“A new breath to Human Resources practices in the perspective of Turkey-EU relations: Kaizen”

A new breath to Human Resources practices in the perspective of Turkey-EU relations: Kaizen

When it comes to Turkey-EU relations, regional competition, social policy and employment are the first concepts that come to mind. For this reason, we talked with WYG Turkey Framework Contracts and Human Resources Coordinator Mert Orhan Perk and WYG Turkey Framework Contracts and Human Resources Specialist Aylin Alpagot, who have prepared project proposals for various beneficiary institutions and employed local and international experts for a long time.

With Turkey’s candidacy status at the 1999 Helsinki European Council Summit, relations with the EU entered a new era. With the adoption of the Negotiating Framework Document at the Intergovernmental Conference held in Luxembourg on 3 October 2005, the accession negotiations officially started. While the process of harmonization with the political criteria continued on one hand, the EU has restructured its financial cooperation mechanisms for Turkey within the scope of harmonization with the EU acquis and strengthening the Civil Society Dialogue on the other hand, and Turkey has started to fully benefit from the pre-accession funds. Besides, 13 chapters were opened to negotiations at the point reached in the screening process that started with the accession negotiations, and the chapter “Social Policy and Employment”, which is one of the chapters that will directly contribute to Turkey’s human resources planning, has become one of the chapters that could be possibly opened.

In the period when the Union has transformed into a more diverse and flexible structure with the waves of enlargement since 2004, Turkey’s participation in the community will accelerate this diversity and flexibility. In addition to the international policy, geographical location and security dimensions regarding Turkey’s possible EU membership discussed in political reports, the dimensions that rapidly developing and growing Turkey, as discussed in economic reports, will bring dynamism to the rapidly aging and slow growing EU labor market and economy, have gained importance. Therefore, it is vital for Turkey to support education, life-long learning, employment and entrepreneurship measures within the scope of regional competitiveness and development of human resources, development of enterprises, as well as integration with international markets, improvement of the business environment and especially supporting the transition to a knowledge-based economy by increasing technology – innovation capacity. .

In the light of all these harmonization efforts and national targets, an important pillar of the regulations regarding the labor market in Turkey is the improvement the business environments and technological/physical infrastructures of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) that have low productivity and competitiveness levels due to the inadequacy of technology – innovation capacities and Human Resources (HR) practices due to lack of resources and/or lack of knowledge, though they constitute 99.8% of the country’s economy. When the findings revealed in the sectoral SWOT analyzes carried out within the scope of Turkey’s accession to the EU are examined, it is reported that the reasons for the low competitiveness of enterprises include the insufficient levels of institutionalization and physical/technological infrastructure capacities, especially in SMEs.

Among the objectives addressed within the Regional Competitiveness Operational Program (RCOP), the main priority is “increasing the competitiveness of SMEs through the modernization of management and production processes with international best practices and standards”. One of the most important intervention areas in terms of insufficient capacity levels, which we mentioned above about enterprises, especially SMEs, is the issue of institutionalization of existing enterprises in order to manage change.

Considering the local, national, regional and global economic developments, change and restructuring have become the subject of all businesses from large-scale enterprises to small and medium-sized enterprises, from profit based enterprises to non-profit enterprises. Therefore, it has emerged that businesses in our country should accelerate their restructuring activities in their organizational structures, business processes, job descriptions and physical/technological infrastructures. In this context, the transition to the information society, which requires continual renewal and improvement of business processes for businesses in our country, has become almost a necessity.

In this context, one of the most valuable sources of change is HR. Employees, who were previously seen as individuals who only do certain jobs, have begun to be evaluated as individuals who analyze problems and offer solutions to problems in today’s economic conditions. Therefore, HR emerges as a management style that values human power, in which individual development gains importance in a climate where productivity comes to the fore rather than industrial relations.

In the general perspective, when HR management practices, which means all methods and techniques that include the most appropriate, most efficient use and development of manpower for business purposes, are examined, we encounter different approaches in the “west” and “east”. Both the differences between the social structures and the changes in the economic relations mentioned above paved the way for the differences in approach. When the subject is considered in the context of Turkey-EU relations, businesses operating in Europe have sometimes developed strategies to reach the “Sustainable Excellence” line and to keep their competition and productivity levels at the maximum level, together with the advantages they have gained in the market within the scope of EU membership, and sometimes, in parallel with the EU-based RCOP approach mentioned above, they have adapted different strategies to their management and production processes in the context of “modernization of management and production processes with international best practices and standards”. European businesses that have succeeded in adapting best practices and standards to their processes have become institutional structures that support continuous improvement approaches by developing a creative and flexible organizational culture, mission and vision.

In the light of the basic priorities we have mentioned within the scope of Turkey-EU relations, one of the preferred quality management systems at a time when businesses need to adopt innovation strategies that will bring very high returns is the “eastern” approach, which we call the “Kaizen” philosophy. The Kaizen philosophy approach, which has made it a principle to focus on continuous improvement, quality, people and continuous development, takes its name from the Japanese expressions “kai” (change) and “zen”, meaning better. This approach, which preserves and improves standards instead of being contented with the current situation, aims to maximize the participation of employees in management, to analyze and to offer solutions, also contributes to the democratization of business life. The philosophy of “Kaizen”, which emerged as a result of Total Quality Management studies but has a wider scope, focuses on “human”. This philosophy, which adopts the approach that the development of a business cannot be achieved without ensuring the development and quality of the individual, enables the personal development of business employees through lifelong learning, in parallel with the EU-based HRD Operational Program (IKGOP) approach, and enables them to gain new skills and perspectives. In this context, while businesses aim for a rapid development process with many small steps in a certain period of time, they aim to achieve sustainable excellence by providing continuous improvement in terms of achieving “zero defect production” with effective HR practices under the Kaizen approach.

In the perspective of Turkey-EU relations, although the Kaizen philosophy is insufficient in the context of human resources management, in addition to the quality management approach that started to spread in our country in the 1980s, it emerges as an approach for the enterprises in our country to increase their competitiveness and productivity levels and to trigger the change necessary for reaching  a level that can compete with their European counterparts. This approach will enable businesses with low competitiveness and productivity in our country to perceive the logic of regional competitiveness within the Union within the scope of the EU harmonization process and to catch up with new HR practices that will give the dynamism of internalizing this perception.

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