You are on page 1of 16

European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 1 (2008)

Understanding the Relationship of HR Competencies & Roles of Malaysian Human Resource Professionals
Choi Sang Long School of Business & Management, Southern College Malaysia Wan Khairuzzaman Wan Ismail International Business School, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Abstract This study examines the competencies and roles of Human Resource (HR) professionals in the manufacturing companies in Malaysia. The competencies include business knowledge, strategic contribution, HR delivery, personal credibility and HR technology. All these competencies were tested whether they relate to HR roles such as strategic partner, change agent, administrative expert and employee champion. The sample employed consists of HR professionals from Malaysian manufacturing companies in Johor, the southernmost state of Malaysia. This study uses quantitative method such as spearmen rho correlation to test the variables. The analysis reveals that the top nine ranking HR competency factors are from the domain of personal credibility and HR delivery. The respondents' self-rated competency shows that personal communication, legal compliance, effective relationship and performance management rank above all other factors. Other findings of this research show that HR professionals are lacking in their capacity to play an important role as a strategic partner and agent for change. Furthermore, it is observed that business related competencies and HR related competencies are significantly related to certain roles of HR professionals in Malaysia.

1. Introduction
Human Resource (HR) is emerging as the key concept in assessing the competitive assets of organizations. HR managers and professionals, by virtue of their knowledge of human performance, are well positioned to exercise strategic leadership and contribute significantly to a firms competitive advantage. This paradigm shift concerning the value of human resources will therefore create opportunities for the HR function to develop a more strategic role in a firms operation (Lawler & Mohrman, 2003). HR needs to play an active and guiding role in enabling a company to choose its people well, invest them with the proper responsibilities, support their growth and respect their needs in order to achieve an organizations strategic business objectives. This vital role requires competence in HR leaders that will create and sustain a flexible and adaptive workforce (Gomez-Mejia, 2001). Although many researchers have highlighted the importance of the HR roles (Bhatnagar & Sharma, 2005; Aitchison, 2007; Fegley, 2002) and HR competencies (Selmer & Chiu, 2004; Khatri,1999; Khatri & Budhwar, 2001; Ramlall, 2006) but most research have yet to prove any relationship of the two variables. Only a recent study by Pietersen & Engelbrecht (2005) which was carried out in South Africa shows that there is a positive relationship between business related competencies and strategic partner roles of the HR professionals. The two variables appear to be interrelated as both are very important factors that enable HR professionals to contribute to their organizations success. 88

European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 1 (2008)

2. Review of the Literature


2.1. Strategic Human Resource (HR) Roles There has been a dramatic shift in the role of human resource management (HRM) in recent decades. Traditionally, the HR function has been viewed as primarily administrative, focusing on the level of the individual employee, the individual job, and the individual practice (Becker, Huselid, and Ulrich, 2001), with the basic premise that improvements in individual employee performance will automatically enhance organizational performance. In the 1990s, an emphasis on strategy and the importance of HR systems began to emerge. Both researchers and practitioners began to recognize the impact of aligning HR practices with organizational strategy. HR has now emerged as a strategic paradigm in which individual HR functions, such as recruitment, selection, training, compensation, and performance appraisal, are closely aligned with each other and also with the overall strategy of the organization. This new approach of managing human resources has generated much interest among scholars. 2.1.2. The Ulrich Human Resource Management Four-Roles Model The model of this research is linked to the Four-Roles Model first presented by Conner and Ulrich (1996), and later by Ulrich (1997). In the latter study, Ulrichs conceptual framework for the Four-Role Model consists of two main dimensions. The first reflects the continuum from an operational (present) focus to a strategic (future) focus, while the second reflects the conflicting demands of people and processes (Ulrich, 1997, Conner & Ulrich, 1996). Ulrich (1997) states that HR can help deliver organizational excellence by means of four methods. First, HR should become a partner with the management of the firm in helping with strategy execution. Second, HR should contribute expertise in the efficient and effective performance of work, so that costs are cut and quality is maintained. Third, HR should represent the concerns of the employees to senior management as well as working with employees to increase and ensure their ability to contribute to the organization through their competence and commitment. Finally, HR professionals should continually contribute to the process of change and help improve the organizations capacity to do so (Ulrich, 1997). The four roles that emerge from this quadrant and four ways HR professionals can contribute, based on two continual axes, are shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: The Ulrich Model

Source: Ulrich, D. (1997)

a) The Role of Strategic Partner According to Ulrich (1997), the key to the HR role as a strategic partner is the participation of HR in the process of defining business strategy, not merely responding to the strategy edicts presented by senior management. HR professionals become strategic partners by asking questions and designing HR practices that effectively and efficiently align themselves with the strategy of the business (Ulrich & Eichinger, 1998; Ulrich, 1997). In this capacity, HR professionals must be capable of identifying 89

