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People & Skills

Take a look at the labour market in Cambodia and get some expert advice on how to recruit, induct and train staff, as well how best to seek work, if you’re looking yourself.

  • Hiring takes time, patience and money.
  • The average Cambodian worker works 47 hours per week.
  • Working hours vary a lot. Most office workers work around 40 hours per week, though if the office opens on Saturday morning then they work more like 45 hours. Blue-collar and industrial workers work 48 hours per week before overtime payment applies.
  • Cambodia is home to one of the youngest work forces in the world with over 50 percent of the country under the age of 24.
  • In the majority of cases, employees will be required to carry out extensive training to ensure staff carry out their role to satisfactory standards.
  • Taking into account the potential impact of any cultural divides and how they will be dealt with is also important.
  • Private training and capacity building specialists are becoming increasingly available in Cambodia, providing much-needed coverage for the nation’s skills gap.
  • Staff retention can be a big problem with employees often being poached or moving to different companies within short spaces of time.
  • To avoid staff turnover, offer ongoing training and incentives, yearly bonus structures, fairly relaxed schedules, regular capacity building training, career development, promotions and employee benefits, such as accident and health insurance, assistance in education for your staff’s children and profit sharing.
  • It is essential to keep up with market salary rates, do a review every 6 months if you are in a ‘high-demand, low-supply’ sector.
  • Retaining your staff is possible only if your company is willing to provide necessary positive working conditions, fair remuneration and professional career development equally to your expat and local staff.
  • Treat your staff like a family – and their loyalty will increase. Building a culture where everybody contributes and cares for each other can help to get the best out of your employees.
  • Take time to understand your workers and their mindsets.
  • In Cambodia students often don’t seem to be well prepared for the business world. Sometimes, they have not being trained in the soft skills that are tantamount to achieving smooth interrelationships, such as how to present oneself and one’s company advantageously, how to look self-confident, how to make an appointment by phone, or how to address an audience in a presentation.
  • The result is that Khmer people often look awkward and embarrassed in such situations that are all too usual in business. Of course there are exceptions, and some people are outgoing and extraverted but they seem to be just that, exceptions.
  • Many Western employers complaining that there is frequently a gap in professionalism that can only be bridged by intensive training by the employers.
  • Given that skilled employees are in high demand in Cambodia now and the pool is still relatively small (albeit growing), the cost of hiring these skilled employees is increasing.
  • Another option for employers is to look for young employees who have the right attitude, motivation and are fast learners. With this solid foundation, you can more easily grow your employees into valuable contributors.
  • Gone are the days when foreigners can pay Cambodians, regardless of their skill-set, poor wages.
  • Increasingly you get what you pay for.
  • Education, knowledge and training improve everyday. Yet, so do salary expectations.
  • This is only going to grow with the younger generation and as more skills are passed on via international companies.
  • Staff with higher skill sets, or specialist skills, have increased job mobility, and often chase higher wages.
  • Induction into the ASEAN community offers new opportunities for Khmer workers across Asia – this means they will need to be convinced to stay in Cambodia.
  • All employers must comply with the comprehensive Labour Law, which sets out employees’ rights and employers’ obligations.
  • Salaries are usually quoted gross with benefits, such as insurance, pensions and holidays becoming more important, although money is still seen as the main motivator.
  • Once terms and salary are agreed, a three-month probation period is standard practise, with terms being clearly stated in the contract.
  • The NSSF was established in 2007 in order to administer the schemes of Social Security protection under the National Social Security Law, and it was fully functional as of 2008. The fund offers basic social security to all workers in the private sector.
  • The NSSF already provides workers with injury insurance, health insurance and it is currently working on creating a pension system.
  • All employers must register with NSSF.
