HRD Challenge

Report shows skills required by HR professionals.

HRD Challenge

Asia Pacific

A new report published by Hays suggests human resources directors need to have a thorough understanding of every aspect of the business they work for, plus be proactive, versatile and able to balance the needs of the organisation with those of individual employees. This demanding set of challenges has been outlined in the company’s report ‘DNA of an HRD’ designed to provide insight into what it takes to succeed in an HR leadership role in Asia. The report is based on an extensive survey of 570 HRDs and a series of in depth face-to-face interviews.

The ‘DNA of an HRD’ reveals that most respondents believe strategic planning is the most important professional skill an HRD must master, while being proactive is the most important personal trait to possess.

“The advice from HR leaders is to develop a broad range of skills as no two days are ever the same for an HRD,” says Lynne Roeder, managing director of Hays Singapore. “In addition to strategic planning, our respondents named five other ‘must-have’ skills for HRDs. In order of importance they are stakeholder engagement/influencing, people management, commercial acumen, communication skills and change management skills.”

More than half of respondents (51 per cent) say ‘being commercially aware’ is their top piece of advice for aspiring HRDs.


“We’ve been recruiting HR professionals for nearly 50 years globally and we have certainly seen a strong and growing trend for HR professionals to develop a deep knowledge of every aspect of how the organisation operates in order to truly partner with the business,” says Lynne. “Respondents told us that the biggest challenge facing HRDs is how to keep employees engaged. They also said that in the next five years, they expect the bulk of their role to be identifying and retaining key talent and succession planning,” she says. “This is no surprise given that employment engagement is seen as the greatest challenge they expert to face.”

Despite the important role played by the HRD, only 17 per cent of respondents hold a seat on their company’s board and nine per cent a seat on other boards.

The ‘DNA of an HRD’ also found that the majority of HRDs in Asia are typically women (59 per cent) aged 36 to 50 (71 per cent) holding at least a bachelor’s degree (97 per cent). Only 16 per cent of degree holders studied HR with the degrees of 31 per cent focused on business, commerce, finance or economics.

Most HRDs had at least 10 years of HR experience before landing their current senior role (86 per cent) and had worked for multiple organisations (only 12 per cent had only worked for the one organisation) while 52 per cent had worked outside HR at some point in their career.

Only 29 per cent of respondents had worked outside of Asia at some point during their career with 65 per cent of those spending more than two years overseas. Destinations included North America (43 per cent), Europe (31 per cent), the UK (22 per cent) and Australia and New Zealand (21 per cent).

Interestingly, 45 per cent of respondents consider working outside their home country a must for career development and 47 per cent are currently considering working overseas.

A total of 570 HR leaders were surveyed for the report through an extensive online survey and five in depth face-to-face interviews. Women comprised 59 per cent of the senior HR leaders taking part. At the time of the survey, 71 per cent of respondents were aged between 36 and 50-years-old, of which 26 per cent were aged between 41 and 45 years old. Also, 38 per cent of respondents held the title of HR Director or Director of HR, 20 per cent Head of HR, nine per cent (Senior) Vice President of HR and 33 per cent other titles including Chief HR Officer, GM HR and Divisional HR Manager.

Respondents were based in Mainland China (34 per cent), Japan (21 per cent), Malaysia (20 per cent), Singapore (17 per cent), Hong Kong (seven per cent), and other Asian countries (one per cent). A total of 36 per cent worked in companies headquartered in Asia while 27 per cent worked for companies headquartered in North America, 26 per cent in Europe and 11 per cent elsewhere. The majority of respondents (87 per cent) worked in commerce and industry companies. For the purposes of this survey, commerce and industry includes any sector (e.g. Financial Services) that is non-government. A total of 56 per cent of these companies were listed and 31 per cent non-listed. HR leaders were asked about their educational background and qualifications, career pathway, international experience, skills and attributes, responsibilities and challenges in the HR field and their work including work life balance.



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