Translation | Human Resource Management: A Key to Business Success

Mr. Sontaya Paodee

[ This article is an English translation of an article written for Thai. ]

Within a field of human resources, the name of ‘Nueng – Sontaya Paodee’ is widely known as he has been working within this particular field for over 22 years. Mr. Nueng finished his master’s degree in Human Resource Management and is currently working in human resource management and development field for Japanese companies within automotive and auto parts industry. He also takes positions in several organizations, such as a president of Management Automotive Club (MAC), a vice-president of Eastern Personnel Management Association (EPMA), and a vice-president of Personnel Management Association of Thailand (PMAT). With these experiences, Mr. Nueng has some human resource management tales and tips, which are a key to business success of Japanese firms, to share.

The First Step in a Field of Human Resource Management

Mr. Neung was a Liberal Arts graduate, majoring in History and minoring in Political Science, who had done countless of activities during his time in university. He took the first step into a work of human resource as an employee relations officer. After applying for a job in more than 30 companies and having interviews with 5 companies, Mr. Neung was impressed by an interview experience with one Japanese firm. Being treated respectfully, as a candidate, Mr. Neung was able to do his best in answering questions, expressing opinions, and sharing experiences in that interview. His interest in human resource field began to grow despite his initial dream of registering in a military service.

All activities he had participated in his university time were also factors influencing him to further his interest in this field of working, partly helping him with his work. Moreover, what he has learnt from courses and subjects he took, which emphasized logical thinking, has always been useful in his job.

Before Mr. Neung started working for a Japanese company, he had heard that the Japanese have high self-discipline. As Asian culture is commonly shared between Thailand and Japan, it should be easy for him to understand and adapt to the new environment, especially with a comprehension of Japanese culture and way of thinking he gained from studying history.

Mr. Neung worked as an employee relations officer. The company hired a fresh graduate for this position because it was believed that the younger officer was more approachable than the senior. At that time, his boss was a graduate of the highest level of Buddhist theology (Phramaha). He has learnt some concepts and thinking influenced by Buddhist teaching and principles, which correspond well with logical thinking, from his boss.

Determining a Company’s Strategy from Its Head

From his work experience, Mr. Neung has learnt that, in determining which direction of development a headquarter in Japan wants its affiliate in Thailand to have, it depends mostly on the specialization of a person the headquarter posts as a president in the company in Thailand. If the headquarter emphasizes on an engineering development, it would send a president with basic knowledge and previous experience being an engineer. If it wishes to expand its market, it would send someone with past experience in marketing. To develop the organization, the headquarter would send someone in business management field. This allows him to understand how a company plans its strategy. In its inception, a person experiencing in system planning would be posted to plan the factory’s system. After being firmly established, people in other different work fields would be sent in accordance with the headquarter’s development policy.

Japanese Companies’ Tendency towards Human Resource Development

Japanese companies tend to place an importance and an emphasis on human resource development so far. This can be seen from many organizations which appoint every department to set goals involving human resource development in the annual action plan. There is clearly a systematic planning of employees’ career path, of where and how they will grow and improve step by step. This also includes details of position successor.

Thailand is still Japan’s target country for investment even though there might be some problems regarding the speed of responses to new developments. For human resource management, this is a transitional period into a digital age. In Japan, the policy of a government under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apparently states about Abenomics (Abe – the name of the Prime Minister and Economics, referring to the economic policy endorsed by a government under Shinzo Abe) in boosting an investment. Therefore, Japanese companies’ policy transferred by a headquarter to its company in Thailand must be related. The old practice of human resource management was then improved for better connection and efficiency. To illustrate, a promotion system based on years of employment, which had long been used in Thailand, was altered. There has to be a clearer assessment system in order to properly structure the salary according to the quality of work.

In a transition, the impartiality within an organization must be sustained. Two jobs with similar level of responsibility and difficulty should be rewarded the same. Still, putting the similar level aside, an employee who produces better results deserves a higher pay. The salary should also correspond with the employment in labor market and labor demand in that particular field. By applying a reviewed salary structure, maintaining a clear communication within an organization, and strengthening a relationship between the board and the employees, the transition could be smoothly accomplished.