European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 1 (2008) and implementing those practices that facilitate strategic business success. Ulrich (1997) defines strategic human resources as the process of linking HR practices to business strategy. That is to say, strategic HR is owned, directed, and used by line managers to make effective HR strategies happen. Strategic HR enables the transition from business strategy to organizational capability to HR practice (Ulrich & Eichinger, 1998; Ulrich, 1997). b) The Role of Administrative Expert The management of the firms infrastructure, captured in the term of administrative expert according to (Ulrich, 1997), requires HR professionals to design and deliver efficient HR processes for staffing, training, appraising, rewarding, promoting, and otherwise managing the flow of employees throughout the organization (Ulrich, 1997). As stated previously, Huselid and others (1997) point out that the levels of current technical practices in HRM are higher than those of strategic HRM practices. However, they go on to state that the firm must have at least moderate levels of technical HRM practices to be successful in strategic HRM implications (Huselid, et al., 1997). It is further pointed out by Ulrich (1997) and Arthur (2001) that moving to a more strategic role cannot be performed at the cost of neglecting the basics of good human resource management practices. Whether this expertise is entirely within the firm or the firm chooses to outsource specific functions, the requirement for administrative expertise is ever present (Fitz-em, 2000). c) The Role of Employee Champion The management of the contribution made by employees occurs through the performance of the role of employee champion (Ulrich, 1997). An HR professional as employee champion strives to understand the needs of the employees, attempts to meet those needs, and provides every opportunity to increase employee commitment. Ehrlich (1997) points out that one of his six principles for HRM creating value is through the relationship role as well as being an outspoken advocate of employee interests with a balance towards the needs of the business. Further, Ehrlich (1997) continues that thought by stating that the primary role is to create an employee-friendly environment committed to the success of the enterprise that employs them. This is described as HR professionals role as one who deals with the day-to-day problems, concerns and needs of employees (Conner & Ulrich, 1996). d) The Role of Change Agent In Ulrichs (1997) view, the management of transformation and change falls squarely in the HR role of change agent. Kesler (2000) writes that the role of HR in driving changes varies among organization, but if the HR community does not strongly define the process and priorities of the change effort, it is not an effective player in the organization. More closely defined, the change agent role refers to helping the organization build a capacity for change (Conner & Ulrich, 1996). Indeed, Csoka (1995) reports that 65% of HR executives in a study of 314 large corporations believe that the role of change agent is important. Greene (2001) argues that, as it deals with the culture of an organization, HR is uniquely positioned to take responsibility for this role in the firm. Csoka (1995) further suggests that HR professionals can add significant value through the management of the change processes in an organization. Ehrlich (1997) adds that the human resource department must anticipate change and be knowledgeable in its implementation. 2.2. Competency Skills of HR Professionals As one of the main barriers for HR professionals being able to a play more strategic role in an organization is their lack of certain competencies (Aitchison, 2007). In general, competency is defined as a personnel related concept referring to a set of behavioural dimensions of ones effective performance at work. Some authors suggest more precise definitions that describe competencies as the work-related personal attributes; knowledge, skills and values that individuals draw upon to do their 90

European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 1 (2008) work well (Selmer & Chiu, 2004). These elements, at the same time, are the factors that enable assessment, feedback, development and reward for individuals to take place (Kochanski, 1996). Ulrich and associates (1995), define competency as the ability to add value to the business; it must focus on the processes leading from changing business conditions to achieving sustainable competitive advantage. Their HR model combines various aspects of competencies divided into four domains: knowledge of the business, personal credibility, HR functional expertise, and management of change. They argue that the management of change is critical, as an organizations external rate of change must be matched by an internal rate of change if the organization is to remain competitive. The second most important element, personal credibility, deals with the extent to which HR professionals embody the values of the firm and act with proper attitudes when dealing with HR issues in their efforts to create results (Ulrich & Eichinger, 1998). 2.2.1. The Human Resource Competency Study: The Brockbank & Ulrich Model The survey data of the Human Resource Competency Study (HRCS) were collected in 2003 under the initiative of the University of Michigan. The study was carried out online (web-based). The respondents of the European HRCS, were HR professionals and line managers of multinational companies located in Europe (Boselie & Paauwe, 2004). In 2002, the HRCS Michigan research team and its associated partners around the globe performed research in four continents: North America, Latin America, Asia and Europe. In this survey, five domain factors emerged as making a difference in terms of performance (Figure 2). The domains are as follows: a) Strategic Contribution High-performing companies have HR professionals involved in the business at a strategic level. These HR professionals manage the culture, facilitate rapid change, and are involved in the strategic decision making and create market-driven connectivity of the operation (Boselie & Paauwe, 2004). These comprehensive HR competency studies were done in collaboration with SHRM and the University of Michigan Business School in 2003 .As mention above, Brockbank and Ulrich (2003) conducted the study that involved more than 27,000 HR professionals and line managers. Most notably, the strategic contribution of HRs accounted for 43 percent of the total impact on business performance in highperforming organizations (Brockbank & Ulrich, 2003). In this competency area, culture management, rapid change efforts, and a business partner role along with customer focus emerged as important factors for HR professionals, making their impact on their organizations' financial performance significant (Brockbank & Ulrich, 2003). b) Personal Credibility HR professionals must be credible to both their HR counterparts and the business line managers whom they serve. They need to promise and deliver results and establish a reliable track record. Furthermore, working well with others by building good relationship is vital in developing the ability to work together with others effectively. In addition, HR professionals must have effective writing and verbal communication skills (Boselie & Paauwe, 2004). The findings of the study by Boselie & Paauwe (2004) correspond with the prior research of Kelly and Gennard (1996), who found that that the personnel directors require professional competence in social skills to develop effective interpersonal relations with other board directors. This is one of the competencies of personal credibility. c) HR Delivery HR professionals deliver both traditional and operational HR activities to their business in four major categories. First, by designing developmental programs and challenging work experiences, which is done by offering career planning services, and facilitating internal communication processes. These efforts include both individual development as well as organisation-wide development. Second, by 91

