We spoke to 500 HRDs across Asia about their background, experience, business, career and interests to uncover the DNA of an HRD. From qualifications and experience to personal development and work-life balance, our report gives you an insight into what it takes to reach the top Human Resources job. And if you are already an HRD, we hope you find what your peer group have to say about the role to be interesting and engaging.

Key Findings

✔ HRDs come from different backgrounds

Our survey indicates that HRDs come from diverse backgrounds. While it is essential to pursue an education, only 16 per cent of HRDs hold a bachelor's degree in Human Resource while 31 per cent hold either a Business, Commerce, Finance or Economics degree.

✔ Develop a broad base of skills

Aspiring HRDs need to develop multiple skillsets due to the nature of their role. Top three skills to possess are strategic planning (53 per cent), stakeholder engagement/influencing (43 per cent) and people management (41 per cent). Personal characteristics also determine how far an individual will reach in their path to becoming an HRD. Proactive nature (59 per cent), being adaptive (47 per cent), meeting goals and being ethical at both 41 per cent are highlighted as vital characteristics to possess.

✔ Be versatile and manage industry challenges

HRDs face multiple challenges, relating both to their particular industry and their own career. Employee engagement (42 per cent) and alignment of strategic requirements with operational budget and workforce (41 per cent) are two of the main challenges HR directors will face over the next 12 months. Dealing with organisational politics (44 per cent) has been nominated as the main challenge to a HRD's career currently.

✔ Build a network and keep on top of industry developments

Aiding the career development for many of our HRDs was their willingness to attend as many networking events where relevant and a nous to keep up-to-date with the latest industry and legislative developments. Working long hours each day, our HRDs surveyed read free news sites (56 per cent), subscribe to paid news sites (46 per cent) or are members of professional associations (46 per cent) to ensure they are kept abreast of what is occurring within their industry and specialism.

✔ Work-life balance

As highlighted, HRDs work long hours, sometimes from between 46 to 55 hours a week. A lot of the HRDs surveyed agree that to work so many hours in a week, it's vital to be active outside of the office whether it be during weeknights or weekends. A large number of HRDs surveyed simply like to spend time socialising with their friends and family (73 per cent). 59 per cent like to play sports while 48 per cent make sure they travel frequently.  

Interviews with CIOs

View interviews below from HR leaders across multiple sectors - discover their words of advice, common obstacles and more, helping you map your career path. 

Shahzad Umar Wendy Montgomery Ai Miyakawa Ricky Long

Human Resources Executive Director, Nestle Malaysia Singapore

Head of HR Asia Pacific, Red Hat, Singapore

Head of Human Resources, Cisco Systems G.K, Japan

Director, People and Performance Asia, Ricky Long Colliers International, Hong Kong


Xiaoguang Sun      

VP Human Resources, Youku, Alibaba Entertainment Group, Mainland China



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