  • Following a recent expansion of the scheme, employers will match a worker contribution of 1.3 percent of their salary.
  • Registration forms can be found online at www.nssf.gov.kh.
  • Before you can open a business and begin hiring you must notify the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training (MoLVT) and provide a Declaration of the Opening of a Business.
  • The Labour Inspector must be notified within seven days of hiring or firing an employee.
  • Before you can open a business and begin hiring you must notify the Ministry of Labour & Vocational Training (MoLVT) and provide a Declaration of the Opening of a Business.
  • See the business startup section for more detail information on this, and the legal and accounting section for info regarding work permits.
  • The Labour Inspector must be notified within seven days of hiring or firing an employee.
  • The obligation is on the employer to register employees, assist in arranging work permits and even withhold and pay their own income taxes.
  • The same is true for contracts with freelancers or consultants.
  • See the legal and accounting section for full information on how to obtain work permits for Khmer and foreign staff.
  • Under the 1997 Labour Law (as amended) and the 1994 Immigration Law, foreigners who wish to work in Cambodia are required to have a valid E visa issued by the Cambodian embassy, consulate or immigration authorities at the port of entry.
  • The most recent laws that formally govern work permits are Prakas No. 195, 20 August 2014, “On Work Permits and Employment Cards for Foreigners”; and  Prakas No. 196, 20 August 2014, “On Employment of Foreign Labour”.
  • Employees must have a work permit and an employment card issued by the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training.
  • The process demands that business owners first must register their company.
  • When registering a business in Cambodia, the Company must make a “Declaration of Opening a Business” in writing and deliver it either to the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training for companies with more than 100 employees or to the Department of Labour and Vocational Training for 100 employees and less.
  • Having done this, the company must register its entire staff with the DOL. Don’t forget, this includes both foreign and Khmer staff.
  • If the Company wishes to use foreigners as employees, the Company must request a permit for employment of foreign labour (Quota).
  • This is done by both a Request Form and a Request Table, for use of foreign workforce.
  • If the rate of foreign labour exceeds 10 percent of the total employees, a request letter must be sent which thoroughly and clearly explains the positions in excess of the quota and the specialty and professional skills of each of these foreign workers.  A penalty payment normally applies for each worker in excess of the quota.
  • Foreigners are issued a Foreign Work Permit and Foreign Employment card.
  • Although by law the Company is required to make a declaration in writing each time an employee is hired or dismissed, in practice the Company should register new employees as they are hired and provide the workbook and card to departing employees.
  • Labour Inspectors routinely update the company’s labour records for incoming and outgoing employees when the company is audited.
  • Once the company and staff are registered, workbooks will be issued for all staff. After registration, however, the Department of Labour can request staff status updates.
  • As part of this process, the DOL ask for extensive details about employees listed for a company, including foreigner quotas, and expect this information to be updated every time the employees of a business change.
  • This may be a somewhat expensive process, especially if you employ a large number of staff at your company, and if your registration is long overdue.
  • While this was once an unenforced law, Government inspectors have now begun foreign labour inspection at workplaces in order to fully enforce the law, including a comprehensive review of the declaration of personnel and its updates, quota approval for foreign labour usage, employment contracts for foreigners, employment cards and work permits, valid passports, valid visas of the appropriate type, and foreign workers themselves.
  • In August 2017, police officials at the Department of Immigration confirmed that it would become compulsory for all foreigners to obtain an official work permit/employment card to be eligible to apply for a long-term extension to their E visa.
  • Non-compliance can lead to a fine and/or imprisonment. In order to get a business visa now, one also needs to be able to show a valid work permit.
  • See the legal and accounting section for full information on how to obtain work permits for Khmer and foreign staff.