European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 1 (2008) structuring and HR measurement: restructuring the organisation, measuring impact of HR practices, and managing global implications of HR practices. Third, by attracting, promoting, retaining, and outplacing appropriate people. Finally, by performance management in terms of designing performancebased measurements and reward systems and providing competitive benefit packages (Boselie & Paauwe, 2004). d) Business Knowledge To become key players in the organisation, HR professionals must understand the business or industry of the company they serve. Key areas of knowledge include applied understanding of the integrated value chain (how the firm horizontally integrates) and the firms value proposition (how the firm creates wealth). The labour factor, representing institutional constraints such as labour legislation, is the third factor that constitutes the domain of business knowledge (Boselie & Paauwe, 2004). Human resources professionals must understand how their business or agency operates. This includes the organizations strategy, how the organization makes money or achieves its primary purpose, its technological processes and organizational capabilities, etc. Therefore, HR professionals should develop their knowledge of such areas as finance, marketing, operations, and general management (Heisler, 2003). e) HR Technology HR professionals need to be able to leverage technology for HR practices and use e-HR/web-based channels to deliver value to their customers (Mukherjee, 2001). Mukherjee (2001) further argues that the pace of technological innovation will continue to accelerate. HR can take advantage of these changes by automating HR processes and becoming more effective in communicating with its internal /external customers. More importantly, by absorbing the latest technology, HR can project a forward looking image that will help it earn the respect of skeptical colleagues.
Figure 2: The HR Competencies (Brockbank & Ulrich Model)

Source: Boselie, P & Paauwe, J. (2004).

2.3. Relationship between HR Competencies and HR Roles There are limited studies about relationship between HR competencies and HR roles. Anyway, two recent survey done by society for Human Resource Management (2002) and HR Outsourcing Association (2007) which have been discussed earlier did give us some clue about the relationship of the two variables. These surveys identify that inability of the HR professionals to measure HRs direct impact on the bottom line and insufficient competencies of HR professionals are the main barriers for the HR professionals to contribute strategically to business objectives. Huselid et al. (1997) identified professional competencies and business-related competencies as being important for effective HR management. Professional competencies comprise expertise and 92

European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 1 (2008) skills relevant to performing excellently within a traditional HR department. However, Huselid et al. (1997) argued that, although professional HR management competencies are necessary to ensure technical HR management effectiveness, professional competencies are not sufficient to play a strategic partner role. Therefore, business-related competencies are also important because they enable HR professional to understand how business considerations unique to an organization can create organization-specific HR management needs. Business-related competencies refer to amount of business skills and experience that staff members have outside their functional specialty. These competencies should determine HR roles especially facilitate the selection and implementation of HR management policies and practices that fit the unique characteristics of an organization. Lawler and Mohrman (2003) studied the skills of HR managers who were in HR directors positions. Their findings support view that HR professionals who wanted to be strategic partners need an expert understanding of business strategy and ways to support its implementation. In addition, the study showed that the highest level of job satisfaction of HR professionals was experienced when utilizing traditional HR skills while the lowest level of satisfaction was found to be in exercising business partner skills. In a research done among HR managers in New Zealand, Hunt and Boxall (1998) found that, while Human Resources Management qualifications and experience were deemed important to develop trade skills, these were not sufficient in themselves to make a contribution at a strategic level. Broad qualifications and line management experience were widely valued to develop the commercial orientation deemed necessary to contribute at a strategic level. Pietersen and Engelbrecht (2005) in the study about strategic partnership role of HR Managers in South Africa organizations found that there is a positive relationship between business related competencies and strategic partnership role among the HR managers. This is one of the few significant studies that have empirically tested the two said variables. In this study strategic partnership role was measured with items from the Ulrich and Conners (Ulrich, 1997) Human Resources Role- Assessment Survey on Strategic Partner role. Professional and business-related competencies were measured with the Human Resource Competencies Scale developed by Huselid et.al. (1997). Several HR professionals competencies which are measured are Educates and influences line managers on HR issues and Broad knowledge of many HR functions. Business-related competencies which are measured are line management experience, implementation of techniques for scanning, synthesizing and drawing conclusions from business data and implementation of monetary techniques for budgetary decision-making. A positive relationship was also found between professional competencies and strategic partnership role in this study. This study support claim from Brockbank et al. (1997) that strategic contribution, personal credibility, HR delivery, business knowledge, and HR technology competencies are all pivotal to HR being effective business partners. Ulrich (1997) pointed out that HR professionals fulfill multiple, and not single roles. In the past, academics have called for transitions from operational to strategic, and qualitative to quantitative, but HR professionals must fulfill both operational and strategic roles. They must be both police and partner and take responsibility for both qualitative and quantitative goals over the short and long term. Apart from being a strategic partner, traditional roles of HR professionals like being an administrative expert and employee champion are equally important. Ulrich (1999) stated that HR management must develop a deliverables focus that complements, not replaces traditional measures. Therefore it is certainly not suggested that the HR professional competencies are no longer required for HR professionals to be successful contributors to the organization. Ulrich and Eichinger (1998) found that one of the important elements of HR competencies is personal credibility that deals with the extent to which HR professionals embody the values of firms and act with attitude in dealing with HR issues and creating results. Personal credibility is particularly vital in interpersonal effectiveness, relationship orientation, tolerance for stress, change and ambiguity, creativity and analytical approaches to problem solving (Selmer & Chiu, 2004). These values are 93

