The Snitch

Just a little of everything HR

Archive for November 2008

Corporate drones

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Creative media agencies just love, love, love to use office workers in their ads, with the usual depiction of the “corporate drone” stereotype. Y’know, the pencil-pushing employee dressed in a boring shirt and tie and who just can’t wait for the weekend to come around.

One such video? National Arts Council’s new ad for its youth arts initiative, Noise Singapore.

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Written by Human Resources

November 28, 2008 at 3:29 pm

One question, three bosses

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“How has your people strategy changed in light of the economic downturn?”

Three business leaders tell us how their employees will be affected by the economic downturn at the recent Enterprise 50 Awards ceremony last Friday.

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Written by Human Resources

November 26, 2008 at 11:24 am

Posted in Video

How to let your CEO leave like Bill Gates

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In a corporate world, having good leadership succession planning is what makes companies outlive their competitors. According to this BusinessWeek article, a bad choice on CEO succession can lead to some pretty devastating consequences such as “erosion of stock price, defections of key talent, strategic missteps”.

Findings from the new “Succession Planning Highlight Report” by Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) also showed nearly nine in 10 business professionals say succession planning will be an extremely important or important issue in the future. Three quarters of respondents ranked it among the top five challenges facing them in 2008 and in the future. Yet they are not spending enough time on this issue.

Jay Jamrog, i4cp’s vice president of research, said it’s important to have the discussion, even informally at first. Long term talks on setting a formal succession plan can follow after.

Another flaw in the current CEO succession planning by most companies is that they do not carry out sufficient research and objective evaluation against criteria for their candidates. Without a more rigorous research diligence on the candidates’ leadership and strategic capabilities before making last CEO succession call, the choice may be doomed to fail, like Palin.

Utilising the role of chief operating officer (COO) as a final testing ground for the CEO-in-waiting can also help ease the transition period and to ensure the top candidate really is the right choice for CEOship. The BusinessWeek article suggests “assigning specific organisation-wide initiatives to the COO” and “transitioning responsibilities between the CEO and COO in 6-month increments”. This would allow shareholders to see how the top candidate operates in an increased capacity for the company.

Furthermore, if the candidate disappoints, it is an escape clause for the board to pull the plug.

Finally, when the CEO is ready to step down, reassured that his heir apparent is ready to take the business to its next profitable level, he can spend his last day in office, just like how former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates did.

Watch on to find out.


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Written by Lee Xieli

November 25, 2008 at 4:08 pm

Posted in Leadership, Video

Detroit’s problem of employee healthcare

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Much talk is going on right now on whether the US government should bail out their local automobile industry (ie. Chrysler, General Motors and Ford). Part of the reason why these manufacturers are unable to compete with the likes of Honda and Toyota is because of the high pension wages and employee healthcare insurance which the Big Three companies have to foot. This is unlike in countries in Japan, where employee insurance is covered by the government.

According to a Washington Post article:

The Big Three pay much higher wages than production workers are paid in the nonunion auto firms and in the general economy. And the health-care costs of current workers and retired union members are an enormous additional burden.

Of course the whole blame cannot be placed on the cost of employee salaries and healthcare alone. The failure to produce anything other than SUVs and poor senior management is also reason for why Detroit is failing.

But it brings up a  pertinent question. In a globalised economy where bottom-line costs help determine how competitive a company is, who should bear healthcare costs? The government, employers or employees themselves?

I was sitting beside the very charismatic CEO of Opus IT Services, Charles Fan, earlier at the Enterprise 50 awards lunch today when this subject came up. From his perspective running a local SME, healthcare costs is definitely an issue which he deals with, and one which needs to be kept under control.

But even within MNCs, there is a trend is of moving away from an all-comprehensive healthcare package. More companies are starting to ask employees to co-pay part of the insurance or/and medication.

It is inevitable that healthcare cost is Asia will keep on rising due to longer lifespans and a shift to chronic lifestyle diseases. So what are some strategies companies are doing to keep costs low? Who should bear the onus of covering employee healthcare?

What are your thoughts?

Written by Human Resources

November 21, 2008 at 4:01 pm

Posted in Healthcare

“In My Day, Things Were Different!”

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With the financial crisis weighing on everyone’s mind, tensions may arise in the workplace, especially with a multigenerational workforce that is possibly already having the occasional clash due to generational differences. Human Resources magazine speaks to David Goldwich, a trainer specialising in managing workplace conflicts, on how to resolve employee disagreement or work tensions.

Watch on to find out.

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Written by Lee Xieli

November 21, 2008 at 3:57 pm

Posted in Video

Latest issue of Human Resources magazine

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Written by Human Resources

November 20, 2008 at 3:47 pm

All about the money

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It’s the time of the year when HR practitioners are planning their budgets for 2009.

Just yesterday, I had a quick chat with Samir Bedi, compensation & benefits leader for Hewitt Singapore to talk about what salary trends will likely come into play in 2009.

