Hiring For A Sustainable SME Business
In light of the pandemic, we speak to an SME business owner specialised in logistics and warehousing about hiring for a sustainable business as they move forward into the new year. Here are some of his insights about how companies can achieve sustainability after the pandemic.
Small and medium enterprises contribute to two-thirds of the jobs worldwide that makes up for most of the employment created these days. However, despite being a significant contributor to the workforce, many SMEs still face considerable challenges regarding productivity, hiring processes and working conditions, especially during the post-pandemic recovery period.
These challenges seem more prominent in the logistics and warehousing industry, especially since many of their processes were interrupted causing many companies to halt supply and operations.
One of the main challenges they’ve had to face is the drop in manufacturing processes – importing or exporting and shipments for raw materials. As a result, overall volume and freight have been heavily affected as they won’t be able to ship or transport goods.
The logistics industry now faces declining revenue as they manage reduced shipments while adjusting to the new norm of working from home. This setback has proven difficult for some businesses, particularly in the sea and air freight industry whose jobs are to transport raw materials and products.
Having their workforce adapt to the pandemic is also a challenge for Malaysian SMEs. ”Most business owners in this industry still find it difficult to grant full trust in their employees especially for those in customer service, as monitoring daily tasks becomes difficult”, he says.
However, most employees prefer remote working; some have even proved to be more productive while working from the comfort of their homes.
Other challenges that employees in the industry face since the pandemic include not having the proper tools to do their job effectively at home, such as laptops – a crucial tool for those in the logistics industry. “These are gaps within the new trend that business owners in our sector need to evaluate”, he adds.
Local SMEs will have to take on a new perspective and realise that trust is crucial to ensure that their businesses can operate efficiently should their employees be provided with the necessary tools. Employers have learned that communication is vital to respond to customer requests in logistics, especially with international clients. Various mechanisms have been employed for SMEs to navigate this process better, using Zoom and Google Meets to ensure they meet deadlines and procedures are carried out appropriately for both parties.
How are they navigating their workforce to meet the new market demands?
SMEs operating within the logistics industry in Malaysia have not increased their headcount in terms of staff. However, they are still experiencing a high rate of turnovers due to the pandemic. As the pace of attrition increases, hiring is now becoming a real challenge.
As more and more young people look for more meaningful jobs with higher pay, SMEs find it hard to meet the demands of the younger workforce. Given the current circumstances, they have mostly cut back on salaries and benefits, which have in turn, resulted in many of their employees looking for better opportunities and better pay elsewhere.
In the logistics and manufacturing industry, the hiring process usually takes place internally to minimise costs. Recruiting through popular sites like LinkedIn, JobStreet and Glassdoor has been and is still a norm for hiring.
However, to retain their essential staff – the outstanding ones, they will need to learn to manage their employees differently allowing more flexibility. The new rule of thumb is not ensuring your employees clock in and clock out fulfilling their work hours but rather the quality of work produced and delivered according to targets set.
Specifically for the warehousing and logistics industry, the main productivity metric is measured by ensuring the machines run and the number of shipments are healthy to ensure a steady incline in revenue.
Mental health also plays a significant role in retaining promising talents, especially with employees who work long hours and assume multiple jobs within the company. Being ‘burnt-out’ is a common phrase we hear, this needs to be addressed with better planning and delegation. A healthy work culture is definitely a must as this impacts not only the employees but also the company in the long run as the quality of work declines and the motivation to do good work depletes over time.
SMEs in the logistics and warehousing industry must ensure they have a contingency plan or a succession plan in place in case of any setbacks like the pandemic happening again in the future.
They must be more prepared to face any potential challenges in the future with a recovery plan that can help them revive their businesses sustainably.
What can SMEs and local industries do to prepare for the workforce in the coming year?
First of all, companies should hire quality talents and review their staff plan to identify their weaknesses and strengths to achieve their growth plan for 2022 and 2023.
They should be open to investing more in their workforce in terms of better pay and benefits to sustain their businesses in the long run.
In this case, it can be beneficial for companies to review their HR requirements and automate them for better efficiency when looking for the right people. Training will also help them grow and develop unique skills to enable them to work more efficiently.
As digitalisation takes over the business world, companies should also look at how they can adapt to this change and use technology to increase productivity, improve work quality, and save time instead of resorting to traditional methods that may be a waste of resources.
SMEs should also look at how they can utilise their older, more experienced workers to enhance the quality of work they produce. Therefore, more senior employees can provide valuable knowledge and should be encouraged to train and become mentors to the younger employees. Primarily to help them learn the tricks and trades of the industry to help them navigate the challenges they may face in their jobs.
In conclusion, hiring for a sustainable business, especially SMEs, can be challenging. However, with the right approach, companies of various industries in Malaysia can be better equipped to sustain their businesses in the long run. With better management of their workforce and innovative strategies, they can enhance their work quality and productivity, especially after the pandemic and in the years to come.