European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 1 (2008) essential as a role of an employee champion who strives to understand the need of employees and creating values through the relationship role as well as being an outspoken advocate of employee interest (Ehrlich, 1997). Finally, Selmer & Chiu (2004) found that technical competencies include knowledge and delivery of traditional HR management is still a very important and relevant competency in an organization (Selmer & Chiu, 2004). These competencies are required to enable HR professionals to design and deliver efficient HR process and practices (eg. staffing, training, appraising, rewarding etc.) to manage the flow of employees through organization. Ulrich (1997) name this role as administrative expert. Panayotopoulou & Papalexandris (2004) using the competing values framework (CVF) describe HR roles are related to several specific competencies. HR role of employee champion are related to competencies such as morale assessment, management development and system improvement. Change agent role is related to competencies such as system analysis, organization change skills, consultation and facilitation. Administrative expert or specialist role is related to competencies such as process improvement, customer relation and service needs assessment. Lastly, the strategic partner role is related to competencies such as general business skills, strategic analysis and strategic leadership. Apart from looking into relationship between business related competencies with strategic partner and change agent role, this study would also like to explore the relationship between HR professional competencies and HR roles of an administrative expert and employee champion played by HR professionals as shown in the researcher conceptual model (figure 3). Therefore, hypothesis develop states that: H1 : Business-related competencies are expected to be positively related to HR role as Strategic Partner H2 : Business-related competencies are expected to be positively related to HR role as Change agent H3 : HR professional competencies are expected to be positively related to HR role as Employee Champion H4 : HR professional competencies are expected to be positively related to HR roles as Administrative Expert
Figure 3: Conceptual Model

Business-related Competencies
a) Strategic Contribution b) Business Knowledge

HR Professional Competencies
c) Personal Credibility d) HR Delivery e) HR Technology

HR Roles a) Strategic Partner b) Change Agent c) Employee Champion d) Administrative Expert

3. The Study
The purpose of this study is to attempt to understand better the relationship of Human Resource (HR) professionals competencies and roles in the manufacturing companies in Malaysia. In this research, the tool of Human Resource Competency Study (HRCS), which has been designed by Wayne 94

European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 1 (2008) Brockbank and Dave Ulrich (2002), will be used to assess HR competencies among the HR professionals. The tool of Ulrich HRM Four Roles Model, which has been designed by Dave Ulrich (1997), is used to assess HR roles among the HR professionals. It is hoped that by making this examination, we will be able to develop a realistic picture of the competencies of the HR professionals and the roles they plays in the manufacturing firms of Malaysia. The HR professional needed to endure and overcome many barriers to reach the ultimate goal of becoming a strategic partner in his or her organization. The study from Lawler and Mohrman (2003) confirms that HR department plays a major role in influencing business strategy only in cases where HR management is a full strategic partner. This finding suggests that the HR executive who understands business strategy is more likely to develop HR processes and systems to support the implementation of that strategy.

4. Research Methodology
4.1. Sample The sample employed here consists of HR professionals from Malaysian manufacturing companies. All respondents work for manufacturing companies in the southernmost state of Malaysia, Johor. These industries were chosen because of their relatively large. The list of firms in the manufacturing sector was drawn from the FMM directory of Malaysian Manufacturers 2007. No specific manufacturing industries were focus upon, e.g. electronics/electrical, textile, food, plastics, etc. Only firms with at least 50 full-time employees were studied. This is because other studies have shown that firms with smaller employment size are less likely to have HRM departments (Rozhan, 1996). Out of the entire list in the directory, the research focused on a sample population in the Southern region of Malaysia (State of Johor). A total of about 300 firms were included in the list for this area. The total number of firms involve in this study are 32 respondents. 4.2. The Instrument The data collection instrument used in this research is the a quantitative methodology with a survey instrument developed based on the five competency domains and 17 competency factors identified in the Human Resource Competency Study (HRSC) (Brockbank & Ulrich, 2003). To improve statistical reliability, the HR technology domain was divided into two competency factors; one was operational and one strategic. This resulted in 18 competency factors that resided within the five competency domains. A Likert scale was used on the questionnaire with the following ratings: 1strongly disagree, 2disagree, 3moderately agree, 4agree and 5strongly agree. The respondent was asked how well they performed the competencies identified in the HRSC. A statement describing each competency factor is listed on the questionnaire. The 18 items in the instrument are arranged in groups of five competency domain. The data collection instrument (Ulrichs HRM Four-Role Model Survey) to be used in the first part of this research was developed by (Conner & Ulrich, 1996) in order to test the theoretical model of HR roles discussed in Conner and Ulrich (1996) and Ulrich (1997). The instrument used in this study is a survey designed to determine the existence, and the extent, of the four HR roles outlined by Ulrich (1997) and Conner and Ulrich (1996). The instrument was developed by Conner and Ulrich (1996) and utilized, initially, as a method of determining the extent of application of the four roles proposed by Conner and Ulrich (1996). The 40 items in the instrument were arranged in groups of four. Each set of four items had a common introductory piece and each of the four items that followed corresponded to one of the four roles. A Likert scale was used on the questionnaire with the following ratings: 1 = To very little extent, 2 = To little extent, 3 = To some extent, 4 = To a large extent, 5 = To a very large extent. No researcher can completely eliminate measurement error, but he or she can reduce it in several ways, such as by conducting a pilot study. If the measurement error is reduced, the reliability of 95

