Human Resources: Profession and Professionals
Highly-qualified human resources (HR) specialists working for multinational companies can earn up to $1m a year now. The rapid development of Kazakh business makes a career in the HR sphere very promising and well-paid. What are the rules of the game in this market, what functions of HR managers are in high demand, and how much are employers ready to pay real professionals? We have tried to obtain answers to these and other questions.
Supply and Demand
In line with Western trends, HR specialists can be classified as single-function specialists and the so-called multi-function specialists. The first group of HR specialists are experts in recruitment, personnel administration, benefits and incentives, corporate training and career development. The second group is made up of specialists who combine all these functions. The HR director of AGAT Asia, Galina Tartyshnaya, believes that, in general, Kazakh companies’ HR departments have already mastered all these specialisations to some extent.
The deputy general director of the HR department of ABS, Lidiya Bendyuk, thinks that any HR specialist can now find a job regardless of their professionalism, knowledge and experience. An analysis carried out by the JIB Recruitment and Central Asian Personel Consulting job agencies proves this.
In general, the situation in the HR market does not differ much from the situation in the sales, marketing and financial spheres. Over the past two or three years demand for highly-qualified specialists has grown significantly, whereas supply has been very limited. As a result, companies often have to solve this problem in either of two ways: train specialists in their companies or lure them from other companies. The latter mainly impacts on experienced professionals for whom there is a real “personnel war”.
The main requirements set by employers for candidates for HR posts include higher education (as a rule, a psychology, sociology, economics or law degree), studying professional courses on working with personnel, practical experience in the sphere and the knowledge of modern HR technology. Western companies also demand fluency in a foreign language. Special attention is paid to personal qualities of candidates, such as strengths in communication skills, stress resistance, learning skills and the ability to process huge amounts of information.
HR managers should have analytical skills and the ability to think in patterns on the one hand, and be good communicators and be able to find common language with any person on the other. The technology of managing personnel is practically universal for any business, be it an oil, FMCG or medicine company. Experts believe that the uniqueness of HR profession is that it implies that managers can work with personnel regardless of their number, the size of a company, business specialisation and other factors.
In order to fill in top-level posts, candidates should, above all, have well-developed leadership skills, strategic thinking and an understanding of business goals of their companies.
Judging by the requests local job agencies receive, companies now need a wide range of HR specialists, from ordinary assistants to HR directors.
This stems from the fact that the modern system of managing personnel has a number of functions, including planning demand for personnel, finding and selecting staff members, establishing labour relations, setting workload and health and safety requirements, regulating the number of staff members and their adaptation, assessing qualifications, organising training and development courses for staff members, building a reserve of personnel, assessing job results, adopting a pay system and a system of benefits and incentives, maintaining a socio-psychological climate in the team, building a corporate culture and others. In theory, each of these aspects should be dealt by one particular staff member or the whole of the HR department. In reality, one specialist, as a rule, fulfils several functions at once.
Depending on employers’ demands, HR posts can be divided into three groups: personnel managers (the only HR specialist in a company), ordinary staff members of HR services and heads of HR services.
Salaries mainly depend on the status HR managers reach in a company. For example, if an HR director is a member of top management and takes part in solving strategic issues, they can earn up to $6,000 a month. At least, we found a vacancy which offers this salary in a job agency database.
However, according to the FMI Professionals survey, HR assistants with less than two years experience earn $250-$300 a month in local companies and $450-$700 in foreign or oil companies. HR coordinators with an experience of two to three years earn from $500 to $1,700. HR managers earn from $800 to $3,000. And, finally, heads of personnel departments and HR directors with a five-year experience can count for $1,500-$4,000 a month. The most “generous” sectors where HR specialists get paid highest salaries are, of course, the oil and gas sector, banks, major industrial enterprises and leading retail chains.
HR work in local companies involves HR managers who have relative independence in taking decisions, wider possibilities for career growth and flexible requirements in terms of knowledge of a foreign language. However, working for foreign companies may result in greater social protection. However, individual taste decides which to choose.
It should be noted that in contrast to, let us say, Russia, professional HR education does not yet exist in Kazakhstan. Many HR specialists undergo enhanced training courses or MBA programmes in “managing personnel”. This programme has been launched by al-Farabi Kazakh National State University’s economy and business department. The KIMEP’s Centre for Executive Education and Professional Development offers HR management courses. People graduating from this centre, jointly set up with the American Management Association (AMA), receive KIMEP and AMA certificates.
The International Academy of Business also offers similar courses. The Kazakh-Japanese Centre set up by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) holds HR courses from time to time.
Job agencies and small companies specialising in business training also organise short-term HR courses and seminars. The cost of these courses starts from 35,000 tenge per course.
Another possibility for HR specialists to grow is to be a member of professional clubs and associations. At the moment, the Kazakh HR community has nothing to boast about in this regard. The Professional HR Association was set up in the country in 2003, however it does not do anything at the moment. Only members of the HR Club of banks maintain more or less close contact in Almaty.
There are also problems with professional conferences. In September 2005 the Renome Plus company held the first Kazakh HR forum for top managers and HR managers. Even though it was declared an annual event, the forum was not held in 2006. The Renaissance communicative management agency organised the first Eurasian HR Congress. The launch of Best HR Awards Kazakhstan-2006 designed to establish the best Kazakh HR specialists was advertised very widely in 2006. However, its results were not made public at the end of the year as its organisers had promised. Materials published on domestic specialised web resources hardly show any signs of life and do not please readers with their variety.
The lack of professional solidarity of local HR managers and their inability to protect their corporate interests partly explains the inadequate status of HR specialists in the modern Kazakh business community.
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