Recruitment Top Tips

Here’s a few things to remember when recruiting in Cambodia.

  • Employing the right staff at the start can pay off in the long run.
  • Recruitment is often carried out through the traditional ways of advertising in newspapers, on job boards and through recruitment agencies.
  • Although, Cambodia works on a much more word-of-mouth basis.
  • Employees will often be recruited through recommendations, friends or relatives of current employees or even through social network avenues.
  • Recruiting the ‘old-school’ way (by asking employees to recommend people) has a big downside. You will discover that the people the first employee recommends have close personal relationships to them – and their loyalty will be to them, not to your company. This works fine when things are going well but when there are problems it can magnify them and it is most likely that the staff will bring personal issues into the company.
  • With staff retention remaining the most common problem, keeping them on board with your business is vital.
  • This can be achieved through several avenues, depending on your business and workforce.
  • Options include incentive schemes, rewards, regular work and achievements assessments and team building.
  • Think outside the box when trying to fill particular skillset gaps.
  • The lack of specified skills in certain areas should not deter potential businesses.
  • Any recruitment issues can be minimised by forward planning.
  • For example, consider approaching universities and specify what you seek in a suitable graduate.
  • That way, skills can be learnt before they are hired by your business.
  • Skills are becoming an increasingly diverse industry in Cambodia.
  • Don’t give up on finding skills so easily.
  • People are striving to learn so it’s important to take a pro-active approach and search for those who have the potential to attain the skills you need.
  • Cultural awareness is very important in Cambodia.
  • It is important to remember you are a guest in someone else’s country and behave accordingly.
  • The out-of-touch foreign manager versus the disgruntled local employee is an all too familiar tale in the Cambodian labour market.
  • However, if you take the time to learn a little about Khmer culture, it will go a very long way.
  • Khmers generally have a strong family unit, respect for their elders, and tend to avoid conflict when possible, preferring to save face.
  • “Face”, in this context, refers to a sociological concept that describes the lengths an individual may go to in order to preserve their position in society or the workplace.
  • When one is “saving face”, they are taking action to ensure their peers will not think less of them.
  • This cultural trait needs to be properly understood and addressed with respect.
  • It needs to be understood whilst doing business not only in Cambodia, but also across Asia.
  • For instance, the famous “Cambodian smile” may not always mean they’re happy to hear bad news.
  • The smile can act as a screen, hiding embarrassment or annoyance when hearing negative news.
  • Foreigners should pay attention not to become emotional, not to raise their voices or shout at their Khmer employees, both publicly and privately.
  • Pointing to a mistake is making a person lose face. This damage is irreparable and the victim will never forget. Any criticism should be done, if possible, indirectly and at all times privately.
  • But, for a westerner not aware of this cultural trait, future reactions down the line can come as a shock.
  • Khmer culture, which is highly hierarchical, often doesn’t reward expressing critical views toward a superior.
  • Cambodians hate sending negative feedback so no feedback is better that bringing bad news to the boss. Foreigners must not assume that no negative feedback means no problem. Cambodians expect the bosses to discover any issue for themselves.
  • Cambodians also have a collectivist mentality, which makes standing out something to be avoided.
  • Cambodians don’t generally respond well to ultimatums or direct demands.
  • Khmer people belong to a high-context culture where the way things are said is sometimes more important that what is actually being said. Cambodians like to communicate indirectly and hate confrontation.
  • As a result to be effective communicators foreigners should be tactful and indirect. They should avoid closed and aggressive questions.
  • Cambodians are perceived by foreigners as lacking assertiveness and self-confidence. They do feel embarrassed when speaking English, which is quite understandable. But also, Cambodians don’t like to “sell” themselves and are culturally rather modest and low-key.
  • Cambodians may need convincing. This will foster the most motivation and lead to the best result.
  • The “time is money” concept so prevalent in the West is foreign to many Cambodians, whose Buddhist tradition of reincarnation takes a very long view of things.
  • For Cambodians time is unlimited and doing several tasks at once is the norm. In the workplace the importance of meeting deadlines and arriving on time for a meeting must be taught to them.
  • Khmer women are often less likely to take on the leadership roles and have a harder time to assert their decisions with their male colleagues or/and expats.
  • However, this is easily resolved with a consistent empowerment and equal opportunity practices in the work place, such as career development, leadership coaching and capacity building for women leaders, among others.
  • For instance, Cambodian sales people will seldom try to sell their product to someone immediately. In Khmer sales culture, a personal relationship must be developed between two parties before sales are even discussed.
  • Most Khmer sales people will refuse to work purely on commission.

Recruitment and Retention

Recruitment agencies can save you time and effort in Cambodia. Here’s a quick guide on how to make the most out of what’s available.