European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 1 (2008) the measurement technique is increased (Frey et.al, 2000). Therefore, a pilot study was done to test the research instrument in this study. The researcher of this study used Cronbach alpha co-efficient method for this purpose. The result of the reliability test of HR competencies instrument shows that the alpha value base in each domain of the instrument is between 0.62 to 0.89. Components that are tested are strategic contribution (alpha = .89), personnel contribution (alpha value = .67), HR delivery (alpha value = .62), Business knowledge (alpha value = .76), HR technology (alpha value = 0.88) and firm performance (alpha value = 0.86). The result of the reliability test of HR roles instrument shows that the alpha value base in each domain of the instrument is between 0.68 to 0.92. The components that are tested are: strategic partner (alpha = .75), administrative expert (alpha value = .76), employee champion (alpha value = .85), change agent (alpha value = .92), firm performance (alpha value = 0.86) and barriers in adopting strategic roles (alpha value = 0.68). According to Kerlinger (1973), any measurement instrument should have reliability value of more than 0.60; while Frey, Botan and Krep (2000) stress that a measurement instrument can be considered reliable if the results are consistent from one time to another and that the reliability value is 0.70 or greater. Therefore, from the alpha value obtained, we can conclude that the research instrument is reliable and consistent.

5. Data Analysis
Table 1: Sum and Mean Scores fore Each Domain of HR Roles
N 32 32 32 32 Sum 1105.00 1333.00 1320.00 1028.00 Mean 3.45 4.16 4.12 3.21 Std. Deviation .58 .45 .75 .71

Strategic Partner * Administrative Expert * Employee Champion* Change Agent *

Table 1 shows that the highest sum and mean score of HR roles is that of the administrative expert. It obtained sum score of 1333 out of maximum score of 1600 (10 items x 5 points of maximum score per item x 32 respondents). It has also the highest mean score per item of 4.16 out of maximum mean score of 5.0 (5 points of maximum score per item). HR role of employee champion ranks second with sum score of 1320 and mean score of 4.12. Strategic partner role is ranked third with sum score of 1105 and mean score of 3.45. Change agent role is ranked last with only obtaining score of 1028 and mean score of 3.21. One of the objectives of the study has been to identify the roles of majority HR professionals play in the manufacturing sector in Malaysia. Table 1 shows that the highest sum and mean score of HR roles is that of administrative expert. It has the highest mean score per item of 4.16. HR role of employee champion rank second with mean score of 4.12. These findings are similar with the study by Conner and Ulrich (1996), which indicates that the scores are higher for the employee champion and administrative expert roles and lower for the strategic partner and change agent roles. This might be expected, based on the previous research, the HR function is stronger in the day-to-day operational area than in the strategic or change agent area (Conner & Ulrich, 1996). This finding also supports the study by Raub, et al. (2006), which analyzes data on Ulrichs HR roles by looking into work time spent in various roles and various degrees of involvement in decision making. This research found that unit level managers tend to focus on their role as administrative experts and employee champions. The result of our research provides clear evidence of a lack of strategic HR orientation in the manufacturing sector in Malaysia. Generally, HR professionals in this sector seem not playing their roles as a strategic partner and a change agent. This is similar to the scenario in the West in the mid1990s. 96

European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 1 (2008)


Table 2: Rank Order of Means of HR Competency Factors in Each Domain
Factors Culture management Fast change Strategic decision-making Market driven connectivity Achieving results Effective relationships Personal communication Staffing HR development Organization structure HR measurement Legal Compliance Performance management Value chain knowledge Value proposition knowledge Labor knowledge User of technology to deliver HR services Strategic HR technology Mean 2.91 3.06 3.03 2.97 4.16 4.38 4.63 4.31 4.16 4.28 4.13 4.44 4.38 3.31 3.44 3.53 3.31 3.47 Std. Deviation 0.89 0.95 0.69 0.78 0.68 0.66 0.49 0.78 0.95 0.85 0.79 0.80 0.79 1.03 0.88 0.88 0.69 0.95 Rank 18 15 16 17 7 3 1 5 8 6 9 2 4 13 12 10 14 11

Competency Strategic Contribution

Personal Credibility

HR Delivery

Business Knowledge HR Technology

Table 2 shows that the top nine ranking HR competency factors are from the domain of personal credibility and HR delivery. The respondents' self-rated competency shows that personal communication, legal compliance, effective relationship and performance management rank above all other factors. It would follow that respondents are most competent in these areas. HR Professionals need to develop a relationship of trust with their clients, i.e. management team and line managers to instill confidence. These findings show positive development to the HR professionals in Malaysia because personal credibility competency is the foundation for a HR professional to become intimately involved at the strategic level in an organization once given the opportunity. Without this foundation of trust, HR Professionals may very well find themselves excluded from the strategy table. However, this study has found that respondents score lowest for strategic contribution competency. Based on competency factors in each domain, all strategic contribution factors score the lowest mean score in terms of mean ranking as shown in Table 2. This shows that HR professionals in Malaysian manufacturing sector are extremely weak in culture management, market driven connectivity, strategic decision-making and fast change. This result is indeed a concern because HR professionals should be able to identify and implement organizational cultures that help firms win the marketplace and successfully implement business strategies. Furthermore, if HR professionals are not able to facilitate change management processes and adapt learning to new change initiatives, they would have problems working with key individuals to ensure decisions are made quickly and to ensure resources are aligned with desired changes (Brockbank & Ulrich, 2003). Table 3 addresses the relationship between HR competencies and HR roles. Four hypotheses (H1 H4) are developed. These hypotheses were analyzed by using Spearmans rho correlation testing.