Mr. Neung expressed that carrying out a work of employee relation to foster trust, shared goals, and teamwork is one of the secrets to this success.

Essential Employee Relation

As employee relation management is a key to a success, we let Mr. Neung elaborate more on the topic. He told us that a communication between people in higher positions and labor must be constantly maintained. The frequency of that continuity is not monthly, quarterly, or yearly, but daily. Employees should always feel that they are entitled to a two-way communication. When they are informed of company’s concepts and policies, they will understand and are willing to support. Once the employees know the direction their company wants to go, they will utilize their own ability to help.

Every morning in most of the Japanese firms, the executives and the employees will exercise together. There is a ‘Cho-Rei’ activity, a morning meeting before work. The crucial part is the chiefs who must completely understand the policies. When these people communicate with their subordinates in the production line, they will accurately explain the policies. They are also likely to know the characteristics and personalities of each subordinate well. Thus, they will know right away if anyone does not understand the message, and will be able to clarify or answer any questions.

Another thing is designing an effective communication structure from executives to employees in a company’s monthly meeting every first Monday morning of the month. Afterwards, a two-way communication must be encouraged each day by letting employees or subordinates express their opinions and thoughts. In this way, the chiefs are able to follow up on the work and to understand if any problem occurs. The employees themselves can also follow up on what their colleagues are doing, how the work is like, and how to support one another. At the end, the duties of the chiefs are to conclude every issue and ensure the understanding from all parties. If they feel any issue could possibly become a severe problem in the future, the chiefs should talk to a middleman, which in this case is human resource department, to find the best solution. The human resource team should be able to suggest a suitable solution to better or change the situation as well as report any significant issues to the executives.

The opportunity for improvement should be offered, such as letting employees attend external seminars or trainings. An instruction can be given to those employees to come back and explain to their colleagues what they learn. Human resource department must take part in or find a chance to take part in meetings of each department so that they can understand the working process and any arising problem. The informal meetings should also be supervised to ensure a flow of communication and an accuracy of the message delivered. Still, no one should ever be pressured to feel they are wrong or unintelligent. The management of working environment and atmosphere is truly crucial. Setting desks where two employees are facing each other could enhance better and more interaction and communication.

Human Resource Development: A Goal for Thailand

Nowadays, Thailand is facing a problem of ‘Middle Income Trap’ (a condition where a country improves from having low income to having middle income, but still ‘trapped’ in the middle-income range with no tendency of improving to having high income). Minimum wage in Thailand rises every year while the availability of skilled workers is limited. Foreign corporations investing in Thailand are willing to pay for these skilled workers. However, we are struggling with the standard of our assessment system for skilled workers. We have Department of Skill Development to encourage skill training. Nevertheless, we need a clearer indicator of developed skill whether how and to what extent the skills are improved after the training. It is necessary for private organizations to upgrade their own skill development and assessment system. For a Japanese company, given an example, an original skill test used in its headquarter in Japan is adapted to create a reliable and acceptable assessment to improve the workers’ skill in accordance with its plan and policies. A skill assessment system in Japan is very clear.

Japanese firms have to learn and understand personality and culture of Thai people. From a perspective of the Japanese, it might seem that Thai labors like to do easy and simple tasks and have no concrete objective for their advancement in the future. To inspire these workers, it must be done from the beginning at a company’s orientation for new staffs, making them know and understand that, by working in this company, the opportunity for them to grow and improve is set right from the start. They should be told about the training they will undergo and their salary and compensation. They will also receive advices on financial management, savings, and taxes to make sure they will live a life of quality when they retire. This point is a weakness for lots of Thai people, so we should learn from the Japanese.

From all points mentioned, the government should place an emphasis on improving Thai labor to gain trust from investors. It should also fix or ameliorate Thai bureaucracy whose system, rules, and regulation post a limitation on skilled worker development. The private sector cannot just wait so it improves on this issue itself. There is also an incompatibility between public and private sectors in understanding the job and the demand in each industry. A coordination between the two sectors should be done to solve this problem and to lay a foundation for the development of Thailand in overcoming the ‘Middle Income Trap’ in the future.

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