Sparking growth for the HR profession

Singapore HR practitioners now have the chance to have their skills and knowledge formally certified.

Ng Xue Na is one of 43,000 HR professionals across Singapore. What sets her apart from the majority of her peers is that she is one of the first few HR professionals conferred with Singapore’s very own HR certification.

The HR Business Partner with DHL’s Customer Solutions and Innovation unit in Asia-Pacific was part of the pilot run of the National HR Certification programme, in October and November last year.  A total of 114 candidates selected from a range of enterprises, road tested the assessment processes. Echoing the sentiments of many of the 88 who achieved one of the first two levels of certification, Ng shared that she had “long seen the need for a local HR industry framework,” and “was always hoping to undertake a professional certification that was easily accessible and recognised across Singapore”.

Ng is now recognised as an Institute for HR Professionals Certified Professional (IHRP-CP), and plans to apply for higher certification levels as her career continues to progress.

Key to unlocking Singapore’s potential

Singapore’s Institute for HR Professionals (IHRP) is now urging many more to join her. IHRP is the newly-formed national HR professional body established to strengthen and raise the standards of excellence of the HR industry in Singapore.  It was jointly set up by the tripartite partners: the Ministry of Manpower, the National Trades Union Congress, and the Singapore National Employers Federation.

The tripartite partners duly recognise HR professionals and the HR ecosystem as vital enablers for Singapore’s future development.  Second Minister for Manpower, Josephine Teo emphasised this when she launched the IHRP Certification, along with the country’s HR Industry Manpower Plan on July 10, saying she hoped it would lead HR to be the “key” that effectively “unlocks the potential of our people and businesses to adapt and transform”.

Minister Teo added that the certification brings Singapore into a very small group of countries that are actively building their HR profession (and HR industry) through recognising and championing those unique skills.

“It is essentially a framework that tells us what good HR is about,” Minister Teo says.  “That means the competencies, mindsets, and behaviours that HR professionals must have to deliver positive impact for their organisations and the people they employ.” 

Getting ahead in HR

The national-level value of a more professional HR industry was talked about throughout the HR community over the two-year development of the certification framework. There are also some significant advantages for the individual HR professionals who apply and attain the IHRP Certification. Importantly, there is the value of knowing where they stand against their peers, and the specific learning or development that will help to bridge any gaps.

“Having gone through it, at least I know how I fare against the national standards,” says Judy Tan, Director of HR at Nanyang Polytechnic. She succeeded in being recognised as an IHRP Senior Professional (IHRP-SP) during the pilot programme and felt that the certification “is a credible endorsement of my skillsets”. Further, she says the certification process “is rigorous and professionally conducted”. 

Nelly Liukartano, Senior Manager for Industrial Relations and Employee Engagement with SMRT, added that the certification will also help to build HR’s standing within the business community and across each individual organisation.

Also part of that first successful cohort, she notes that many still view HR as a transactional or administrative function and sees the certification as “an opportunity to create awareness for the HR profession”. “We need to show how each and every HR professional can value-add by being a strategic business partner to their organisations.” she says.

“For me personally, the certification has given me more confidence in recommending and formulating HR strategies that can impact the future of SMRT.”

Liukartano says she is extremely proud to have successfully achieved the IHRP-CP certification level.  She has ambitions to achieve subsequent levels of certification later in her career.

Employers also stand to gain from the certification framework, according to Selena Huynh, Deputy CEO of the IHRP.  She believes that the certification can uplift the HR capabilities within the organisation by equipping the HR team with knowledge and competencies to drive business success.

“The certification means there will be a single, national benchmark for HR skills and competencies,” she says. Employers will therefore be able to know and trust that IHRP Certified HR Professionals have undergone a rigorous assessment process to attest that they have “future-ready HR knowledge and experiences to support business growth”.

Tough, but fair

The certification is not an automatic entitlement for anyone who has simply been in a qualifying role for a few years. Rather, the assessment process is rigorous in order to have a certification that deserves its recognition across the HR profession in Singapore. The first two levels are now open for registration, which includes a two-stage holistic assessment process that looks at the applicant’s ability to demonstrate application of the requisite competencies. They are also tested on their knowledge of relevant labour and employment legislation in Singapore and the statutory requirements that all employers must provide their staff.

Liukartano says the certification assessment process was “not tedious”. Rather, she says there was a sense of satisfaction with collating all of her past achievements, and that has helped to motivate her to go “beyond my comfort zone” as an HR professional. 

The assessment was “not difficult” but did put her HR skills and experiences to the test, she adds.

Ng, meanwhile, says the assessment questions tested for a balance of legislation-based knowledge and real-life applications in both SME and multinational settings. “Having been in a regional role for quite a while, I found it beneficial to have a refresher on the basic regulations and consideration factors when handling HR issues in different contexts,” she said.

All three participants recommended the experience for their HR counterparts across Singapore.  “I strongly encourage all HR practitioners to go for the IHRP certification,” Tan says.  

Singapore’s Master Professional Pioneers

The Singapore IHRP certification offers three levels of recognition. While the IHRP Certified Professional (IHRP-CP) and the Senior Professional (IHRP-SP) certification levels are open to all applicants, the pinnacle level of IHRP Master Professional (IHRP-MP) is still in the pilot stage of development.  IHRP-MP candidates are nominated by tripartite partners and current IHRP Master Professionals.  A typical profile is a Chief HR Officer who is well-regarded by the HR community and has actively contributed back to the HR industry.

Only three such leaders have been inducted as part of the pioneer IHRP-MP group. They are:







Carmen Wee, Global Vice President of HR in the Software Business of Schneider Electric







Aileen Tan, Group Chief HR Officer of Singtel






Low Peck Kem, Chief HR Officer and Senior Director (Workforce Development), Singapore Public Service Division, Prime Minister’s Office


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