A competent workforce is perhaps the most important asset for any organisation. Thus, it is in the interest of any company irrespective of its size to positively focus on human resource (HR) development & management. However, it is rather sad that the HR activities are often neglected by many Indian SMEs. As per a survey conducted by the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), around 80% from the small enterprises and about 20% of the medium enterprises respondents indicated having no formal HR department.
According to Sarita Nagpal, Deputy Director General, CII, the problem arises because "most of the SMEs are not aware of the strategic dimensions and associated benefits of HRD". Indian SMEs can turn the tables around by learning from the big players as well as from their global counterparts and address the challenges that they face on their HR front.
SMEs are driven by manpower hence recruiting the right people is singularly important. "People acquisition is the greater focus than people retention," says Vivek Subramanian, General Partner, Avigo Capital Partners. He believes that "a professional" attitude is vital for growth. Thus, it is essential to recognise the talent first. Keeping this in mind, Hermes Softlab, a Sloveniabased SME came up with its programme of sponsorship with schools and universities to create tomorrow's workforce. As a result, the company managed to attract a large number of youngsters who could be groomed as per the job requirements.
Retaining the best talent is as important as hiring it because happy employees make happy clients. Dhananjay Kulkarni, SVP- Engineering, Aftek Ltd, points out that the talented people "can be retained only by putting in place best HR practices". He rightly identifies that "opportunities to grow, freedom in decision making, etc." are the chief considerations that determine an employee's job satisfaction.
To combat attrition, Canada-based Celestica International Inc has put in place the best HR practices. Its introduction of innovative programs such as stress management & weight watchers along with the team approach to adapt to night shift workings are commendable. Employee participation assumes a new meaning at TNT UK where employees constantly suggest changes for improvement. This form of participation should be encouraged in India as well. On a different track is the 'Advantage! for SMEs' scheme implemented in Singapore. It proposes to facilitate the reemployment and retention of older workers.
Ideally, an organisation should let the employee to grow and prepare for future challenges. Shoba Chetty, Director HR, Impetus Technologies emphasises the importance of strategies in influencing the success of the employees. She says, "Strategies should be carefully planned and directed in order to yield effective organizational development, performance and success."
Fedex Corporation, a big name in logistics, gave its employees a unique opportunity to identify and assess their respective roles. The program – Leadership Evaluation and Awareness Process (LEAP) – met with instant success thereby benefiting both the company and the employees. At Grupo Texto Editores, a Portuguese SME, a young employee working in the packing department rose to become the MD of the Angolan Division. Following this, the company has been constantly motivating its employees by placing challenging yet rewarding projects before them.
Similarly in China, 'The T&D (training & development) program' has been aimed at training the competent skilled workers to add value to the organisation. This gives clarity to the employees about the role they are expected to play.
Indeed, the company benefits when an employee is made to feel like its owner. The SMEs should therefore do away with the hierarchical orders that create gaps between the employees and the employer. Atul Jalan, MD & CEO, Manthan systems feels that "strong frameworks, ethics and business practices" determine the success of an SME. He further points out that at his company any form of hierarchy is discouraged. A sense of informal yet disciplined approach to work indeed helps in building a strong rapport between the employee and the employer.
In fact the focus has to be on fostering entrepreneurship. The employees should inculcate entrepreneurial skills to grow in the industry. "Training is no longer skill upgradation. Today's employees need to learn more," says Arun Rao, VP-HR, Applabs. 'The Countryside Entrepreneurship Development Program' implemented in Philippines has been successful in upgrading the management capabilities of existing entrepreneurs. Through workshops, job training sessions and conferences, the program has tried to identify and address the challenges faced by the SMEs.
Technology is yet another aspect that can no longer be ignored. However, merely implementing a software solution is not enough. Technology delivers only when it is aligned with the right processes driven by the right people. As Krishna Reddy, Head-HR, Valuelabs says, "Setting up proper systems and management processes in place are some of the areas of concern." The use of new and advanced technology can take the Indian SMEs one step further but it has to be user friendly, efficient and uncomplicated. According to Kishor Bhalerao, VPHR, Persistent Systems Pvt Ltd, the SMEs "need to have their process designed in such a way that it will support the development of the team growth."
Caring for the safety of the employees is another aspect that needs to be highlighted. An organisation that ensures that its employees are working in a safe environment is bound to see good results. For example, Bridgestone gives top priority to the safety of the employee. It believes in the 'Today is also one day of safety' policy. And this works in the favour of the employees as well as of the company. Sound and systematic HR practices ensure the success of SMEs. As U Vishwanathan, Head-HR, Speck System