AMID an avalanche of human resource initiatives aimed at spurring small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to put human capability development at the centre of their business model, the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME) and the Singapore Human Resources Institute (SHRI) have launched an SME HR Award which they say has been specifically tailored to the SME ecosystem.

"What we wish to highlight is that the SME HR ecosystem is very different from large organisations as well as the public sector," said Erman Tan, president of SHRI.

"We have had the experience where we have the HR award and while we ask SMEs to come on board, we realise that when you put the same set of criteria for a large corporation and public sector (on the SME) you put the SME in a very awkward position. So we need a different set of criteria as well as a more practical approach to assess them."

The award, which the committee hopes will attract between 20 and 30 awardees when it is conducted in the first quarter of next year, will judge SMEs based on 10 categories including productivity, job retention, internship programmes, and workplace safety and health.

"We look at things like human capital development rather than the whole HR framework," said Francis Koh, award co-chairman and ASME council member. "We want to encourage SMEs to develop rather than already have the HR framework. We look at things like productivity which is very dear to all the towkays because that translates to very practical bottom line and top line."

Recognising local SMEs that have adopted and implemented effective HR practices will not only enable them to attract and retain employees in today's tight labour market, it also supports the ultimate goal of having small enterprises learn from the best practices featured.

The award is supported by e2i, Spring Singapore, Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices, and ST Jobs.

The launch of this award comes on the back of Spring Singapore's launch of "The Human Capital Movement" on Thursday. The launch on Thursday also unveiled a diagnostic tool which allows SMEs to gauge their HR maturity, and a panel of volunteer HR directors to share best practices.

SMEs have also been able to tap professional HR advisory and management systems through Spring's HR shared services initiative from May. To date, 30 shared service providers have come on board.