  • Recruitment agencies can save you time and effort by screening initial job applicants and developing a short-list of qualified candidates for you to interview.
  • They usually charge a percentage of the applicant’s salary, typically around six weeks’ of post-probation salary.
  • Many companies adopt more traditional approaches to finding staff, such as placing signs outside their premises.
  • Newspaper advertisements are favoured for some positions as well as tenders for government contracts, which can be found in both the English and Khmer language dailies.
  • There are also a number of online recruitment websites and classified ad sites that include job boards.
  • They usually charge a percentage of the applicant’s salary, typically in the region of six weeks’ post-probation salary.
  • Many companies adopt traditional approaches to finding staff, such as placing signs outside their premises.
  • Newspaper advertisements are favoured for some positions as well as tenders for government contracts, which can be found in both the English and Khmer language dailies.
  • There are also a number of online recruitment websites and classified ads sites, such as BongThom.
  • Less conventional approaches to large-scale recruitment can also reap rewards.
  • Radio and TV advertising can be effective at reaching large numbers of potential workers.
  • Many employers make arrangements with universities to hold job fairs and recruitment drives.
  • Direct approaches, like passing out flyers at traffic lights or in restaurants near similar businesses, are also cost effective.
  • Social media is proving to be another popular recruitment tool, with many young Khmers having a huge presence on sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and for expat employees Expat Advisory’s forum is a good tool.
  • Often the best way to find the perfect employee is by hitting the networks and word-of-mouth.
  • Staff referrals are another good way to find trustworthy new staff inside your current employees’ networks of friends and family.
  • Beware of taking job seekers’ credentials at face value as many cover letters, CVs (Résumés) and certificates may be inaccurate, inflated or inconsistent.
  • Creating a simple questionnaire for initial applicants to complete will often weed out as many as three quarters of them, and can be carried out via email.
  • Recruitment agencies are skilled at identifying unverifiable or bogus information on CVs.
  • Like anywhere else you will find that engaged staff stay and you have high turnover of ‘non-engaged’ staff. Try to ensure that your engagement strategies apply to all levels of staff, not just to the seniors.
  • Staff engagement strategies that you have used in other countries can be adapted to Cambodia – bringing culture into account.
  • Money has historically been the root of staff retention issues in Cambodia, leaving business owners surprised to discover staff moving jobs for relatively small pay increases.
  • This is becoming less common in professional roles as candidates realise that job-hopping doesn’t look good on their CVs.
  • In cases where staff choose to leave a company in an effort to save face or avoid a potentially awkward confrontation with a manager or other staff member, they may not give a true reason for leaving, perhaps claiming a family member is sick.
  • It is vital to find out what the applicants’ real expectations and ambitions are, and what kind of job they truly want to do.
  • By assigning jobs based on the relative skills and desires of a worthy applicant, retention rates will improve.

Skills Top Tips

Skills are something expats talk about a lot in Cambodia. Here’s some gems from those conversations put together in one place, meaning you can benefit from their various advice before you set out to find competent employees for your business.

  • A commonly quoted concern from businesses is difficulty finding reliable and competent staff to fill managerial or specific skill-set positions.
  • Cambodians, especially the younger generation, are being equipped with more skills but sometimes they can be difficult to find.
  • As soon as you start looking for technical jobs, it can be hard to find well-skilled local people.
  • You have the competencies in Cambodia but you have to find them and salaries are moving quite fast here, especially for technical jobs and those requiring high-level skills.
  • The strengths that lie with the Cambodian market are the volume of people readily available to work.
  • The broadness of business degrees, for example, creates skills gaps when it comes to specialisation.
  • This makes it harder for employers to determine where a person’s strengths lie.
  • This is something that is set to change in the future as education in the country starts to become more specified.
  • Something you have to be prepared for coming in is that you are going to have to do quite a lot of training and development.
  • Ensure your business has a good orientation and onboarding process set up to help people coming into the company with both the practical side of doing the job and also adaptation into your workplace culture.
  • And this doesn’t just relate to entry level employees: There’s often a gap between where the mid-level people or line managers are at compared to the senior leadership of the organisation.
  • So it’s important to create leadership experiences for people over a period of time which will help them to build some of those higher level competencies like complex problem-solving, long-range thinking, strategic thinking, and working across cross-functional teams, which will build their capabilities for taking on more senior leadership roles.
  • Focus on quality of character when hiring.
  • The personality and the adaptability of the person will indicate whether they can be further trained to fit the position and the ethos of the business.

