Challenges and opportunities faced by the Human Resource Professional

There are numerous challenges faced by the human resource professional in today’s demanding and fast paced work environment. At the same time, there are also many opportunities for the hr professional to innovate and excel. The key to all these challenges and opportunities is to stay abreast of what is happening globally. This is not that difficult to do because with the advent of internet connectivity, the whole world is really a global village.

In speaking to my fellow colleagues from the human resource field in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I gather that the following are some of the challenges facing these professionals.

  1. Managing a Vision Based Organisation

The HR professional may find this a huge challenge because of the rapidly changing organisation. With such change and the resulting changing needs that have to be addressed it is, at the same time, work as usual for all in the company. This occasionally poses a headache for some especially in having to cope with all the changes and demands. However, this is not an option that can be overlooked or ignored. If you fail to act in time, you will be outpaced as a company. Can your company afford to lose in such a scenario?

Furthermore, there is the issue of changing technologies and the emergence of Gen Y and with it their value systems! Their value systems may be quite different from that of their parents. How are the hr professionals going to harness the prowess and talents of Gen Y in this new environment? Therein rests the challenge and the opportunity.

In addition, the organisational structure has to be carefully thought out. Job titles, designations, salary and benefit plans have to be realistic, relevant, market based and attractive enough to draw in the brightest and the best. The company must be prepared to develop initiatives to attract, retain and nurture talent. This is where the hr professional can play a key role.

  1. Creating a Positive Work Environment

This is a major task and it is easier said than done! It is the ambience and style of management as well as a non- threatening environment that actually plays a big part in creating a positive work environment. I have heard a number of horror stories where the work environment is truly toxic and certainly non-conducive for bringing out the best in people.

It is the responsibility of the hr professional to take steps, on a regular basis, to monitor the pulse of the work environment. The hr professional should alert senior management of any factor that creates an unsatisfactory work environment and thereafter take immediate measures to rectify the matter.

A strategic priority for human resource professionals should be to optimise talent from within Myanmar. The key focus should be towards the pipeline of young graduate talent from the universities. At the same time, the pipeline of talent from the pool of professional members from respected, international bodies like ACCA, CIMA, ICSA, LCCI and City & Guilds should also be tapped.

The essence of optimising such talent is to ensure that the hr professional is able to match the capabilities and inclinations of such graduates, professionals and para – professionals with rewarding and fulfilling opportunities arising from the newly created market opportunities in Myanmar in the first place and thereafter regionally and then globally.

  1. Engaging the Employee to be Productive

Many companies like to claim that they value their employees. They refer to their staff as human capital. To me, however, a rose by any other name, is still a rose. Terms may change and job designations may be fancy but at the end of the day, we are still talking about putting people first in our companies and organisations. Saying it loudly is one thing but putting that message and commitment into practice is another story altogether.

For instance, getting new recruited employees and those who have been with us for some time to remain engaged is the biggest challenge. There are some theories that say money is not the only motivator but the fact remains that companies and organisations should willingly and without hesitation pay decent and market driven wages if they are to remain true to their oft repeated claims that people are their greatest assets.

It is important for management to remember that knowledge flows horizontally as well as vertically! The junior employee, in terms of job designation and age, is more likely to have greater technical knowledge than his senior colleagues. There is therefore now a greater emphasis for companies to work within teams of expertise. Each team can then be led by someone who has more experience in that particular area.

With the rapid advance in information technology and the need to keep abreast of developments affecting the company, industry and marketplace, the employees need the aid of modern gadgets. This is not just because the young employees are a technology driven generation but simply because it makes sense to equip your employees so that they can cope with multiple tasks and oftentimes short time frames!

4. Building Organisational Capability

Building a psychological state of readiness and being able to monitor change on a regular basis and deal with it effectively, is imperative. The often fast changing economic environment demands it. Human capital management, at its best, involves placing the right people with the right skills in the right place and at the right time.

In such a fast moving environment, economic, social, political and cultural changes can be profound. Every company therefore has to learn how to make the much needed transition from the old order to the new order. A company’s competitive advantage is now increasingly derived from its human capital.

The essence of optimising talent is to ensure that hr professionals are able to match the capabilities and inclinations of its employees with rewarding, challenging and fulfilling opportunities arising from the new economic opportunities in Myanmar. A long term strategic move will be to create career awareness among university undergraduates and budding professionals.

The next step will be to implement internship programmes with major employers and MNCs. The structured internship programmes help to provide employees with good and realistic exposure to careers while at the same time it  gives companies an early opportunity to identify and attract potential talent. And thirdly, there is a need to ensure that employees have opportunities for upskilling.  

In this regard, it is vital to also invest in training employees so that they can confidently keep up with the changes. This may involve sending employees for short courses occasionally or alternatively encouraging them to attend continuing professional development / education ( CPD or CPE ) programmes such as the one you are now attending. This should be done on a regular basis. This is even more important for professionals within the company. It is this commitment to CPD that makes professionals the preferred choice when it comes to hiring the best.

These are just four challenges facing the hr professional in Myanmar. There are, of course, other challenges they face but I hope these challenges have given you some further food for thought. It is in such challenging times that we have the potential to surprise management by exceeding expectations and delivering outstanding outcomes. I invite you all to rise to the occasion and deliver.


This keynote address  was first delivered to thirty five participants at Sedona Hotel in Yangon, Myanmar  on Saturday, 2 November 2013. The groundbreaking HR event was organised and marketed by P S Business School as a service to the business community and the nation. It was the second in the series of such initiatives by P S Business School, the first being a Marketing Seminar held last year. It was targeted at specially invited guests from different sectors of the economy and was offered on a complimentary basis. Congrats to PS Business School for pioneering this initiative in Yangon, Myanmar.

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