“In any industry, having the right people on the job will help a business grow rapidly. Not all are aware of this,” shares Mr Sam Chee Wah, General Manager of Feinmetall Singapore.
The local SME designs and produces probe cards for the semiconductor industry, with many stages of the production process manually handled by skilled employees, making people the most valuable asset.
But it took an awful company vacation to make Sam realise that he had not been engaging his staff as well as he’d thought.
“We had planned a trip for the employees. It was a cruise-to-nowhere, a three-day-two-night trip. However, during the trip, we discovered that our employees didn’t like the trip at all,” chuckles Sam as he recounts the incident that led to the improvements to the company’s Human Resource (HR) management system.
“We realised that we did not engage the employees and made a wrong decision,” shares the GM on the gap that he and his management team discovered. “So from that moment onwards, we decided to have these HR initiatives and engage our employees more.”
With support from SPRING Singapore, Sam roped in HR consultants to identify the required improvements to Feinmetall’s HR practices and policies.
Numerous HR initiatives have since been put in place to make the company more people-oriented. This includes the Employee 1-2-1 programme, the 360-degree employee appraisal and a dedicated training programme for the 30-man strong team.
“The Employee 1-2-1 programme is something that we started three years ago. Employees have one-to-one sessions with me every six months,” explains Sam.
“During the session, I would try to find out the employees’ concerns as well as their family needs and requirements. We then try to understand their motivations and engage them,” says Sam, pointing out that these sessions hold other benefits for the company in addition to improving staff engagement.
“There is also a segment where they can suggest efficiency improvements in the production process. These are things we will take into consideration and implement.”
One such suggestion resulted in the installation of a shelving system which helped employees keep their workstations clear of clutter, creating an environment more conducive for work.
As for the 360-degree employee appraisals, Sam says that by allowing staff to appraise their managers, colleagues and subordinates, the company has gained “a better perspective of the performance of the employees”. He also notes that it has given the management an idea of how well their staff work with their peers in other departments.
Another major improvement was the renewed focus on staff training, with a clear training calendar.
“We do an annual training analysis. We understand the specific training requirements from supervisors and incorporate them into our training calendar. We spend quite a fair bit on employee training as well as cross-training.”
“Our employees right now are able to multi-task at different job levels. Staff handling assembly for instance, can be cross-trained in test operations,” he says proudly. “So far we have received very positive feedback,” he adds.
In it for the long haul
While his decision to upgrade Feinmetall’s HR capabilities and make it part of the company’s long-term strategy has paid off, Sam admits that he was initially hesitant. “I was concerned about the resources I had. Cost was one factor,” he says while adding that he was worried that he didn’t have enough people to roll out the programme.
“We decided to outsource our day-to-day HR operations to a third-party HR consultant so that we could focus on strategic HR activities.”
As for cost, he reveals, “we realised that after some calculation, (it) was something we could afford, as we believed that the company will gain from it in the long-run”.
But it was not just Sam who was hesitant.
“Employees felt that they had to do a lot of tasks that were not adding value,” he says. “Now, they feel more engaged.”
“After we implemented our HR initiatives, our employee retention rate became very high. Our employee turnover rate is only about two percent. The employees who left us did so for further studies or for personal reasons. Even then, they expressed interest in coming back to us,” he says with a hint of pride.
In Sam’s view, it is critical for his company to retain staff, as having the same team from start to end will make Feinmetall’s product development process much smoother.
In the bigger scheme of things, Sam believes that any project that will improve HR practices is critical as it will help companies move forward, regardless of their size.
“Many SME owners believe that HR initiatives are something that is not ‘profit-churning’ and something they can ignore. But I feel that retaining the right people and being people-oriented is something very important to every company,” points out Sam.
“SME owners often think they build their business. But they are just one person. I believe we (SME owners) don’t build our business. We build our people and they then build our business.”
-Produced in association with Spring Singapore -