97

European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 1 (2008)


Table 3: Relationship of HR Competencies and HR roles
Strategic Contribution 0.568** 0.001 -0.156 0.392 -0.107 0.560 0.648** 0.000 Personal Credibility 0.621** 0.000 0.618** 0.000 0.403* 0.022 0.423* 0.016 HR Delivery 0.045 0.806 0.547** 0.001 0.553** 0.001 0.057 0.759 Business Knowledge 0.752** 0.000 0.190 0.299 0.038 0.837 0.698** 0.000 HR Technology 0.579** 0.000 0.051 0.781 -0.158 0.388 0.664** 0.000

Strategic Partner Administrative Expert Employee Champion Change Agent

Spearmans rho Correlation Coefficient Sig. (2-tailed) Correlation Coefficient Sig. (2-tailed) Correlation Coefficient Sig. (2-tailed) Correlation Coefficient Sig. (2-tailed)

*. Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed). **.Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

H1 : Business-related competencies are expected to be positively related to HR role as Strategic Partner As shown in Table 3, business-related competencies (strategic contribution & Business knowledge) have significant correlation with the strategic partner role. The strength of correlation is moderate between competencies of strategic contribution and role of strategic partner with Spearmens rho value at 0.568 (p<0.01). However, there is a strong correlation between business knowledge and strategic partner with Spearmens rho value of 0.752 (p<0.01). With the above result, this hypothesis (H1) is accepted. This result supports Pietersens and Engelbrechts (2005) study about strategic partnership role of HR Managers in South African organizations. Positive relationship was found between business related competencies and strategic partnership role among the HR managers. H2 : Business-related competencies are expected to be positively related to HR role as Change agent As shown in Table 3, business-related competencies (strategic contribution & Business knowledge) have significant correlation with change agent role. The strength of correlation is moderate between competencies of strategic contribution and role of change agent with Spearmens rho value at 0.648 (p<0.01). However, there is a strong correlation between competency of business knowledge and change agent role with Spearmens rho value of 0.698 (p<0.01). With the above result, this hypothesis (H2) is accepted. Baird and Meshoulam (1988) write that as an organization grows, its needs change and that by understanding how an organization changes, senior management and HR professionals can understand how HRM must change. Further, Baird and Meshoulam (1988) assert that human resource management effectiveness depends on its fit with the organization's stage of development and that, as the organization grows, HRM practices and procedures must initiate changes to meet those needs. Business-related competencies refer to amount of business skills and experience that staff members have outside their functional specialty that should determine HR roles and especially facilitate changes within the organization that fit the ever changing competitive environment. H3 : HR professional competencies are expected to be positively related to HR role as Employee Champion As shown in Table 3, not all HR professional competencies (Personal credibility, HR delivery, HR technology) have significant correlation with employee champion role. Only competencies of personal credibility and HR delivery have significant correlation with employee champion role. The strength of correlation is moderate between competencies of personal credibility and role of employee champion with Spearmens rho value at 0.403 (p<0.05). Similarly, there is a moderate correlation between competency of HR delivery and employee champion with Spearmens rho value of 0.553 (p<0.01). However, no correlation was found between HR technology and role of employee champion with 98

European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 1 (2008) Spearmans rho value at -0.157. With the above result, only partial support was found for hypothesis 3(H3). This finding supports the study by Panayotopoulou & Papalexandris (2004) found that internal focus of HR role as employee champion is linked to morale assessment and system improvement. To conduct morale assessment and system improvement exercise, HR professionals surely need competencies such as personal credibility and HR delivery. One of the focuses of personal credibility competency is to work well with colleagues, line executives and management teams. This is pivotal in assessing employees morale in an organization. HR delivery competency is able to assist in the design of effective organization structures and processes. Here, it is great important in exercising system improvement. However, researcher cannot fully accept Hypothesis 3 because no correlation was found between HR technology and the role of employee champion in this study. This may indicate that HR technology which is assumed to leverage technology to deliver value to the customer by providing faster services and provide centralized services and information does not exert much impact on the employees perception that their HR personnel play in the role of an employee champion. H4 : HR professional competencies are expected to be positively related to HR role as Administrative Expert As shown in Table 3, not all HR professional competencies (Personal credibility, HR delivery, HR technology) have significant correlation with administrative expert. Only competencies of personal credibility and HR delivery have significant correlation with administrative expert role. The strength of correlation is moderate between competencies of personal credibility and role of administrative expert with Spearmens rho value at 0.618 (p<0.01). Similarly, there is a moderate correlation between competency of HR delivery and administrative expert champion with Spearmens rho value of 0.547 (p<0.01). However, no correlation was found between HR technology and role of administrative expert with Spearmans rho value at 0.051. With the above result, only partial support was found for hypothesis 4(H4). This finding also supports the study by Panayotopoulou & Papalexandris (2004) that found that internal focus of HR role as administrative expert or specialist is linked to competencies related to process improvement and customer relations. To conduct process improvement system and strengthen customer relations, HR professionals surely need competencies such as personal credibility and HR delivery. As mentioned earlier, one of the focuses of personal credibility competency is to posses effective relationships and to develops good relationships based on trust in the ability to work together effectively as a well oiled team. HR delivery competency is able to assist in improving work processes and systems through proper intervention and change efforts that influence the organization as a whole. However, researcher cannot fully accept Hypothesis 4 because no correlation was found between HR technology and the role of administrative expert in this study. HR technology is supposed to be an important competency in providing faster services in the application of HR practices. This may indicate that many HR professionals may not have access to the latest HR technology that can help them to ease their traditional administrative work.

