Asia Pacific Journal of Management

, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 1139–1160 | Cite as

The strategic and cultural legitimacy of HR professionalization in Hong Kong

  • Paul HigginsEmail author
  • Man-fung Lo


In Hong Kong, human resources (HR) practice has reached a point of professionalization not yet apparent in other parts of China creating opportunities for best practice diffusion across rapidly developing cities, provinces, and regions. The aim of this paper is to ascertain the strategic and cultural legitimacy of human resource management (HRM) in Hong Kong from the perspective of the occupation’s status as an emerging profession. Combining established theory on professions with documented insights from normative associational ideals, this paper derives four major sources of HR professionalization, which it entitles strategy, communication, administration, and discipline. Assuming that tasks performed by the most senior, qualified and experienced practitioners hold greatest empirical sway over the prospect of occupational association, this study finds that a combination of strategic and communication practices emerge as the two most likely routes to HR professionalization. Based on survey responses from a representative sample of 172 certified practitioners, the findings support the notion of HR as a strategic asset, raising important implications for the professional status of the occupation within an Asian management context.


Cultural assets Strategic assets Hong Kong Human resource management Professionalization 



The authors would also like to thank the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resouce Management for providing access to their certified members.

Funding information

The work described in this paper was fully supported by a grant from the ESRC/RGC Joint Research Scheme sponsored by the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong and the Economic & Social Research Council of the United Kingdom (Project reference no. 9057004 RGC ref. ES/J017299/1).


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Public PolicyCity University of Hong KongKowloonHong Kong
  2. 2.School of Professional Education & Executive Development, College of Professional & Continuing EducationThe Hong Kong Polytechnic UniversityKowloonHong Kong

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