The Cambodian Labour Market
After two years working in Cambodia, Mr. Jan Van Den Wyngaert, Director of CC Incentives, a company providing custom made incentive trips and team building activities for company staff, reflected that the local labour force is strong in some respects. He noted that it has a young and extremely motivated work force, willing and able to learn whatever skills are required. However, a lack of educational specialisation means that many Cambodians hold degrees of a general ambit, such as management or banking, leaving their real strengths uncertain and uncultivated at the time of hiring. This means more post-employment training costs required or staff that are continually applying for better-suited or higher-paid positions.
Meanwhile, a cultural divide exists in the way in which local staff handles problems in the work place. For example, if they are unhappy in their current positions or have uncomfortable relationships with colleagues, they are less likely to express these problems than expatriates in an effort to “save face” and avoid confrontation. This means that most businesses will only discover staff are unsatisfied when they choose to leave for another position. Staff retention is, therefore, a special problem for employers in Cambodia.
Why Team Building Is Important
As Socrates said, ‘you can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” Hence, CC Incentives focus on team building exercises that take staff, Khmer and expatriate, outside of the office into challenging, fun and interesting situations where these problems are given an opportunity to present themselves, and be resolved.
Team building offers staff an opportunity to break down cultural divides and gives Cambodian staff an opportunity to demonstrate elements of their culture to expat colleagues. Meanwhile, multi-office businesses who generally do not meet face to face are bought together, and all strata’s of the business are pooled into a unified and equal group. This builds relationships outside of the work sphere – but leads to internal communication increases.
However, Van Den Wyngaert notes, many Cambodians, and expats to a lesser degree, assume team building is an indoor office activity, taught in a boardroom. Activities such as fishing trips, village stays, traditional Khmer game tournaments, Phnom Penh cultural scavenger hunts, group meditation lessons, highland games, boot camps, cycling trips and oxcart races provide situations outside of everybody’s comfort zones, where all staff can learn from each other.
Activities can be designed for leadership focus, departmental development, or business wide cohesion. These activities can uncover potential skills that could otherwise go unnoticed in the workplace.
Van Den Wyngaert suggests that ‘investing in your labour, not only your assets, is an extremely important part of good business. Any company that seeks to increase its cohesion and communication will witness increased revenue in the long term.’