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INVESTING IN LOCAL STAFF


For international companies setting up in Cambodia, success can be made or broken by the human resources and management style you apply. Staff recruitment and retention processes vary significantly across countries and regions, and multinationals must find innovative ways to ensure they remain sustainable in a country such as Cambodia.

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For international companies setting up in Cambodia, success can be made or broken by the human resources and management style you apply. Staff recruitment and retention processes vary significantly across countries and regions, and multinationals must find innovative ways to ensure they remain sustainable in a country such as Cambodia.

There are many new emerging industries – such as sales and marketing, telecommunications, engineering and core managerial roles – where finding experienced staff can be challenging. However, industries such as hospitality and food and beverage have a strong pool of skilled workers available, having been in full operation since the country began rebuilding in the 1990s.

Rady Keo, HR and administrative manager for Total Cambodge, the local unit of one of the world’s largest integrated oil and gas companies, says it has been difficult to find specialists in Cambodia. “It’s been hard to find experienced engineering candidates, especially for the skills related to oil and gas, because there is no oil and gas engineering faculty available at any of the universities as yet.”

“There is also a lack of locals with good academic backgrounds in marketing and logistics, where we need good expertise to develop our activities and support our company’s growth,” she says.

Create Your Own Skilled Workforce
The education sector has long lagged behind the growing needs of the employment market, so international companies must adjust their selection criteria to better match the labour pool.

Ouk Villa, human resources country manager for The Cambodia Beverage Company (CBC), the exclusive authorised manufacturer and distributor of Coca-Cola in Cambodia, says that his firm has developed extensive training programmes to bring local staff up to speed with international standards.

“Here at CBC we provide training in both soft and hard skills,” says Villa. “The training is structured in many ways to provide participants with experiences so they may apply these learnt skills in either classroom training, on-the-job training, or through observation of different operations.”

Often, new employees will be juniors who don’t necessarily have the study credentials, but are open to learning and development – qualities that CBC focuses on. “Besides the functional expertise, some of the core things we look for at CBC are the right character, attitude and passion. When you have the right character and burning passion for what you do, you can achieve anything. Technical skills can be taught over time,” Villa says.

Petroleum giant Total also pays great attention to the personal traits of potential and new employees, according to Rady. “At Total, we focus on soft skills, mainly looking for good communication, teamwork ability, flexibility, leadership, and fast learning skills. The rest can be taught through strong coaching and in-house training programmes,” she says.

The flipside of such training programmes, however, is that competent employees can then become recruiting targets for rival companies, who use salary raises to convince them to leave. “Cambodia is a candidate- driven full employment market, which means that good employees have a choice. International companies should employ an active and ongoing retention policy to cope with the staff movements they are likely to experience,” says Saint Blanquat.

“Staff turnover is a burning issue. People seem to move from place to place even with a minor improvement
in basic salary without looking at longer term career prospects,” says Villa.

A Feeling of Home at Work
What attracts many Cambodians to international companies is the style of management they will work under. Workplaces in Cambodia are traditionally hierarchical. Generally, initiative is not encouraged. International companies are attractive because they tend to use an empowerment model rather than an authoritarian style. “Foreigners know how to empower their staff and share the power throughout the different levels of the hierarchy. Cambodians like that and will trust them more,” says Saint Blanquat.

“Also, Cambodians highly regard team lunches, outings and group activities. These create a family environment where they like to laugh and have fun. This must be recognised. If you hire the right people and encourage them to take initiative and express ideas, it can work very well. Cambodian staff will then find it very difficult to go back to Cambodian-run companies.”

Industry insiders recommend implementing incentive schemes. Experience shows that regularly rewarding performance enhances motivation and, as a result, output. Another element of attraction for local staff is a good health insurance plan, as there is no social security in Cambodia.

“Total offers our staff access to an in-house clinic and medical allowances, health and accident insurance, complementary saving schemes for retirement and financial support in case of emergency,” says Rady. “This works very well and is much appreciated by our employees.”

Investing in local staff through training and incentives is vital for international firms looking to forge ahead in Cambodia, according to the experts. Working out what your staff want and what motivates them is the first part, while working out how to give it to them is equally essential.

“To ensure staff are motivated we must understand what their burning passion is: whether it is personal growth, having fun while doing their job or work/life balance,” says Villa. “Business sustainability depends very much on people. Thus, building the local talent is one of the most important success factors for sustainability.”

 


Words by Jessica Sander | Shutterstock