SMEs facing manpower constraints can cultivate their talent pipeline to grow their businesses
SMEs are a vital pillar of Singapore’s economy, contributing nearly half the GDP and employing 70% of our workforce. Yet, as the economy restructures to ensure productivity and innovation-led growth, many smaller companies find it a challenge to recruit talent in a competitive labour market.
“Manpower shortages can be a concern for many SMEs,” says Ms Christophane Foo, Executive Director, Human Resources & Organisation Development, SPRING Singapore.
“As a result, harnessing human capital is becoming an ever more important part of sustainable business growth. To remain competitive, companies need to recognise the need to do more with less, provide meaningful jobs and a quality workplace to attract and retain staff.”
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Promoting Organisational Strengths
Young talent can offer a fresh perspective that complements the experience of existing employees – which can help companies stay innovative and resilient. SMEs have several value propositions when it comes to being an employer of choice for a younger generation.
For example, SMEs are typically more nimble in adapting to change and seizing business opportunities, a strength they can tap to attract young candidates. In addition, a flatter management structure often allows new recruits to work closely with and learn from senior management team.
Working in an SME can expose graduates to different job functions and roles in which they’re less constrained by complex reporting and decision-making structures, says Ms Foo.
At the same time, SMEs often have a close-knit, family-like corporate culture, where staff are valued for their strengths and are mentored and trained by senior management.
“If SMEs strive to make their workplace a better environment where happier staff are motivated to achieve higher performance, this can set in motion a positive cycle of reinforcement,” Ms Foo explains. “SMEs that are performing well can carry on investing in training and developing their talents.”
Developing A Strong Employer Brand
Some SMEs are making efforts to develop a compelling employer brand that appeals to a younger worker demographic, to build up a talent pipeline that can support long-term growth.
“SMEs should think about developing new corporate practices to suit different career aspirations, being flexible and finding creative ways to reward good performance,” explains Ms Foo. “This could mean introducing such things as profit-sharing schemes, personal rewards, and support for further studies by staff and their career development.”
At the same time, many SMEs are expanding operations into new international markets, which leaves them well positioned to offer graduates overseas career opportunities.
“Talents that are committed and perform well may be given opportunities to be part of the pioneering teams working on major projects,” Ms Foo says, adding that this should not be overlooked when promoting an employer brand.
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Filling The Gaps
Many forward-looking companies have already started to address their talent challenges by taking a serious look at their HR management practices. A critical part of any corporate strategy is the ability to identify the right person for a job, exciting them to take up the role and then retaining them.
Through initiatives such as SPRING Singapore’s SME Talent Programme (STP), SMEs can attract young talents from the Institute of Technical Education, polytechnics and universities by offering internships, study awards and employment opportunities. SPRING partners with Trade Associations and Chambers (TACs) to administer the programme.
“Through STP, strong partnerships can be established with the Institutes of Higher Learning to ensure good job matches,” explains Ms Foo. “At the same time, attractive career prospects in SMEs are promoted to students and graduates – so it’s a win-win situation.”
SMEs have also implemented HR capability improvement projects and focused on strengthening the leadership skills of their senior management as well as staff training to help them acquire the right skill sets to grow in their careers.
The Future Of SMEs
For SMEs to survive the labour crunch, they need to optimise their manpower, invest in human capital and put in place strategies to survive and grow. These include having strong leaders with a talent mindset, creating a trusting environment to motivate staff, adopting good HR practices to strengthen their brand proposition and improving business processes to build dynamic companies.
As Ms Foo puts it, “SMEs need to view human capital as a strategic tool to help drive business growth and be more forward-looking in their HR practices.”