HR 'key to unlocking SME success' in Singapore

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore typically struggle with talent retention due to the tight labour market.

The nature of employment patterns in the country means the very best staff are always in demand, so companies not operating at the top-end of the market will face a challenge trying to attract the very best.

Indeed, figures from the Manpower Ministry show that median wages increased by almost 40 per cent between 2004 and 2014, underlining how it is still very much a talent-led market.

But SPRING Singapore - a government agency designed to help SMEs grow - is hoping to level the playing field with the development of its Human Capital Movement. It will see the creation of a community of HR advocates that will share HR best practice and facilitate peer learning activities.

It means SMEs can get access to real-world talent development and human capital strategies for business growth, while they will also be given the opportunity to speak to experienced HR professionals who have delivered tangible improvements in the past. SPRING hopes to reach a thousand firms over the next three years.

Targeting SME success
SMEs in Singapore need to be able to effectively manage their skilled workforce if they are going to sustain their competitiveness, according to Minister for Manpower Lim Swee Say.

But while these companies recognise the importance of human capital development, they usually prioritise business success over investment in talent. They are also constrained by their HR capability and capacity, with the majority of their time spent on transactional HR activities such as payroll and processing work.

Foo Chek Wee, one of the HR directors who is taking part in the scheme, thinks human capital management is essential for any organisation looking to gain a competitive advantage. "Implemented in the right manner, SMEs would be an ideal ground for ambitious talents who desire a faster pace of change and role empowerment," he added.

Boosting SME branding
Part of the problem facing SMEs as they try to compete for the best talent is the issue of awareness. SMEs do not have the budget to market themselves in the same way as larger competitors, meaning they can struggle to find the right candidates.

But by properly focusing their branding efforts, these organisations can develop a compelling narrative that clearly shows off their main selling points. For example, working for an SME offers a higher profile within the business, a varied working environment and the feeling that you are making a real contribution.

"A unique employer proposition helps companies gain a distinctive advantage over their competitors. Hence, SMEs need to develop a conducive workplace culture and environment to attract new talents and encourage existing employees to grow with their company," said Chew Mok Lee, assistant chief executive of SPRING Singapore.

While SMEs will always be concentrating on the bottom line, they cannot afford to lose sight of the need for a strong HR foundation. By harnessing this department effectively, businesses will be able to build their talent pipelines and create momentum for future success.