WHILE HR MANAGERS are busy telling other company employees that the era of lifelong jobs has gone and they should prepare for a more diversified career, the message is not lost on themselves. Faced with the same reality, a panel of present and former HR professionals will share their own experiences of the changing workplace environment. The panel members will outline the choices they have faced at different stages of their careers, and the outcomes, in a session titled, 'HR Career: Go North, Go Business and Go Consulting'. 'Right now, especially in Hong Kong, human resources professionals need to look at their own employability. As a lot of business leaders look at HR to be more of a business partner than just a supporting function. Some companies even want to reduce the budget of their HR supporting functions by outsourcing. The challenge is for HR professionals to understand what their role is, and the need to be hands-on across the whole business,' says panel member Roy Fung, country manager, Hong Kong, for Wilson Learning China. Mr Fung adds that, for some HR professionals, this would involve a reality-check. 'As a consultant, it is my view that some Hong Kong people are still very inward-looking. They think that, because they provide a specialised HR service, they can add value to an organisation. But they should understand the frustration these days of their line people, who are looking at ways to improve business performance. 'We have to become more business-focused and know how to fit our activity into a real-life situation. This might mean, for example, taking training out of the classroom and into field coaching and performance consulting.' The session will cover three main options for HR professionals facing a career transition: 'Go north' (the China factor), 'Go consulting', or 'Go join the line'. The speakers will offer tips to help with the decision-making, prepare for the move, and develop winning strategies and tactics. According to session speaker Ricky Chan, compensation and benefits manager at Caltex Companies (Greater China), the 'Go north' option is topical because of a huge demand expected as companies try to penetrate the China market. 'Because of the World Trade Organisation, business in China is becoming more attractive. Companies will need the skills of Hong Kong HR professionals who know how to work with the China government, how to compensate employees, and how to comply with Labour Department requirements. 'These are key issues for China, which is one country with many cities, each with its own policies. We perceive quite a high demand for Hong Kong HR professionals at top management level.' By opting to go consulting, HR professionals increase their income opportunities. 'Consultants are not working for one company. They are working for the whole world.' It also helps to insulate professionals as they become more experienced and, therefore, more expensive, when threats from younger and cheaper employees may jeopardise their survival. 'Consulting opens up a broad perspective, and we believe it offers a bright future.' The 'Go business' option means leaving the HR office to join the company line, either by way of a permanent transfer or job rotation. This enables HR professionals to test their skills and demonstrate their ability to be flexible, capable and mobile.