Managing human resources is always a priority in business and PNG is no different. David James looks at some of the different ways the issue is tackled.
A successful human resources approach has to be specific to the local culture and to worker expectations. In PNG, that can require flexibility and a high degree of understanding.
One of the more obvious strategies is to focus on employing locals and many of the more established companies pursue that option. It is the approach of Michael Kingston, Chief Executive of Lae manufacturer KK Kingston. He says his ‘aspiration’ is to have as many local workers as possible so he can minimise the number of expatriate workers.
Kingston argues that, by employing PNG nationals, he ensures longevity of tenure and reduces staff turnover. And it is cheaper.
Most expatriates in PNG, he says, save up money then move elsewhere. Locals, however, can stay for decades, a continuity which Kingston considers ‘fantastic’.
The challenge is to get locals into positions of senior management. That means training them in managerial best practice and putting in place a mentoring system.
Ian Clough, Executive Director of diversified retailer Brian Bell, says the company is a ‘family business in essence’ and has tried to build on that philosophy. ‘We have recently celebrated 17 members who have been with us for over 30 years,’ he says. ‘One is over 40 years.’ Like KK Kingston, the emphasis is on longevity. Clough says that a further 67 of the com company’s 1300 employees ha have been part of their team fo for 20 years or more. ‘That adds up to thousands of years of co collective service,’ he says. ‘Everyon ‘Everyone is very closeknit. The Ch Chairman, who has been in the b business for 50-odd years, still see sees everyone as if they are fami family. In PNG, having a culture buil built around that close-knit e environment is key.’ Clou Clough points to the i importance of succession pl planning, technical d development for tradespeople and leadership development. ‘All of this builds sustainability. People see us as a an employee of c choice because th they know that w we are a reputable org organisation.’
Chief Executive of security company Black Swan International, Brian Kelly, focuses on two things in his human resources strategy: encouraging staff to be responsible for the big picture and creating incentives for attendance.
Kelly says employees are not just assigned defined roles, they are given a clear understanding of how what they do fits into the overall activities of the firm. This encourages esprit de corp, and collective responsibility.
Kelly’s other human resources emphasis is to give staff an incentive to turn up by paying bonuses for good attendance. Pay increases are also based on attendance.
Globalised companies operating in PNG tend to have standardised human resources practices which have to be adapted to the local conditions. Global paint manufacturer Akzonobel has established an ‘academy’ to provide staff with e-learning in a variety of areas, ranging from compliance to diet. Managing Director Mikael Ruben says this is the most costeffective option. He says the company measures the engagement and inclusion of staff, which helps with staff retention.
A similar approach to collective staff attitudes is taken by insurer QBE Insurance. Matthew Kearns, Managing Director of QBE in PNG, believes in sharing goals and commitments with his staff and making all employees collectively accountable for
the results. The emphasis is on empowerment.
George Bopi, former Lead Advisor to the national government’s Medium Term Development Plan, comments that when it comes to human resources management there are gaps between what is taught and what the job market requires.
‘Managers need to coach individuals for performance and for personal development,’ he says. ‘I encourage workers and employers to invest in skills that they need now and anticipate what they will need in the future.’
Bopi believes that individual workers should take the time to assess their own goals and work out what satisfies them. The next step is to seek help, coaching and guidance along the way. In the final analysis, it is up to the individual, he says. ‘At the end of the day, they own their engagement. Managers need to coach individuals for performance and for personal development. Executives need to foster a sense of community in the organisation.’
Above: Brian Bell Group employees get awards for longevity. Left: Brian Bell’s Lae headquarters.