How big of a salary increase are employees likely to receive? How big of a Christmas bonus should you expect to get?

Watch on to find out.

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Written by Human Resources

November 18, 2008 at 9:48 am

Malaysia, truly Asia

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I’m blogging from Kuala Lumpur (where my company has set up a third office to launch Advertising + Marketing magazine) on a two-day conference with the rest of editors who work on my sister publications. It’s been really productive conference so far. There’s been great food, great company, and sharing the collective wisdom of how we as editors can make our work and magazines even better.

With the economic downturn upon us, one of the budget cuts many companies will look at is training budgets. Instead of a senior management retreat in Koh Samui or another regional resort, some may look to move it to a cheaper locale. Instead of holding it at a glitzy hotel, some may choose to have it in their office instead.

Which makes me wonder – what makes training sessions effective?

While thinking about this topic, I was reminded of a column we once ran by Michael Podolinsky where he gave his thoughts about the mistakes companies make when in creating L&D sessions.

Other times trainings are held on-site and leaders go back to their desks at breaks and lunch and rarely return on time. When they reappear, their minds are glued to the problems sitting on their desks – not their training.

While I did check my emails every so often, personally I feel that being away from the usual rut that is the North Bridge Road office (our quaint little shophouse) has helped invigorate and help clear thoughts and processes, and come up with ideas on how Human Resources magazine can be an even better brand.

So what do you think makes training sessions effective?

Written by Human Resources

November 14, 2008 at 10:40 am

Posted in Training

Taxi driver musings

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I was in the taxi on the way to work today when a story about holiday recruitment for teenagers (who usually would find jobs such as sales) was broadcast over the Chinese news radio station.

The taxi driver then scoffed, saying something to the effect of, “Companies are retrenching now, why do these kids even want a part-time job?” The taxi driver went on to talk about how companies would rather retrench a person holding a $2,000 – $3,000 salary for a fresh grad who was cheaper.

I won’t deny that such incidents do not happen. But I won’t agree that these incidents are representative of the labour market in general. Depending on the skill sets, attributes and experience needed, for a company to sack a person of more experience for a fresh grad shows a lack of long-term planning.

As much as I think taxi drivers (especially the chatty ones) are the ones with the pulse on what is happening in society, I always happen to think that a certain subset of Singaporeans are a pretty cynical bunch in general. When the economy is in good times and reports of higher wages are all over the news – people ask: “Who is this happening to and why aren’t I getting a raise?”

Especially now in the bad times, there are questions being raised at local politicians of how foreigners are taking away jobs held by Singaporeans. Is this true? With the rising foreign population, it can be. But in our cynicism, we also forget to think about how the growing population is fuelling a demand for new goods and services, or how some enterprising foreigners (like my boss, for instance) actually help create new jobs and businesses here.

When we don’t have a big picture, sometimes we take our perceptions to be the ultimate truth.

And just for fun, some of the other topics my taxi driver talked about included:

  • Married women who don’t want to give birth
  • How I should take the Nicholl Highway in the future
  • Murder rates in Singapore
  • Taiwanese politicians
  • How narrow expressway ramps contribute to congestion
  • The dearth of topics on the Chinese news station

Written by Human Resources

November 12, 2008 at 9:19 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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“Could the lay-offs have been avoided?”

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With the news of job cuts rampant in the dailies recently, it’s no wonder everyone is feeling the jitters.

Conrad Raj from Today posed an interesting question regarding DBS’s decision to lay off 900 people, or 6% of its total workforce by end of November. “Could the lay-offs have been avoided? What other measures did the group look at before deciding to take the present drastic action?”

Citing UOB’s response to use job cuts as its last resort in surviving the global economic downturn, Raj questioned if DBS Bank’s management could have re-deployed their cost-cutting measures in other ways to protect jobs.

While laying people off is the easiest way for most banks to achieve cost reductions, according to an article by Times UK, it can disrupt the staff morale, which in turn affects the quality of service provided to the customers.

Instead, to keep companies afloat during the economic turmoil without retrenching anyone, the article suggests introducing pay cuts for both senior and junior employees.

However, it warns that pay cuts should be considered only when every bit of waste has been trimmed out of the organisation and the only remaining option is layoffs. “It has to be top down. It should not be imposed on other people while the top guys still take home the same pay.”

Similarly, companies can start using flexible work options as cost saving and retention measures before considering job cuts, as urged by the chairperson for Employer Alliance, Claire Chiang in a recent Human Resources online article. “Maybe you could cut hours, rather than cut people. You are staggering the time so that they can take the leave and yet come back if they wish to. Overall, you keep the talent.”

From the employee’s perspective, Chiang said, “They may take a little less [pay] but it is better than no job.”

With our Finance Minister, Tharman Shanmugaratnam quoted as saying the economic downturn is unlikely to be short term, perhaps it is time for multinationals to rethink their human capital strategy before swinging the axe.

Written by Lee Xieli

November 11, 2008 at 3:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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