COMPANIES need effective talent attraction and retention to stay ahead of the competition at a time of rising business costs - according to a panel discussion at the launch of the 2013 Enterprise 50 (E50) Awards yesterday at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

In line with this year's theme of creating value to stay ahead, the panellists shared their experience of developing and managing talent.

Said Roy Tan, general manager of chemical distributor and toll blender firm Aik Moh Paints and Chemicals: "The worry is that if the people leave your company at the end of each working day, you just pray hard that they come back the next morning."

Mr Tan emphasised the stability that older staff brought to a company.

"They may be resistant to change but keep them happy and engaged as they have a lot to teach and guide the younger generation," he said.

Echoing Mr Tan, Chiu Wu Hong, a tax partner at KPMG Singapore, said value can be added in recruiting and retaining people because by keeping those who have chalked up experience, costs could be minimised and companies need not pass on extra costs to the customer.

Grace Shen, sales and marketing director of furniture provider Comfort Design, talked about her company's easy-going work atmosphere.

"What we have is not really a superior and subordinate relationship, but more of a friendship where we talk about personal things, shopping, children. We talk about a lot of things."

As a result, her workers feel comfortable about sharing their thoughts on how to improve the 34-year-old business.

"They have a lot of good points that I've never thought before," Ms Shen said.

For Alex Lee, managing director of Lian Soon Construction, training staff is of great importance in the labour-intensive construction industry.

"You have to send them for training. Train for the better to improve work methods, to improve productivity. This can be painstaking, but we can't stop. We have to educate them," Mr Lee said.

The E50 awards, jointly organised by KPMG and The Business Times, is in its 19th year.

Sponsored by OCBC Bank, the award recognises the 50 most enterprising, privately held local companies here.

The awards are given out based on both quantitative and qualitative factors, such as financial figures and management strategies.

This year, a greater focus will be placed on a company's efforts to improve productivity and identify opportunities for innovation.

Nominations close on July 1, and the winners will be announced on Nov 28 at an awards gala dinner.