Typical Pay Grades in Cambodia

Salary negotiations are tricky at the best of times and in Cambodia can be even more so.

Here are some answers to a few issues you might run into.

  • These days, it’s in a company’s interest to do research around compensation to ensure employers don’t lose employees by going too low, or lose their competitive advantage by setting pay rates too high.
  • There are three basic categories of employees in Cambodia, starting with expats who are brought in, usually on a senior management level, to fill an existing need.
  • Compensation packages are generally set according to the standards of their country of origin, in many cases including additional benefits such as flights back home once a year.
  • Then there are expats hired on local contracts, and, while they usually earn more than their Cambodians counterparts, their compensation is set after negotiations with the employer.
  • Cambodians themselves make up the third group.
  • In the past, and still to some extent today, salaries for locals were often set by asking around and finding out what other people are paying.
  • As Cambodian expectations change and the market develops, offering competitive compensation is growing ever more important to keep employees motivated and loyal.
  • We are finding that Cambodian seniors are now making more salary than locally recruited foreigners. Basically they have a track record of success, they can function in 2 or more languages and there are no cultural issues when they come to managing their teams.
  • Cambodian salaries have typically been low because of the country’s history, but they are moving fast.
  • There are three basic categories of employees in Cambodia, starting with expats who are brought in, usually on a senior management level, to fill an existing need.
  • Compensation packages are generally set according to the standards of their country of origin, in many cases including additional benefits such as flights back home once a year.
  • Then there are expats hired on local contracts, and while they usually earn more than their Cambodians counterparts, their compensation is set after negotiations with the employer.
  • Cambodians themselves make up the third group.
  • In the past, and still to some extent today, salaries for locals were often set by asking around and finding out what other people are paying.
  • While the private sector was still relatively small, this worked out OK and many start-up companies hired family members or friends.
  • But as Cambodian expectations change and the market develops, proper compensation is growing ever more important to keep employees motivated and loyal.
  • And as the country’s talented pool of skilled workers continues to grow, the gap between expat and local salaries taking up these positions has closed.
  • One of the benefits of using a recruitment agency is that they will supply you with information about current salary rates in your sector and for each function. Top Recruitment Cambodia supplies all this kind of information as a Value Added Service.
  • Cambodia currently lacks a living minimum wage across all sectors.
  • However, according to the Khmer Times, negotiations on the subject will be held this year. Proponents hope the end of 2017 will introduce a living minimum wage.
  • Several sectors already have a minimum wage, most notably the garment sector, which must pay its staff at least $153 a month.
  • While a minimum wage is welcomed by most people, providing a fair playing field and improving standards, fears have been raised over how it will be introduced and the effects it may have on smaller businesses.
  • Outsourcing is a small but growing component of Cambodia’s HR market.
  • It is particularly suitable for manufacturing staff and sales forces because companies can be provided with short-term workers, contract workers or full time employees and have the selection, HR and payroll organised by an outsourcing agency.

Training

Training courses in Cambodia are varied and range in scope from improving skills in IT to management techniques, communication skills, customer care, administration, sales and more.

Here is a bit of extra info on training available for you and your staff.

