Complex, ambiguous, highly changeable and multifaceted - a career in human resources is certainly not one to be labelled 'the easy option', says Brian Renwick, a human resources professional whose career in the field has spanned more than 30 years. 'The global trend has been for HR to become much less of an administrative function and much more closely integrated with the business ... And it's certainly starting to happen in Hong Kong,' said the senior director of the organisational and human resources consultancy GML Consulting. It was perhaps not a trend being seen in Hong Kong's more traditional, family-owned companies which 'are still sticking to the fairly old-fashioned approach that an HR job is all about pay and benefits and recruiting', but the more sophisticated companies were definitely starting to change, he said. HR professionals in international firms could now expect to play a bigger role, and one that was in the 'heart of the organisation, looking at the people-side from a business point of view', he said. 'But even though HR practices are changing, I have always said that Hong Kong is about 10 years behind in terms of the trends occurring in other parts of the world ... But Hong Kong is definitely becoming more interested in HR because, for purely business reasons, people are expensive and you have to use them as best you can.' But he stressed that some Hong Kong firms still considered their people as resources to be used as needed. 'There are two extremes in this city. One is that people are commodities, they will do what they are told, and if we pay them more or less OK, then that's as much as they, and we, can expect. 'The other view is more of the western/international school of HR, where people are considered valuable and talented, and where firms want their workers to feel good about the company they work for and are managed well. These two extremes exist side by side in Hong Kong, and it depends on which businesses you look at,' he said. As the human resources role continues to change, so too does the perception among the city's working population that a job in HR is primarily a 'female' occupation. 'I think internationally there are probably more men in the profession than women. But in Hong Kong, going on a very rough feel, I'd say it's about 75 per cent female, 25 per cent male. And I'm not quite sure why this is.' The trend was shifting, however, and Mr Renwick believed the ratio of people moving into the industry was now closer to 50:50. It is a fairly easy transition to make for those looking to enter the field or move across from another business function, he said. 'In the old days, people used to move across into HR because they had failed at the core job they were doing. But now it happens a lot - in many professions, in many different sorts of business, at many levels and for many reasons.' Finding work should also not be a problem. He believed there would always be jobs for those with a good track record and qualifications. However, the future for Hong Kong's HR professionals lay in China's rapid economic and industrial development, he said. 'If you are asking where the best prospects for this part of the world are going to be, the answer is China. No question. This doesn't mean to say Hong Kong isn't going to be a vibrant, living and important city. It is. And there are going to be lots of good opportunities here, too,' he said. 'But the overwhelming conclusion is that the future is China, whether it's China as in Hong Kong, China as in Greater China, or China as in Shanghai or Beijing. That's the main thing for the future of the profession here.'