Transforming HR in Asia-Pacific: We Have a Choice to Make

By Musharrof Hossain May 20, 2016
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The transformation of human resources as a practice and a profession has been an important issue in the past. It has become critical now.

The evolution has been taking place over several years, and we have made progress in reducing costs, utilizing resources effectively, outsourcing some human resource activities, and improving operations and partnerships, among other things. But overall, HR has yet to take on a full leadership role in achieving business objectives through its strategies. 

The practice of HR in the Asia Pacific region is still generally lagging behind that in the West. In some places, such as Australia and Singapore, and within a few specific organizations in other countries, HR operations have adopted the more mature global practices of Europe and North America, but many other countries and organizations still use an outdated “personnel management” approach. The Asia Pacific region represents the largest population in the world while also supplying skilled and unskilled human resources in other regions. It is time to make the choice to actively pursue rapid innovation and transformation of HR in Asia-Pacific to drive improved efficiencies and services. 

For companies in Asia, the ability to transform HR strategy is complicated by the fact that the region is made up of dozens of countries with significant cultural differences as well as varying expectations and levels of sophistication in terms of HR strategy. Greater alignment among HR strategies in individual countries is needed to avoid duplication of efforts and to encourage cross-sharing of centralized resources and knowledge. 

Establishing standardized metrics for measuring HR’s impact on Asia Pacific businesses will help further elevate the standards of HR practice. Improving the quality of HR talent—among both those born in Asia and those who have made Asia their long-term home—is already enhancing the ability of the HR profession to have a tangible difference on business results. 

To transform our HR practice and grab the world market, we must undertake the following measures immediately under the leadership of the Asia Pacific Federation of Human Resource  Management (APFHRM):

  • Develop HR competency models for each country in line with the model already developed by the APFHRM.
  • Lobby with individual countries to introduce best HR practices, with organizations such as APFHRM and its members playing vital roles.
  • Encourage participation of HR management in corporate senior management decision-making.
  • Establish an HR “ministry” in individual countries, working closely with governments to put HR under a regulatory framework.
  • Collaborate with universities to bring market-driven HR education and practice to younger generations.
  • Encourage all Asia Pacific countries, especially Middle East countries, to join the APFHRM.
  • Create or enhance HR certification opportunities in each country (such as SHRM-CP, SHRM-SCP, etc.).
  • Arrange opportunities for cross-border learning and exposure by organizing visits between and among country HR associations to share and introduce best HR and transformational practices.

I am very optimistic to see more organizations and countries recognizing the fact that people are the most important factor in the success of every country. The APFHRM and the World Federation of People Management Associations should use this timely opportunity to accelerate the transformation of HR across the region.    

Musharrof Hossain is President of APFHRM and the Bangladesh Society for Human Resources Management. He is also head of human resources management at international health research organization icddr,b in Dhaka. Republished by permission from the World Federation of People Management Associations.

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