Not just paper pushers: a primer on HR

When most of us think Human Resource, the first thing that comes to mind is payroll and rule enforcement. It really doesn’t paint the prettiest of pictures, does it?

Well, here’s the thing: nothing could be further from the truth! Singapore’s HR industry is experiencing a steady rise and has lots of exciting opportunities in store. To give you a better understanding of this oft-misunderstood sector, we’ve prepared a primer to get you up to speed.

A brief introduction to Human Resource

The most important asset of any organization is its human capital, and this is why HR departments and personnel, who are in charge of hiring, retaining, rewarding and developing talent to be value creators for their organizations[i], are instrumental to any company’s success. Many HR leaders will attest that having passion for people, as well as a strong desire to work with and help others, is a huge must to do well in this profession, so do bear this in mind as you read on!

While human resource professionals do encounter a lot of administrative and transactional duties, as what most people would assume, their jobs really aren’t limited to paper pushing. What do we mean?

Basically, a younger workforce and rapid technological advances have led to the function of HR undergoing a massive transformation from overhead to strategic business partner. Today’s HR professionals are tasked with helping businesses navigate the human capital aspects of strategic challenges (think change management and crisis management, for example). They also work together with business leaders to develop talent management strategies that will support business transformation and future growth.

As a guide, there are a few core competencies in Human Resource as outlined in the Skills Framework for Human Resource (by SkillsFuture). These are split into Technical Skills and Competencies, as well as Generic Skills and Competencies.

Some examples of Technical Skills and Competencies:

  • HR Planning
  • Employee Attraction
  • Workforce Engagement
  • Employee Separation

Some examples of Generic Skills and Competencies:

  • Communication
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Transdisciplinary Thinking
  • Leadership
Did you know?

As of 2017, there are 43,000 HR professionals in Singapore[1]!


So, what kinds of positions/roles are there?

Broadly, HR has:

  • ‘General’ positions, where the HR executive handles all or various aspects. These are usually found in small companies or SMEs. Think Human Resource Managers, Human Resource Administrators, and so on.
  • Employee relations roles, such as Compensation & Benefits Manager
  • Recruitment roles (Talent Acquisition Managers, Hiring Managers)
  • Training and Employment roles, such as Learning and Development Specialists, Recruiting/Staff Coordinators
  • HR Business Partners
  • Information Systems and Analytics roles (trending)

These can be found across all industries and in HR Solutions Providers/Consultancy Services.

What do I study to get into a career in HR?

While you don’t need a degree to join the Human Resource industry, having one will give you access to managerial positions and above (that and years of HR experience, which many of us would not possess just yet).

If you’ve set your heart on this industry, Digital Senior has a course list that you can consult for an idea of what’s out there!  Also consider taking a Business Administration degree with a HR specialization, like Nanyang Technological University’s Bachelor of  Business with a Minor in Human Resource Consulting, the first of its kind in the Asia Pacific region.

According to PayScale, the average salary for a HR generalist is around SGD 37,000 annually (exclusing bonuses).

Are there any professional HR qualifications out there?

Singapore does have a national HR certification framework, which was launched not too long ago in 2017. It is issued by the Institute of Human Resource Professionals, a HR professional body set up by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF).

There are 3 levels—IHRP Certified Professional, IHRP Senior Professional, IHRP Master Professional— and each consists of an online experience assessment and on-site competency assessment. To keep the certification, individuals are required to go through recertification every 3 years.

For curious minds that desire to find out more, do head on over to IRHP’s site.

You can also become a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the oldest human resource management professional association of its kind. Based in the UK and internationally recognized, it currently is the only professional body in the world that can confer individual Chartered status on HR and L&D professionals.

Available schemes and initiatives for HR personnel

There are a few that you can check out, or just be aware of. Do note that these are subject to change, however!

The first is the SkillsFuture Study Award for Human Resource, one of the initiatives under the HR Industry Manpower Plan. Successful applicants will receive a monetary award of SGD 5,000 to pursue further studies in up to 2 relevant programmes ranging across various levels of mastery. To be eligible, applicants must have at least 2 years of experience in HR.

There is also the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme for Human Resource. 12 months long and open to polytechnic graduates, it is currently offered by Nanyang Polytechnic and Republic Polytechnic. Successful graduates of the former will be able to enroll into the Bachelor of Human Resource Management offered by Singapore University of Social Sciences, and enjoy credit recognition of up to 50 units.

Last but not least, there is the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) for Human Resource; this is administered by Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF).

For those who have yet to embark on their undergraduate studies, why not try applying for the Singapore Industry Scholarship (SgIS)? Additional support is available to you in the form of the SgIS-HR CET Grant! It awards up to SGD 10,000 for further HR-related training. Applications from non-scholarship recipients enrolled in an HR specialisation, major or degree in participating SgIS institutions are also welcome.

What communities I can join?

Aside from IHRP, you can choose to join the SINGAPOREHR Community (free and online) or become a Singapore Human Resources Institute member.


Keen to learn more about the HR industry? Here are some portals you can check out:

MySkillsFuture also has a handy Industry Insights page for HR! Some of the information it contains includes occupational insights, the latest job postings as well as job descriptions. We think it’s pretty comprehensive, so do give it a look-see.

Of course, you can also look to reports published by jobs and recruitment agencies for insights on market trends! Hudson has a talent trend report for Singapore’s HR scene published in 2018, which looks at the skills and values employers are looking for in their HR personnel, and how to prepare.

You’ve made it to the end of our primer! (Credits: Cartoon Network)

We hope that our brief introduction has been of use to you, and wish you the best of luck in your HR journey! Do share with us your thoughts on HR in the comments below, or write in to us! We’d love to hear from you.

All the best!


(Psst. If you’re curious about accountancy too, we have a similar introduction you can find here!)





[i] Definition taken from MOM’s HR Industry Manpower Plan


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