Hong Kong employers are concerned about staff capability upgrading and keen to allocate more resources to bolster workforce productivity. This involves an integral part of corporate development strategy. Investment in human capital includes on-the-job training as well as investing in further education. Angela Ng Mei-ling, director of executive recruitment company Techouse Consultancy, said: 'Business organisations in Hong Kong, especially the bigger-sized corporations, are committed to human capital investment and have generous budgets for staff training and education.' As human capital has become essential to sustaining a competitive advantage, she said employers were adopting innovative hiring practices and more demanding interview processes to assess job applicants' level of competence. 'Companies have put in place more stringent tests to screen the best quality candidates. Successful job applicants will receive a series of training programmes to adapt quickly to the company's culture and management philosophy,' she said. 'Apart from in-house workshops, training service providers may be brought in to upgrade staff capability in various aspects such as soft skills, technical know-how and business sense. Companies will also sponsor employees taking relevant courses or further education in universities.' Strategies to develop human capital within a company focus on the future and take a long-term approach. Such investments are expected to provide returns to the individual as well as to the company as a whole - with employees benefiting from improved capability such as better marketing and management skills, and the company gaining from higher productivity. The knowledge-based economy has given rise to demand for new thinking and better management skills to cope with the increasingly competitive business world, according to Esther Li Ling-yee, associate professor with the department of marketing and international business at Lingnan University. She said more business organisations were turning to local universities for partnership to run tailor-made education programmes for staff development. 'In the past, it was education institutions that tried hard to explore collaboration with the business sector. It is a different story now. Many business organisations are taking the lead to approach universities for courses or workshops for partnership,' she said. 'As there are many different courses on the market, it may sometimes be confusing to employers. The involvement of universities is some sort of quality assurance. Companies can take advantage of local universities' rich resources to equip employees with the latest knowledge and skill sets through qualified programmes.' Professor Li said business organisations in the finance and insurance sectors were particularly keen on continuous upgrading and development of staff skills and qualifications to cope with their rapidly expanding businesses and increasing market requirements. 'With an ageing population, there are increasing demands for finance-related products for insurance, wealth management and retirement management. This calls for more personal enhancement through systematic studies and education,' she said. University programmes could provide the participating employees with a broader perspective and more essential knowledge, including social and political policies, which were usually not available at in-house training activities of business entities, she said.