Hu­man re­sources

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.

Business Advantage Papua New Guinea - - Contents -

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.’

Pic­tures: Brian Bell Group

Above: Brian Bell Group em­ploy­ees get awards for longevity. Left: Brian Bell’s Lae head­quar­ters.

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