THE recruitment sector has often been billed as an economic bellwether, and for one Phnom Penh-based employment agency, business is booming as Cambodia’s recovery gathers pace.
Launched in January 2007 as a company offering office services, support and recruitment for inbound investors and start-ups, Top Recruitment has grown to become one of the country’s best-known employment agencies.
The Phnom Penh-based firm fills hundred of roles for international companies and foreigner-owned and managed firms each year. It also outsources its own pool of staff to local companies.
After experiencing “phenomenal” growth in 2010 as firms started recruiting in earnest as the threat of the financial crisis diminished, managing director Kevin Britten believes that Cambodia’s development is gathering pace.
“Cambodia is so well positioned to explode internationally because of its reputation, its work ethic, its dynamism and at the end of the day, its people,” he said.
“The people are open to new ideas, new methods and new standards. Everyone wants tomorrow to be better than yesterday. That drives everybody to want to improve themselves, and they want to do it in English.”
Citing language skills as the most important attribute for new graduates, followed by familiarity with the commercial world, he said that vocational experience is essential for would-be employees.
“Ideally we want experience in a structured operation with clear lines of reporting and clear responsibilities. It is important because of a lack of vocational input in the education system.
“We talk to people all the time about vocational schemes, and more are interested in setting them up. It has to happen.”
Nurturing domestic talent is also key to international businesses operating in Cambodia, he said.
“You can’t rely on foreigners if you want your business to be a success, you have to have Cambodians in key roles,” said Britten.
“We always ask clients would you like to see foreign profiles for this role, and the normal answer is: ‘Only after I have seen there is no candidate from Cambodia who can do this job’.”
But as Cambodia develops, the needs of employers are changing.
Chinese influence is increasing the need for Mandarin speakers in the Kingdom, he said, a gap which has yet to be filled. Meanwhile, 2010 saw a boom in the need for candidates to fill roles in advertising, media and marketing.
“It’s maturity in the market. Just like they need a recruitment company you need an advertising specialist,” said Britten.
“All the international agencies want that and smart Cambodians realise Khmer input in this is so important – they’ve added media and advertising onto other businesses that they were doing.”
Looking ahead, Top Recruitment – which sources candidates from a mixture of advertisements, applicants and referrals and draws a fee for its services based on a successful candidate’s wage – plans to continue to answer the demands of the nation’s employers.
For its pool of outsourced staff, that means offering a flexible labour-law compliant workforce to the manufacturing, logistics, sales and business development sectors.
“Life’s too short to look at what your competitors are doing. Offering an honest service for an honest fee, every service industry has to be like that,” said Britten.