Human Resource Management (HRM) has come a long way since the old days of personnel administration. The importance of HRM can be seen everywhere. Every now and then, however, top and line management seem to query the real contributions of their HR departments and, hence, HR professionals.

The HR scene in Singapore has been getting increasingly exciting over the past two years. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) spearheaded the first Singapore Human Capital Summit in September 2009. In addition, it set up a new Human Capital Leadership Institute (HCLI) in partnership with the Singapore Management University (SMU).

SIM University will launch its Master of Human Capital Management and Bachelor of HRM with Military Studies Degrees in July this year. In the Continuing Education and Training (CET) front, the Singapore Workforce Development Agency’s HR WSQ framework has provided a solid foundation for the building up of human capital.

Developments in the Singapore employment scene include the Government’s push for re-employment, new channels for recruitment, nurturing talent, staff engagement, productivity improvement, work-life integration and building the HR capability of small and medium-sized companies (SMEs).

Effective contributor

The HR fraternity will continue to play an important role that impacts the bottom line of businesses through the effective management of human capital. The question is: how can HR become a more effective contributor to organisations?

I would like to examine this at two levels. At the strategic level, senior HR professionals (HR directors, managers) must be competent in three critical areas: being strategic partners, change agents and employee relations experts.

They must be able to conduct effective strategic alignment (aligning human capital with business strategy). This does not mean that the formulation of business strategies has excluded HR issues and considerations all these years.

To be effective business partners, HR professionals must be able solicit top management support. They must be comfortable with leading and managing different types of change. They have to be confident in designing high commitment organisations. They must know the different ways of evaluating human capital programmes and initiatives. 

At the more operational level, junior HR managers and executives must be competent as administrative experts, employee relations experts and, possibly, change agents.

To be administrative experts, they must have a basic understanding of financial and managerial accounting, statistics, contract and agency law, employment laws and legal issues, as well as total reward design and management.

To be employee relations experts, they need to equip themselves with some knowledge of organisational psychology and cross-cultural intelligence, and know how to deal with employee/industrial relations issues as well as facilitate negotiations and manage organisational conflict.

Finally, being effective change agents mean that they are in the position to attract and select talent, create organisational capability through learning and development, design talent and performance management policies and practices, as well as conduct career development counselling.

Key attributes

Even though they have acquired the necessary knowledge and tools from training and professional education, HR practitioners should demonstrate the key attributes of integrity, professionalism, personal drive and networking ability, which will help them become more confident and persuasive leaders.

“Integrity is the essence of everything successful,” remarked R. Buckminister Fuller, the inventor of the geodesic dome. Indeed, ethical practices affect not only the individual person but also the rise and fall of organisations. Ethical treatment of employees involves aspects such as hiring and firing, occupational risk, transparency, whistle-blowing, discrimination and harassment.

HR  professionals will also benefit from building up  their personal HR networks by becoming active members of professional organisation(s) and participating in numerous activities and events.

They must also be able to conquer fears and uncertainties. Psychologist Erich Fromm once said: “Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” It has been argued that good judgment comes from our own experience. Indeed, we learn and build up our experience through bad judgments!