A series of new initiatives from the Singapore government aims to help boost small and medium enterprises’ (SMEs) focus on developing their people – with a particular emphasis on helping businesses without a traditional HR function.

A new HR portal launched last month is one of the three initiatives led by International Enterprise Singapore - under the Ministry of Trade and Industry - to help develop human resource skills in the city state. The portal gives companies access to advice in areas such as compensation and benefits, employee relations, learning and development, manpower planning, performance management and recruitment and selection.

It also provides guidelines on conducting performance appraisals, templates of appraisal forms, sample employment letters and videos on how to conduct exit interviews, among other services. “This interactive self-help portal can help companies strengthen their HR capabilities in a convenient and fuss-free manner, to bring out the best in their workforce,” International Enterprise Singapore executive director of human capital and resources Christophane Foo told People Management.

A second initiative called HR Shared Services is a pool of 22 service providers offering access to HR systems and services. “With this, companies can outsource some of their HR functions to maximise internal resources and look forward to cost savings to enhance their HR systems and processes,” Foo said.

Businesses can receive funding support of up to 70 per cent of qualifying costs, including a one-time set up cost and monthly subscription. The response so far has been positive with nearly 150 companies already having come on board, she said.

Innovation is a key area of focus when it comes to HR. With that in mind, a third initiative, HR Tech Pilot, has been launched to help companies become better at generating ideas. Businesses can select from four areas: employee engagement (including easy-to-implement guided pulse surveys, instantaneous feedback and recommendations); compensation and benefits (accurate and relevant salary data for jobs, employees and candidates, or flexi-benefits platforms for benefits administration and access to benefit partners); learning and development (with modular, bite-sized micro learning platforms with effectiveness tracking) and recruitment and selection – with guided recruitment processes, candidate screening, and interview scheduling.

As good as this may sound, the challenge is now getting organisations, especially SMEs, to make the best use of these tools, Alchemy Resources general manager Andy Liu said. “It is an excellent tool designed to help, in my opinion, primarily the SME in the country,” Liu said. “It covers all the HR elements and perhaps aims to provide best practice for HR practitioners.” 

Indeed, SMEs are at the heart of the Singapore economy. “They make up 99 per cent of our enterprises, employ two-thirds of our workforce, and account for about half of Singapore’s GDP [US$297bn in 2016],” according to a government note.

“SMEs must see that their human resources are also their human capital and use these tools to capitalise on this rather than continue to view HR as a cost centre,” Liu said. The wealthy city state depends heavily on its people, but with an ageing population, labour productivity gains are crucial, he added.

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