What is an HR Professional?

July 28th, 2015
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First of all apologies for the length of this blog but I believe it deals with an important issue.

I recently set up a LinkedIn Group called Thai HR Professionals with the stated aim … “To advance the professionalism, competencies and expertise of Thailand’s HR community.”

The one key word in that statement is “professionalism” as I believe “competencies” and “expertise” go hand-in-hand with that. But what is “professionalism”? Well I tried searching Google and found this one in Business Dictionary:

“The level of excellence or competence that is expected of a professional” … mmmm … that didn’t tell me much! So I tried “professional” and came up with … “A person formally certified by a professional body or belonging to a specific profession by virtue of having completed a required course of studies and/or practice. And whose competence can usually be measured against an established set of standards” + a “Person who has achieved an acclaimed level of proficiency in a calling or trade” … that’s much better!Slide1

Let’s take the following key statements from those definitions and explore them a little further:

  • “certified by a professional body”.
  • “measured against an established set of standards”.
  • “acclaimed level of proficiency”.

Specifically for Thailand this is interesting because doing some previous basic research I found that there are numerous “bodies” here representing HR (there may be others) i.e.:

It looks like all offer training programmes to aid “professionalism” but only two offer “certification” … PMAT and Thailand HR Academy.

But does “certification” actually mean you can do your job professionally? Personally I am not sure!

Going back to the Change Management theme of previous blogs this has been a raging debate for the CM community for a long time. My considered opinion (for what it’s worth) is that “certification” will only demonstrate that an individual has undertaken a training course offered by a specific body, taken a test of some sort (maybe), has passed and is then presented with a nice certificate to have framed and hung on the office wall. It does not show that they are “professional” or can do their job “competently” and that they have achieved a level of “proficiency”. This cannot be achieved in a few days … it comes with time and effort.

Interestingly the UK’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has recently introduced a Profession Map which captures what successful and effective HR people do and deliver across every aspect and specialism of the profession, and sets out the required activities, behaviour and knowledge. It covers:

  • 10 x Professional Areas i.e. Leading HR; Insights, Strategy & Solutions; Service Delivery & Information; Organisation Design; Organisation Development; Resourcing & Talent Management; Learning & Development; Performance & Reward; Employee Engagement and Employee Relations.
  • 8 x Behaviours … i.e. Curious; Decisive Thinker; Skilled Influencer; Personally Credible; Collaborative; Driven to Deliver; Courage to Challenge and Role Model.
  • 4 x bands of competence i.e.
    • Band 1 … supports colleagues with administration & processes; effectively manages information & data and is Customer Orientated.
    • Band 2 … advises on and/or manages HR issues related to an individual or a team; has a clear understanding of the evaluation process and the solutions available.
    • Band 3 … leads a professional area acting as a consultant or partner; addresses key HR challenges at an organizational level (medium/ling term).
    • Band 4 … leads and manages a professional area(s) and/or the organisation; responsible for developing and delivering organisational and HR strategy.

NOTE: Band 1 relates to the start of an HR career through to Band 4 for the most senior leaders.

It has been designed to be relevant and applicable to HR professionals operating anywhere in the world, in all sectors and in organisations of all shapes and sizes.

Then of course there is the much publicised work by Dave Ulrich (named the most influential person in HR by HR Magazine for three years) who was recently a guest speaker at the STJobs HR Summit 2014 in Singapore who cites six key competency traits required of HR professionals:

  • Strategic Positioner … able to turn business knowledge into organisation actions.
  • Credible Activist … able to build relationships of trust and influence).
  • Capability Builder … able to diagnose and shape an organisation’s culture.
  • Change Champion … able to initiate and sustain change.
  • Innovator and integrator … able to align, innovate, and integrate new HR practices.
  • Technology Proponent … able to use information to drive long term results.

With all these different approaches to professionalism this can be daunting for an HR person looking to develop their skills.

Clearly as a Thai HR professional the natural route would be via one of the Thai bodies offering certification but it does no harm to explore different avenues if you feel one of them offers exactly what you want and something a little bit different.

On a final note I am neither certified nor accredited as a Change Manager but that doesn’t mean I cannot do my job or coach, mentor and train people in change. I have amassed a lot of knowledge over the many years of practising my profession and it is the practical experience and the lessons learned during that time that is important to help people understand what works well and what doesn’t.

I talked a bit about “knowledge’ in this blog so my next one will be on the theme of HR Knowledge Exchange and how this can aid professionals in the HR discipline to share and learn new ideas.