Mr. Gabriel Helmy, CEO of The Capacity Specialists, suggests the concept of Human Resources as a strategic partner in business is growing in Cambodia.
Learning and Development (L&D) practices in the Kingdom to date have tended to focus on developing staff’s ‘hard’ skills; that is, technical abilities of direct use to the business. Meanwhile, Human Resource Management is often limited to staff administration; things such as pay roll, recruitment, leave management, employee records, and so on. HR managers generally have little input into the strategic planning of Cambodian businesses.
The world, however, is realizing the worth of including a variety of L&D programs in any holistic HR model. Business studies and trends globally encourage policies that pay equal attention to the relationships between staff within a business and a wide ambit of ‘soft’ skills development for those staff. These skills include communication, conflict resolution, emotional intelligence, leadership skills, team building, coaching, time management and critical, creative and strategic thinking. ‘Soft’ skills’ training is ongoing, and just as important at all levels of management.
Human Resource shortfalls are accentuated in the Cambodian market by inadequate and unspecific University programs. Helmy estimates that roughly 60-70% of potential employees have a business related degree, while only 20% will find a job related to their actual studies. Concurrently, new Cambodian entrepreneurs face a continual inflow of unchartered business management concepts and skills, which may or may not have been taught during their studies.
Further, staff retention issues in Cambodia suggest many people are not satisfied in their employment. Given the culture of superior respect that exists in Cambodia, including the general avoidance of conflict and ‘saving face’, these work place problems may not show themselves until they reach tipping point, or until an unexplained resignation. “People more often leave their manager than their company,” says Helmy, “suggesting healthy relationships within a business are necessary in order to maintain a healthy business in the long-term.”
Nevertheless, Cambodia is open to a shift in L&D philosophy. The average Cambodian business manager or employee is younger than the world average and motivated to learn and improve themselves.
Helmy firmly believes that “people are the most important asset of any company. They must grow with the business, and evolve with the market.” The Capacity Specialist’s multi week HRM and L&D development programs seek to build confident, personable and diplomatic employees and policy to match the fast-changing world in which businesses operate. The programs are unique in their length, comprehensiveness, variety of L&D techniques, and primary focus on ‘soft’ skills.
Helmy suggests any new businesses developing a work force in Cambodia need be patient. Be patient when hiring: understand what skills and behavior you really need for any position and take time to find employees with those skills. If the skills are unattainable, be patient in training. New skills must be practiced and developed at the employee’s own pace, often alongside a current workload. Additionally, it is crucial that any business know what they want from their employees, and then design a L&D development program that addresses the current gaps in this vision.
After four years experience with The Capacity Specialists, Helmy believes Cambodian businesses are starting to understand the true value of developing a work culture of continuing communication and staff improvement through innovative and ongoing L&D programs.