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January 2009 Poll Results: The New Spotlight on Critical HR Specialisations

The Chapman Consulting Group has completed surveying the HR community during the month of January on the subject of which HR specialisations are viewed as the most indispensable by organisations in uncertain economic times.

Matthew Chapman, Managing Director of The Chapman Consulting Group, comments that there is currently a focus on across the region on the reduction of unnecessary ‘wastage’ in the HR structure. “Ordinarily, with worsening economic conditions, companies have in the past still been keen to preserve their existing HR structures and adopt a wait-and-see approach for as long as possible. However, the prognosis for 2009 is severe, and businesses are already under pressure to reduce all non-essential costs. HR Heads are being asked by their leaders to help shoulder this cost cutting’.

More than 50% of HR respondents across the Asia Pacific region felt that Compensation and Benefits (C&B) was the most recession-proof HR specialisation to be in. ‘The C&B structure of most organisations tends to be fairly lean, and remains critical in the downtimes as well as the uptimes, so this result comes as no surprise”, said Chapman. ‘What we may see in some of the larger organisations is the collapsing of sub specialisations in C&B such as sole Benefits roles or Executive Compensation experts. So even in the C&B field, we can still expect to see some rationalisation into fewer roles”, noted Chapman.

9% of HR practitioners surveyed felt that Recruitment was indispensable to an organisation. There’s no doubt that the economic boom from 2005 onwards has seen a dramatic increase in the number of in-house recruiters with multinationals across the region. We are waiting to see what impact the downturn will have on these large teams. Organisations that have pursued a lean recruitment model, either outsourcing recruitment to external vendors or folding recruitment into the HR Business Partner model, will fare best in avoiding reductions.

18% of those surveyed said that HR Systems and Operations would be amongst the most valuable specialisations to an organisation in a downturn. As noted in our December 2008 poll report on HR downsizing, The Chapman Consulting Group felt that HT Operations and systems teams might survive the downturn largely intact, due to the ongoing drive of so many companies in the region to improve efficiency in HR operations and Shared Services.

Most encouraging of all, close to 25% of HR respondents felt that Learning and Development and Organisational Development (OD) specialisations should not be cut in a downturn. “Too often, we see organisations spending heavily on OD and learning in up-times, but immediately cutting back in the tough times”, said Chapman. “But aren’t these the times when we should be leveraging off a talent-rich external market to build up management and leadership pipelines?”, emphasised Chapman. He added “Now is THE most important time to be up-skilling the HR and business workforces to be even more productive and even more creative in the way they go about work – its the learning team that must drive this agenda”.

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