Early in 2015, the CIPD commissioned a comprehensive research programme to review the current status of the HR/L&D profession across Asia. Using independent researchers, the programme was designed around an online survey for all people working in the profession throughout the region, encompassing all levels of seniority and all specialisms, and including non-members of the CIPD and other professional bodies as well as members.

In total, 255 HR/L&D practitioners took time to participate in the survey – an excellent level of response which has enabled us to develop a robust understanding of what is important to HR/L&D professionals in the region.

The results show what’s important to HR and L&D professionals and how the CIPD can support individuals, organisations and governments to raise HR professionalism and capability across the region in the future.

Survey results

Strategic HR priorities

Top HR priorities

Directors/senior executives along with those in manager roles were asked to identify the top three HR priorities for their organisations. By far the biggest priority for the profession in Asia at this point in time is talent planning and management, with more than half selecting this issue in their top three priorities. Leadership development, recruitment and selection and performance management were all selected as key priorities by around three in ten.

When asked what kinds of professional support they most need to address these kinds of priorities, directors/senior executives and managers alike say they need more access to:

  • international best practice insights and guidance, case studies and benchmarking
  • more opportunities to network with other senior professionals from across the Asian region
  • local research and independent guidance with relevant context from the region
  • professional qualifications and training – which are tailored to support region-specific practices and culture within the context of international best practice.

HR strategy alignment and outsourcing

Three in four directors/senior executives and of managers believe that their current HR strategy is well aligned with their organisation’s overall business strategy.

HR-related legislation and policy

The highest-priority HR-related policy issue for HR leaders and managers in the region is talent attraction and retention. Other key HR-related policy issues are seen as diversity and equal opportunities and immigration and expat visa regulations.

Research and information

Specialist topics

Beyond the group of director/senior executive participants, respondents in other roles place great priority on the issue of talent planning and management, with 36% indicating that this is one of the three areas of research they are most interested in, followed by learning and development and leadership development and executive coaching. For directors/senior executives, talent planning and management is also the area of greatest interest, while leadership development/executive coaching is the second most interesting niche topic of interest, followed by organisation development.


Where events for HR/L&D professionals are held in the region, the kind of topic area that would have most value is felt to be case studies and best practice examples of direct relevance to Asia. HR/L&D professionals would also like events focused around HR/L&D-specific news for the region, market outlook information for Asian countries and updates on employment law in Asia.

Website information

When it comes to information resources available online, HR/L&D professionals in the region as a whole say their key need is for more regional employment law information, followed by information about events/opportunities for networking in the region and links to relevant research focused on Asia.

Professional status

Licensed HR profession

Directors/senior executives and managers working in the region are strongly in favour of HR becoming a ‘licensed’ profession.

Professional body membership

Most directors/senior executives and managers feel that it’s important for HR/L&D professionals in their organisation to be members of an international professional body for HR, so they can keep up to date with best practice, global standards and relevant insight. Despite this widely held view, 60% work in firms where fewer than half the HR/L&D workforce are members of a professional body for HR, while just 22% say that more than half their HR function hold a professional membership of this kind.

HR competency models

Across the region, two in five organisations have an HR/L&D technical competency framework in place. In the majority of cases, frameworks have been developed in-house or using an external consultant.

Continuing professional development

When it comes to their own personal current professional status, two in three HR/L&D practitioners in the Middle East say their continuing professional development (CPD) plan is both in place and on track for the coming 12-month period.

HR qualifications

HR qualifications are mandatory for specific roles in one in three organisations across the region. The extent to which this is the case varies from a high of 46% in Bahrain to 24% in Qatar.


Sixty per cent of directors/senior executives and managers in the Middle East are happy for qualifications to be delivered in English, but 28% would like to see delivery in both English and Arabic.


Over the next three years, two in five employers are expected to spend US$5,000 or more per person per annum on formal HR/L&D qualifications for employees in the function.

HR skills gaps and training needs

HR skills gaps

Across the region, directors/senior executives and managers identify business acumen as the area where HR/L&D people have the greatest skills gap. There are also significant gaps in talent planning/management skills as well as skills associated with the design and execution of HR strategy.

Training channels

Employers in the region use a mix of approaches to train and develop HR/L&D professionals. The most frequent route is via in-house training. External training providers are also relatively widely used, and organisations also make use of professional qualifications as part of their development strategy.

Training mix

Face-to-face sessions are seen as the training format that works best for the region, with half also saying a mix of face-to-face and online teaching works for their organisation. While 59% are content for short training courses to be delivered in English only, 38% say a mix of English and Arabic better meets the needs of their organisation.

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