SME bosses share tips with other SME bosses

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Lee Yi Shyan (centre) at yesterday’s event with (from left) Yang Kee’s general manager, business operations Ong Swee Keong; managing director Ken Koh; deputy general manager, chemical logistics Chri
Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Lee Yi Shyan (centre) at yesterday’s event with (from left) Yang Kee’s general manager, business operations Ong Swee Keong; managing director Ken Koh; deputy general manager, chemical logistics Chris Koh; and WAF chairman Chan Chong Beng.PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

It was an eye-opener for more than 50 bosses of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), who yesterday got a chance to take a closer look at the human resource strategies and productivity measures of one of their number.

The site tour and dialogue at logistics firm Yang Kee was the latest in a series of sessions designed by SME bosses for SME bosses, and the first by non-profit body Workforce Advancement Federation (WAF) since its official launch in July.

Participant Desmond Ong, 63, chief executive of lift service provider Galmon, said: "Our company is also trying to move our HR away from just being a cost centre that handles budget, to having strategies such as branding. It's good to take a look at what others such as Yang Kee are doing."

Yesterday's event, meant to help SMEs tackle the labour crunch through sharing best practices, is part of WAF's monthly Workforce Champion Series and the first to be supported by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency.

Yang Kee is a 25-year-old logistics firm based in Jurong Pier which has been reworking its HR strategies and tapping various government grants to reduce turnover and retrain staff. Managing director Ken Koh, 39, shared with attendees the company's productivity and talent management measures.

These included its in-house training academy, increased automation, and welfare facilities for staff such as childcare services.

WAF chairman Chan Chong Beng said: "The Government is doing a lot of top-down work, pushing their productivity initiatives, but our job as a federation is to help them by pushing upwards, changing the mindsets of SMEs."

Mr Chan said that WAF is also working with HR firms such as Human Capital Singapore and Aon Hewitt to bring their consulting services to its member companies.

The former president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (Asme) said: "One of the biggest weaknesses of SMEs is a lack of HR. It's very encouraging to see more successful companies willing to come forward, share their best practices, and help to change people's mindsets."

WAF was started with the aim of helping SMEs learn how to better recruit and retain staff, and to provide learning and mentoring opportunities for firms.

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Lee Yi Shyan, the event's guest of honour, stressed during yesterday's dialogue the importance of HR strategy and training for workers. "Not only should we introduce training relevant to today's workers, we must anticipate what training is necessary... in the next three to five years," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2015, with the headline 'SME bosses share tips with other SME bosses'. Print Edition | Subscribe