Your first step in recruitment, these days, may be to hire a robot. With AI buzzing around Asia like a bitcoin, hiring a robot to action basic tasks in your SME maybe be a good alternative to hiring a young graduate. Finding talent is tough in Asia. Attracting and retaining talent are further management issues that most SMEs face. Following international best practices in recruitment is one option to build talent in your SME but a portfolio of strategies may be more effective.
AI is now part of SME recruitment strategies in Asia
Since efficient AI solutions often require large volumes of data some SMEs may be reluctant to integrate AI into their workforce but it might be easier than you think.
With an AI-enabled CRM system, for example, SMEs can automatically get more insights from their customer data and make their marketing and sales teams more efficient and satisfy their consumers. Customer service and support are other key aspects of customer retention and satisfaction. Support agents generally have to perform menial and repetitive tasks which can reduce the quality of their work, but an SME can integrate AI software into customer services cutting handling time, automating repetitive questions and improving employee and customer satisfaction. SMEs can shift elements of their marketing campaigns to AI-powered platforms which manage marketing operations across social media. AI can track your competitors across different channels; websites, social media and web applications, identifying changes in pricing and in messaging, giving you a current, automated understanding of changes in competitors’ behaviour. Instead of hiring unnecessary additional staff why don’t you use third-party tools with easy-to-use interfaces and efficient machine learning functionality? Workflow automation coupled with business intelligence will save your SMEs time, money and stress while enabling you to develop competitively in the digital economy.
SMEs still need talented people
Notwithstanding the benefits of AI for SMEs, human resources are still the life blood of every organisation. So when staffing your SME, take an iterative approach:
Step 1 – Assess your current needs, continually
Be aware that people are your greatest asset, ranging from your sales and marketing team to your trusted accountant. Awareness is critical for all aspects of your SME business and recruitment is a top priority. AI now means that many low level jobs can be replaced by robots saving you time, money and stress. “We need new workers as machines follow instructions better than humans and we should be educating people to work with machines, not to compete against them. We need to figure out what problems there are and how to resolve them by rethinking the balance between minds and machines,” says Andrew MacAfee, Co-Director of MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy. Ask yourself, ‘What does your SME need at the moment to perform?’ then go out and find your solutions.
Step 2 – Find nodes to source talent from
Finding a needle in a haystack is a waste of your valuable time, so save yourself time, and money, by looking places where good people are. A good head hunter may be a starting point, they may also be hard to find. Good people know other good people so get referrals from your contacts who’s judgment you trust and respect. This is arguably the best way to source real talent for your SME business. It will also save you time doing background checks, verifying track records and getting letters of reference.
Step 3 – Attract, Retain and Develop Talent
When you find good people, figure out their motivation to leave their current role and join your SME. This is arguably the most important aspect of the recruitment process. A seemingly good person may have a problematic motivation to leave their current role, something hidden such as family or personal relationship difficulties. Recruiting such a person will be easy but retaining them may be more challenging as circumstances change after entering your SME. Choosing the right people for the right roles in your SME business may make the difference between accelerating quickly, treading water or even going bust. Developing good hires in to leaders who will add value to your SME business is another crucial step in Talent Management and recruiting new employees should also involve knowing the aspirations of your new recruit and matching them to your SME’s strategic goals.
Step 4 – Use a variety of strategies for recruitment
Research has shown that there is no single model for successful leadership in Asia. The same can be said for recruitment. Try a variety of strategies for recruitment, then narrow them down to a few or even one that works continuously and reliably. If the market changes and/or your needs change, say due to technology or regulation, then change your recruitment strategy to align with this. This may include diversity recruitment to build a broader team of cultures and genders or technology recruitment to build up staff with IT expertise as your SME goes digital. For an SME with pan-Asia offices, different recruitment strategies will be required for different countries and this can be aligned with job rotation and talent management across your SME’s regional offices.
Step 5 – Continuously revise your recruitment process
Starting any SME is an iterative process. Your recruitment process should mirror this. Market downturns may cause your SME business to face new challenges, sometimes unforeseen, and contingency is an essential part of your HR strategy. Many staff in Asia come and go in a short period of time. Loyalty can be seen in the workplace but it may be neither suitable nor sustainable with employees gaining to much power within your SME or leaving at an inappropriate time in your SME business cycle in order to further their own career. Building pipelines for continuous recruitment is one way to ensure that your SME is never understaffed, especially in critical roles and at critical times in a business cycle.
With AI booming the new generation of SMEs is likely to see a mix of people and machines in the workplace. So, for your SME to thrive in the age of machines, don’t compete against them, work with them.