6. Implication for HR Professionals


Based on these empirical findings, this study has provided insights concerning the HR competencies and roles of a HR professional in the Malaysian manufacturing companies. In addition to this contextual contribution, this study was able to identify implications for HR Professionals. HR professionals need to be proactive and flexible in their mind set. They should not think that they play only a supportive role but also that their contributions can affect an organization performance. One major finding of this study is that HR professionals often lack the competencies 99

European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 1 (2008) related to business. It is clearly shown that competency such as culture management, market driven connectivity, strategic decision making, rapid adaptability, value-chain knowledge and HR technological know-how are lacking and are among the weakest abilities of a HR professionals in the Malaysian manufacturing sector. This research further suggests that the following action be taken by all HR professionals: a) Volunteer to participate in operations meetings. HR professionals need to be proactive with respect to their involvement in operations matters. This will enable them to understand more fully the operational issues and assist line managers by executing those relevant HR strategies that will improve the efficiency of the operation. b) Continue to acquire knowledge of the firms business, such as the key business disciplines, an understanding of the internal and external customers, knowledge of the competitors, the products, the technology and sources of competitive advantage. c) Come to understand the importance of HR technology and conduct comprehensive research into the possible investment in HR software that will best suit the organizations needs. All HR professionals must not only be competent in using HR systems but must also be capable of measuring the effectiveness of HR systems and practices. d) Finally, HR professionals should fully understand the key process skills required for product/service realization and delivery. These skills can be acquired from the relevant line managers. Therefore, HR professional must start learning to work effectively with other department managers in order to achieve the organizations common financial goals.

7. Conclusion
The findings of this research show that HR professional in the manufacturing companies of the southern region of Malaysia are lacking in business related human resource competencies. This is one of the main barriers to be surmounted if local HR professional are to become strategic partners in their organizations. The findings of this research also show that HR professionals in the manufacturing companies of the southern region of Malaysia are lacking in their capacity to play an important role as a strategic partner and agent for change. Furthermore, their lack of certain competencies also serves as a barrier to them becoming a well-integrated strategic partner. It is clearly seen in this study that business related competencies (strategic contribution & business knowledge) are significantly related to strategic partner and change agent role. This study also shows that HR related competencies (personal credibility and HR delivery) are also significantly related to administrative expert and employee champion role.

100

European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 1 (2008)

References
[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] Aitchison, D. (2007), HR Transformation: Myth or Reality. HROA Europe and Sharedpertise Forums in Association with TPI. Survey report January 2007 Arthur, J .S. (2001). Seeking Equilibrium. Human Resource Executive. 15(7). Pages 34-38. Boselie, P. & Paauwe, J. (2004). Human resource function competencies in European Companies. Personnel Review Vol. 34 No. 5, 2005 pp. 550-566. Brockbank, W. & Ulrich, D. (2003). Competencies for the New HR: Society for Human Resource Management, University of Michigan Business School, Global Consulting Alliance. Brockbank, W., Ulrich, D. & Beatty, R. (1999). The Professional Development: Creating the Future Creators at the University of Michigan Business School. Human Resource Management, 38(2), 111-118. Brockbank, W., Ulrich, D. & James, C. (1997). Trends in human resource competencies. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan School of Business. Barney, J. B., and P. M. Wright. (1998). On becoming a strategic partner: The role of human resources in gaining competitive advantage. Human Resource Management 37 (1): 31-46. Becker B. E., M. A. Huselid, and D. Ulrich. (2001). The HR scorecard: Linking people, strategy, and performance. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press. Baird, L & Meshoulam, I. (1998). Managing Two Fits of Strategic Human Resource Management. The Academy of Management Review. Mississippi State. 13(1), 116- 129. Bhatnagar, J. & Sharma, A. (2005). The Indian perspective of strategic HR rolesand organizational learning capability. International Journal of Human Resource Management. 16:9 September 2005 17111739 Chen, L.H, Liaw.S.Y & Lee, T.Z. (2003). Usingan HRM pattern approach to examine the productivity of manufacturing firms an empirical study. International Journal of Manpower, 2003: 24, 3, pg.299. Csoka, Louis S. (1995) Rethinking Human Resources: A Research Report. New York. The Conference Board. Conner, J & Ulrich, D. (1996). Human resource roles: Creating value, not rhetoric. HR. Human Resource Planning: Tempe. 19(3), pg 38. Eisenstat, Russell A. (1996). What corporate human resources brings to the picnic: Four models for functional management. Organizational Dynamics. 25(2), 6-14. Ehrlich, C. J. (1997). Human resource management: a changing script for a changing world. (Special Issue on the Future of Human Resource Management) Human Resource Management. 36(1), 85-90. Fegley, S. (2002). Survey: Half of organizations have strategic HR plans. Employers Associations Inc. Retrieved March 31 July, 2007 from World Wide Web: http://www.employersinc.com/content.aspx?cid=504 Frey, L.R, Botan, B.H., and Kreps, G.L.(2000). Investigating Communication: An Introduction to Research Methods. Allyn & Bacon, Boston. Fitz-em, Jac. (2000). The ROI of Human Capital. Measuring the Economic Value of Employee Performance. New York. AMACOM. Gomez-Mejia, L, et al. (2001). Managing Human Resources. International Edition, 3rd Edition, Prentice Hall. Greene, Robert J. (2001). Effectively Managing Intellectual Capital: Critical Challenge for Human Resources. SHRM White-Papers. Retrieved July 31, 2007 from World Wide Web: http: //my. shrm. org/whitepapers/documents/default. asp?page=61151. asp Huselid, M.A., Jackson, S.E. & Schuler, R.S. (1997), Technical and strategic human resource management effectiveness as determinants of firm performance. Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 40 No. 1, pp. 171-88. 101

