers, compensation and benefits managers, and heads of HR. In my opinion, Malaysian businesses have begun to realise that there is value to be gotten from strategic HR practic­es (and that they are tired of having to pay high consulting fees), but they haven’t yet realised that simply hiring more HR administrators won’t achieve the same result.

Human Resources executives have aspired to be more consultative and strategic advisers to business leaders for at least a generation. While they would like to be more strategic and business focused, most have struggled because those HR leaders do not know how to measure the business value of HR approaches. (Note that I have specifically placed the onus on HR leaders to learn how to demonstrate business value. It’s completely possible and I described the process in my April 2014 column in HR Matters Magazine, Measuring Business Impact in Human Resources) .

In my opinion, Malaysian businesses have begun to realise that there is value to be gotten from strategic HR practices (and that they are tired of having to pay high consulting fees), but they haven’t yet realised that simply hiring more HR administrators won’t achieve the same result.

Questions from business leaders such as “What is the ROI of training?” and “Which screening techniques yield the best performing recruits?” or “What target-setting approach will best motivate performance?” have been met with blank stares from HR.

There are three main challenges for HR today that must be addressed to meet the true demand for consultative and strategic HR leaders in Malaysia:

  1. Transformation of HR from Administration to Strategic

The Human Resources profession globally has changed drastically in the past 20 years as a result of the HR outsourcing movement. In mature economies, business leaders have been looking to drive business efficiency and take out costs. Companies were told to focus on their core competencies.

Core competencies, for most companies, lie in areas such as distribution, manufacturing, R&D – not HR. Thus, companies outsourced anything that wasn’t a core competency and could be done more cheaply externally. Typically, all HR administration functions (e.g., payroll, recruiting, compensation, benefits, compliance, training) were outsourced and only a small number of HR professionals were retained to focus on strategic HR. By necessity, HR professionals were required to demonstrate their value and ability to be strategic “business partners” (thus the advent of the HRBP job title).

Please know that I am not advocating outsourcing as the best strategy, but I am advocating a clear realisation that some HR activities are administrative and others are strategic. For example, payroll is not strategic and recruiting is rarely strategic. However, the strategic HR leader must view each of these functions as levers in their strategy toolkit.

  1. Advanced Education and Training for HR Leaders

The state of education and training in HR globally is severely lacking. The situation in Malaysia is on the low end of the spectrum; however, we are starting to make great improvements. For instance, TalentCorp’s HR Certification Programme is a step in the right direction, but it’s only the beginning. The programmes sponsored by TalentCorp represent the bare minimum requirements to be conversant in HR. Most senior HR leaders have had to learn on the job; many come from a finance or operational background. All too often, HR is where staff who cannot deliver in other areas are sent because “anyone can do HR.” As suggested by the Kelly Services report, HR leaders need consulting skills.

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