HR skills key to success of SMEs: Lim Swee Say

Packaging firm Greenpac is one of the SMEs that have received mentorship in the pilot phase of Spring Singapore's scheme. PHOTO: ST FILE

Skilled management of the workforce is the key to business success in a tight labour market, Minister for Manpower Lim Swee Say said yesterday.

Mr Lim was addressing representatives from various small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) at the launch of Spring Singapore's Human Capital Movement in SMEs, held at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre.

Under the scheme, Spring Singapore has called on 10 human resources (HR) directors from the public and private sectors to mentor SME leaders on a voluntary basis, while HR managers from SMEs will be encouraged to share best practices as "SME human capital advocates".

Spring Singapore has also worked with management consulting firm Hay Group to evaluate SMEs' HR practices and suggest improvements. Following last year's pilot outreach to 180 SMEs, Spring Singapore hopes to reach a thousand firms over the next three years with this new diagnostic tool.

Packaging firm Greenpac is one of the SMEs that have received mentorship in the pilot phase. Ms Susan Chong, the chief executive, said that it was helpful to be mentored by online fashion retailer Zalora, and likened Hay Group's evaluation of Greenpac's HR system to "a health check".

Mr Lim said that developing companies' HR capabilities will become increasingly important in Singapore because "it is very clear that the growth of our total workforce, local as well as foreign, will slow from now on" into the long term.

In order to make the most out of the situation, Mr Lim said that companies must get the most out of dedicated, innovative and well-trained employees. "We are not able to enhance our productivity if we are also losing our competitiveness," he said. Last month, Second Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran, whose ministry oversees Spring Singapore, said that HR must become a "strategic function" to raise productivity levels.

A non-profit body, the Workforce Advancement Federation, also started this month and signed a memorandum of understanding with the Workforce Development Agency to advise SMEs on how to train and retain staff.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 31, 2015, with the headline HR skills key to success of SMEs: Lim Swee Say. Subscribe