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IIST e-Magazine (For the Japanese version of this article)

Global Business Human Resource Development Initiatives in APEC | Reiko Toyoshima, Program Officer for APEC HRDWG CBN Human Resource Development Department Institute for International Studies and Training (IIST) [Date of Issue: 27/December/2012 No.0214-0875]

Date of Issue: 27/December/2012

Global Business Human Resource Development Initiatives in APEC

Reiko Toyoshima
Program Officer for APEC HRDWG CBN
Human Resource Development Department
Institute for International Studies and Training (IIST)


Since APEC was first established, IIST has been contributing to the development of management capacity in businesses to meet the challenges of economic globalization and underpin sustainable economic development in the APEC region.


The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), comprising 21 Member Economies in the Asia-Pacific region, accounts for around 50 percent of world GDP, population and trade value, impacting significantly on the global economy as a world growth engine. APEC’s goal is to establish free and open trade and investment and achieve growth and prosperity for the entire APEC region. APEC’s efforts to date have resulted in steady progress toward trade and investment liberalization, opening up many possibilities for companies in the region to seize business opportunities in global markets.

The promotion of regional economic liberalization has simultaneously exposed new challenges and threats. Borderless economic activities mean that economic conditions in one economy can impact on the entire region, while on the other hand, market competition has become increasingly intense and intra-regional imbalances and disparities are emerging. Achieving sustainable growth will also be contingent upon addressing challenges such as environmental and energy issues. These new challenges must be overcome if the companies are to seize the opportunities offered by liberalization and achieve growth.

APEC HRDWG meeting

APEC HRDWG meeting

Since APEC was founded, the Institute for International Studies and Training (IIST) has worked with human resource development institutions in the APEC region as Japan’s representative institution in the APEC Human Resource Development Working Group (HRDWG) Capacity-Building Network (CBN). We have completed a number of projects addressing the new challenges of liberalization, which have been well-received in the APEC community. Among them, the project entitled “Corporate Social Responsibility in the Global Supply Chain” looked at emerging issues that companies should give consideration to in their global supply chains. Another project “Capacity Building for Investment Liberalization and Facilitation” focused on challenges on human resource development brought about by investment liberalization.

To give a more detailed example, the project “Strategic Intellectual Asset Management for Emerging Enterprises” sought to deepen understanding of companies’ intellectual assets and develop business owners and managers able to make strategic use of them. The project revealed that employees’ rich stores of knowledge and experience are important intellectual assets that promote corporate growth, and suggested that systems for developing and maintaining such human resources need to be enhanced in order to boost the value of companies’ intellectual assets.

Large corporations are working hard to maintain and develop talented human resources through a range of measures augmenting their human resource management (HRM)systems. However, few small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have managed to establish effective HRM systems by themselves due to limited financial and human resources. As around 90 percent of firms in the APEC region are SMEs, which also accounts for around 60 percent of the region’s total employment, the sustainable development of these SMEs will be essential in realizing further economic growth for the Asia-Pacific. For large companies too, as their ties with SME suppliers strengthen within and beyond the region, bolstering the capacity of these SMEs in HRM is also extremely important in terms of reducing business risk in global markets.

To address this issue, IIST initiated a year-long project in December 2011 entitled “Strengthening Human Resource Management System of SMEs for Facilitating Successful Trade and Investment in APEC”. The aim was to develop the awareness and capacity of SME owners and managers in APEC to establish HRM systems that could utilize talented human resources as enterprises’ intellectual assets as a means of achieving competitiveness in global markets.

The project identified challenges faced by the SMEs in recruiting, developing and retaining outstanding human resources, as well as commonalities and differences in effective HRM systems in different APEC economies. APEC experts also developed 10 case studies on HRM systems (http://publications.apec.org/publication-detail.php?pub_id=1361). The cases covered a range of areas including IT, service and traditional industries from eight economies, presenting the various challenges faced by actual companies in terms of globalization and HRM. These cases were used for a pilot seminar held in Seoul, Korea that brought together local SME owners and government representatives to develop a capacity building program
(https://www.iist.or.jp/en/2012/apec-seoul-pilot-seminar/).

With participants in the pilot seminar in Koera

With participants in the pilot seminar in Koera

The seminar examined the process by which companies establish HRM systems, proposing a cyclical framework comprising “Identifying challenges and opportunities under economic liberalization,” “leveraging human resources for strategic advantage,” “Tapping innovation and technology for competitive advantage,” and “shaping organizational culture through systems”. Participants followed this framework in discussing the various HRM challenges emerging from the cases.

The seminar succeeded in identifying a number of key issues on HRM. Companies’ HRM systems are only effective when closely aligned with their business strategies. Business owners and managers accordingly need to establish a clear corporate vision and demonstrate the leadership that will embed that vision throughout the organization. As a company grows, it must move away from evaluation and training based on personal approach of the owners and managers to introduce a more objective HRM systems. Using external resources such as government agencies and NGOs, as well as SME networks, can be useful to that end.

The project entailed joint development and implementation of case teaching materials and capacity building programs, sharing APEC’s unique cross-cultural experience and multiple perspectives. The capacity to understand respective economies’ different values, practices and cultures and make optimal use of the virtues of these is a critical quality in global human resources. Japanese companies too could develop human resources with a global perspective by participating in projects of this nature. IIST looks forward to APEC projects continuing to contribute to the development of human resources to serve as engines for corporate growth both in and beyond Japan.


Related Page
Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Human Resources Development (HRD)Working Group Activities


(original article : Japanese)

(For the Japanese version of this article)


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