  • Costs and quality of training vary so decide what outcomes you need.
  • Some firms, such as AAA Cambodia and the Capacity Specialists, will tailor a course to meet specific requirements, starting by understanding the strategic needs of the business, then conducting a skills analysis before devising a suitable package with specific learning outcomes and evaluations.
  • The trick then, for businesses needing specific skills that are currently scarce in the market, is ongoing on-the-job training.
  • Luckily, private training and capacity building specialists are increasingly available in Cambodia, and the quality is rising too.
  • The NGO sector also offers a variety of opportunities for upskilling your labour force, such as vocational schools, hospitalities training and some IT skills centres.
  • See the NGO section for more information about this.
  • Training courses are varied and range in scope from improving skills in IT to management techniques, communication skills, customer care, administration, sales and more.
  • “Soft skills” are proving increasingly popular, such as business communication, sales approaches and interpersonal relationships.
  • As the Cambodian business landscape is still developing, many local staff lack experience and abilities that might be taken for granted in more developed markets.
  • Cost and quality of training also varies so decide what outcomes you need and tailor any courses to your particular requirements.
  • Team building and professional development sessions can also be arranged in Cambodia, to break down barriers in the workplace and strengthen the company’s team cohesion.
  • A common complaint voiced by business owners in Cambodia is how hard it can be to find qualified, motivated staff.
  • Despite the fact that the country is a potential human resources gold mine, thanks to its young population and growing numbers attending universities and vocational schools, many entering the job market are lacking important business skills.
  • “Soft skills” such as business communication, sales approaches and interpersonal relationships are often lacking.
  • Since the Cambodian market is still developing, many Cambodians simply don’t yet have experience and abilities that might be taken for granted in the developed world.
  • As expectations of customers and organisations change, employers would be well advised to make sure staff members know the basics.
  • A common problem is a lot of younger staff joining an organisation need to learn the basics.
  • These include customer service and answering emails and returning phone calls promptly.
  • But these are all things that can easily be taught.
  • In a foreign country, things do not always run smoothly and expats can run into trouble when they lose their job, work runs dry, they want a change in career or their business goes bust.
  • Skills assessments can provide both individuals and companies with the means to improve their capabilities and overcome these hurdles.
  • Unemployed individuals can talk to a consultant, who can help to steer them in the right career direction and question what they can achieve, where they should go, maintaining a healthy balance between personal and work needs.
  • Another form of skills assessment involves assessing the skills of the team as a whole and individually, and how they work together through a series of individual and team sessions.
  • This is also beneficial in promoting communication and breaking down barriers.
  • Intern programmes are a useful way to find diamonds in the rough, and test capacity before offering an employment contract.

Looking for Work

If you are looking for a job yourself, Cambodia presents plenty of unique opportunities. Read on to find out more.

  • Cambodia has many jobs on offer for foreigners, though menial jobs such as bartending and truck driving are unlikely to pay adequately to support a foreigner’s needs.
  • Scour the daily newspapers, job websites and expat forums for vacancies.
  • Recruitment agencies will be able to advise you on your options in the private sector and suggest new applications for your skills, as well as line up interviews with potential employers.
  • NGOs often recruit via their head office abroad or from within the existing pool of experienced workers already in Cambodia. Attending networking events and scouring social media sites is another good option.
  • The majority of expatriates haven’t arrived in Cambodia to get rich, but it is possible to have a comfortable lifestyle on a much tighter budget than in the western world.
  • You may find you need to revise your expectations of salary, unless you’re fortunate enough to have been brought here by an international company on an “expat package”.
  • However, the lower salary is offset by a lower cost of living.
  • The simple fact is that because the vast majority of foreigners cannot communicate adequately in Khmer, they cannot be considered for roles requiring them to speak the language, even if they have the skills and experience required.
  • Employers would almost always rather hire a Cambodian who has market knowledge and speaks both Khmer and English.
  • Recruitment agencies will be able to advise you on your options in the private sector and suggest new applications for your skills, as well as line up interviews with potential employers.
  • NGOs often recruit via their head office abroad or from within the existing pool of experienced workers already in Cambodia. Attending networking events and scouring social media sites is another good option.
  • Many businesses will at times have a short-term requirement for a specialist skill, be it photography, copywriting, IT or research.
  • In these cases using a freelancer or consultant may be the best option.
  • Such people are easy to find if you ask around, but make sure you’re clear on exactly what you want and when you want it.
  • A well thought-out brief, including the work to be provided and a reasonable timeframe, will help you to receive suitable proposals.
  • Advertise your contract through online forums, ask around your networks or put an ad in the paper.
  • Don’t wait too long to make a decision – freelancers get frustrated when a contract hasn’t been awarded by the time the project was supposed to be delivered.
  • Be sure that issues such as payment, delivery times and termination are agreed before work starts.
  • Freelancers must obtain a work permit to work legally in Cambodia. You can apply online (www.fwcms.mlvt.gov.kh). Unfortunately it appears that the website is not very well equipped to deal with the self-employed yet and the process can be arduous.
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