[6] [7] [8] [9] [10]

[11]

[12] [13] [14] [15]

[16]

[17] [18] [19] [20]

[21]

European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 1 (2008) [22] Heisler, J.W. (2003). Competency today required by today HRM professionals. Link & Learn eNewsletter. Retrieved November 21, 2007 from World Wide Web: http:// www.hranca.org/savedfiles/heisler.pdf Hiltrop, J., Despres, C. & Sparrow, P.(1995). The Changing Role of HR Managers in Europe. European Management Journal, 13(1), 9: 1-98. Hunt, J & Boxall,P. (1998). Are top human resource specialists strategic partners? Self perceptions of a corporate elite. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 9 (5):767-781. Kesler, Gregory. (2000). Four steps to building an HR agenda for growth: HR strategy revisited. HR. Human Resource Planning. Tempe 2000. 23(3), 24-37. Kerlinger, F.N. (1973). Foundation of Behaviour Research. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Wiston, Inc. Khatri, N. & Budhwar, P. (2002). A study of strategic HR issues in an Asian context. Personnel Review 31 (2), pp. 166-88. Khatri, N. (1999). Emerging issues in strategic HRM Singapore. International Journal of Manpower, Vol. 20 No. 8, 1999, pp. 516-529. Kochanski, J. T. (Special Guest Ed.) (1996). Human resource competencies [Special issue]. Human Resource Management, 35(1), pp. 36. Kelly, J. and Gennard, J. (1996), The role of personnel directors on the board of directors, Personnel Review, Vol. 25 No. 1, pp. 7-24. Lawler, E. E. & Mohrman ,A.M. (2003). Creating a strategic human resource organization: An assessment of trends and new directions. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Mukherjee, A. (2001). HR transformation can technology help? Retrieved 23 November, 2007 from World Wide Web: http://www.humanlinks.com/manres/articles/hr_transformation.htm Pietersen, F.L & Engelbrecht, A.S.(2005). The strategic partnership role of senior human resource managers in South African organisations. Management Dynamics: 14(4) :47-58. Panayotopoulou, L & Papalexandris, N. (2004). Examining the link between human resource management orientation and firm performance. Personnel Review: 33, 5/6; ABI/INFORM Global pg. 499 Ramlall, S.J. (2006). Identifying and understanding HR Competencies and their relationship to organizational practices. Applied HRM Research, Vol. 11 (1), pp. 27-38. Rozhan, O. & Zakaria, I., (1996). Strategic HRM: A Comparison Between Selected Manufacturing and Service Firms, Research and Practice in Human Resource Management, 4(1), 43-65. Raub, S., Alvarez, L., and Khanna R, (2006). International The different roles of corporate and unit level human resources managers in the hospitality industry. Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management Vol. 18 No. 2, 2006 pp. 135-144 Sims, R. 2002. Organizational success through effective human resource management. Westport, CT: Quorum Books. Selmer. J & Chiu. R.(2004). Required human resources competencies in the future: A Framework for developing HR Executives in Hong Kong. Journal of World Business (39): 324336. Simpkins A. Patrick(2006). Human Reoursce Managament Roles in the Public versus Private Sectors. Unpublished Dissertation, Dissertation Abstracts International. Ulrich, D., & Eichinger, R. (1998). Delivering HR with an attitude. HR Magazine. Ulrich, D., Brockbank, W., Yeung, A. & Lake, D. (1995). Human resource competencies and empirical assessment. Human Resources Management, 34(4), pp. 473496.

[23] [24]

[25] [26] [27] [28] [29] [30] [31] [32]

[33] [34]

[35] [36]

[37]

[38] [39]

[40] [41] [42]

102

European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 1 (2008) [43] Ulrich, D. (1997). Human Resource Champions: The Next Agenda for Adding Value and Delivery Results. Harvard Business School Press. Retrieved July 23, 2007. from World Wide Web: www.gowerpub.com/pdf/HR_Business_Partners_Ch1.pdf Ulrich, D. (1999). Delivering Results: A New Mandate for Human Resource Professionals. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business School Press. Wright, P. M., McMahan, G., Gerhart, B. & Snell, S. A. (1997). Strategic human resource management: Building human capital and organizational capability. Technical report, Cornell University.

[44] [45]

103