CURRENT AND FUTURE IMPORTANCE OF HR MANAGEMENT QUALIFICATIONS: The rise of HR and OD to the top by Marius Meyer

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On 22 June 2018, the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Ms Naledi Pandor published the national list of occupations in high demand.  Nine HR positions were included in the list (HR Manager, Training and Development Manager, Business Training Manager, Recruitment Manager, Employee Wellness Manager, Skills Development Practitioner, Labour Market Analyst, Payroll Manager and Labour Relations Manager (Government Gazette, 22 June 2018). Thus, there is a clear national market need for qualified HR professionals at both under-graduate and post-graduate levels. This need is equally prevalent in the private and public sectors. In fact, the Minister of Public Service Administration, Minister Ayanda Dlodlo announced on 20 September 2018, that HR Management will be prioritised in building a capable state.  She stated: “Good human resource management and career development practices, to maximize human potential, must be cultivated.” 

Moreover, a similar trend is forecast globally as identified in the Future of Jobs Report released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in September 2018.   The growing specialised profession of Organisation Development (OD) Specialist (as one of the strongest components of HR Management) has been identified by the World Economic Forum as the 9thtop emerging job in the Jobs Landscape for 2022 (one place above IT specialists).  The WEF Report also shows the need for HR Professionals throughout the different regions of the world, and HR features in the top ten professions in most parts of the world.

Another important source of information regarding the need and demand for qualifications is to look at jobs being advertised in newspapers and on online job sites. Without exception, HR positions are advertised every week in the Sunday Times,in fact there are several positions at different levels and areas of specialisation available every week. The same applies to other weekly papers such as the work supplement of the IOL newspapers such as The Starand the Cape Times.Furthermore, online job sites and social media platforms provide daily job opportunities.  For instance, the online site JOBlifeZA shared the following list of top ten job categories in South Africa on 20 September 2018:

  1. Information Technology
  2. Sales
  3. Finance
  4. Administration
  5. Engineering
  6. Construction
  7. Transport
  8. Customer service
  9. Healthcare
  10. Human Resources

 

HR features as one of the top ten job categories in South Africa. Ironically, as the Fourth Industrial Revolution becomes a reality, and technology enables the implementation of digital business strategies, including artificial intelligence, robotics and other forms of automation, the need to elevate human approaches to conducting business will be strengthened.  While many tasks can be automated, higher levels of skills will be needed to leverage digital business opportunities and to innovative companies to become even more effective, innovative and efficient. Also, as the speed and complexity of work accelerates, managing stress and employee wellness from a more integrated holistic approach will be needed.  This will require even higher levels of HR and people management competence.

On 27 and 28 September 2018, representatives from a total of 19 universities convened at the Vaal University of Technology in Vanderbijlpark as part of the SA HR Universities Forum, a sub-committee of the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP). Academics from these universities presented their current and future HR qualifications ranging from HR diplomas, to degrees, to honours degrees, to master’s degrees and eventually doctoral degrees. The universities provide a full suite of academic programmes from entry level qualifications to advanced as well as post-graduate qualifications. Not only did the academics agree to integrate the national HR standards into their curriculum, teaching and research, but also to continuously innovate in providing the best possible academic programmes for their students.  To encourage universities to excel in HR academic programmes, SABPP offers an award for the best university in HR standards alignment.  On 1 November, the University of Johannesburg received this prestigious award at the SABPP HR Standards Awards function.

In conclusion, it is clear that although more in-depth labour market analysis remains a key imperative, there is a strong need for HR qualifications in the market, not only to address current realities, but also future needs.  A stronger focus on bridging the theory-practice gap will become a priority. Students, academics and learning providers are encouraged to do their best in ensuring that adequate learning takes place in the HR field. In particular, as identified by the WEF, in addition to HR as a field of professional study, a higher level of capacity-building will be required in the specialised field of OD.  However, while the numbers are indeed on the side of HR when it comes to the number of learning providers as well as students, it will become increasingly important to balance numbers and quality. The role of SABPP as a quality assurance body in HR Management can therefore not be over-emphasised.  In addition, the South African Organisation Development Network (SAODN) is expected to play a much more prominent role given the changing landscape and the WEF jobs forecast.  However, as all companies are adapting to the digital business environment, the need for quicker and more responsive change and innovation will be a key aspect to consider. Keeping abreast of change, innovation and developments is of utmost importance in ensuring that HR leverages all new opportunities in adding value to organisations and society at large.

Marius Meyer lectures in Human Resource Management in the Department of Industrial Psychology at Stellenbosch University and is the HR Standards Thought Leader for SABPP.