The Snitch

Just a little of everything HR

Archive for December 2008

Performance = perks

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We’ve been hearing all the terrible news in lieu with the economic downturn but thankfully, a survey by Hay Group has unearthed statistics that should inject a fresh dose of hope that things are really not all bad.

More than 2/3 of Singapore companies surveyed have decided not to cut back on 2008’s bonuses, incentives and profit sharing. Sixty-five percent of respondents are also on track in meeting their 2008 targets and best of all, they are paying their high performers 60% more in base salary increases than to their other employees.

This leads to the question – what about the bulk of us who aren’t top performers?

The survey determined that primary concerns of organisations include retaining and recruiting top talent and employees with critical skills. This is simply because top performers make a much bigger impact to the companies as a whole, in comparison to the average employee. Companies cannot afford and do not want to lose top performers in any way, be it physically (get poached, resigned) or mentally (becoming demotivated and disengaged).

Hence, while the number of companies which has decided to freeze or decrease salaries has actually doubled from 41% to 83.4% in the past eight months, amount payable for bonuses will remain untouched for now.

According to Christian Vo Phuoc, country manager for Hay Group’s Reward Information Services Singapore, companies are generally wary about cutting incentives and bonuses as it is a reward to employees for their past year’s performance. As bonuses are already accrued for during the year, Vo Phuoc says, “It is more financially prudent for companies to pay out bonuses than salary increases which will immediately impact next year’s bottom-line.”

Most importantly, employees who have consistently performed well should not fret as more companies in Singapore are increasing their investments to retain their high-performing employees. The year 2009 will be all about performance management, as companies begin to clearly define the line between top and poor performers.

Written by nasirah

December 22, 2008 at 5:52 pm

Don’t get caught at the photocopier machine!

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Holiday office parties by nature, carry much more pressure than normal parties. For some, it can even be more stressful than a regular work-day! This December, be careful to  ensure that you adopt an “office party” personality, rather than let that party vixen in you out loose for your boss to see.

Still, I wonder what’s so bad about loosening up, just a teeny bit on that one measly night in front of your colleagues. You see, I’ve been a student all my life and never once have I been to an office party but yet I’ve read and heard scores of  work-party related stories gone horribly wrong – to the point of even affecting one’s career advancement!

Surely, somebody should not be judged based on that single time he accidentally smacked his boss’s ass (while under the influence of liquor, free flow, provided by the boss himself)! Apparently, an impeccable track record that take months and years for you to build up in the office, can be easily tarnished at office parties itself. How ironic.

Anyway, here’s a story to tickle you about how Jessica (click here to read in full) tried to fit in and made a complete fool out of herself at an office party.

A few jobs ago, I was trying to ingratiate myself with my newish coworkers during the holiday fete. I didn’t really fit in and I didn’t know anyone particularly well, so I kept trying to join conversations that were already going on. I entered one such convo in media res, and the subject was Wicca. Boorishly, I heard “Wicca” mentioned and blurted out, “Oh my God, do you know any Wiccans? I thought they were all 13-year-old goths.” To which one of the conversants responded: “Yes, my wife is Wiccan.” Rut roh! I violated one of the major rules of polite workplace relations, which is avoid topics like religion and politics.

I suppose that further reiterated the fact that advice from the more experienced should be heeded as far as possible. Here’s what I’ve gathered so far; exercise complete self  control and behave with decoram at ALL times, especially when attending ANY work-related function. An office party is really simply a test, in the sneakiest of disguise. Everybody will be judging you, from the moment you step in and “party”.

Written by nasirah

December 19, 2008 at 9:30 am

Will CPF rates get cut again?

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As Singapore heads into an economic downturn,  will the government slash CPF wages in a bid to keep people in their jobs?

According to a Reuters report:

Singapore will convene its National Wages Council (NWC) in early January, four months ahead of schedule, in what economists say may be a prelude to a cut in employers’ pension contributions.

‘Given the weakening economic situation, there is a need for the NWC to take stock of the new situation and review its May guidelines to help companies and workers manage the downturn,’ the Manpower Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

The ministry did not immediately respond to questions about the detailed agenda for the NWC’s January meeting.

‘At the last crisis, they cut the CPF (Central Provident Fund) and I won’t be surprised if they did it again,’ said Joseph Tan, Singapore-based Asia chief economist for private banking at Credit Suisse.

‘Between cutting wages and letting people go, the government’s preference is to keep jobs.’

The government last cut employers’ contributions to the CPF, the retirement fund for Singaporean workers, by 3 percentage points to 13 percent in October 2003 to help firms cope with the effects of the SARS outbreak.

Do you think CPF wages will be slashed from the current 14.5% to 13% (of the SARS period)? Will this help keep jobs or do we need another alternative?

Written by Human Resources

December 18, 2008 at 8:54 pm

Baffled by incessant bufflers

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What is the purpose of a business jargon? Does it supposedly separate the commoners from those professionals in the business world? I should think not since “buffling” (excessive usage of business jargons) is not that uncommon. Besides, it’s quite safe to say that everybody has heard of the phrase “thinking outside the box”. It’s no wonder that this tired phrase happens to be the most despised business jargon!

Nearly half of the Britons surveyed by YouGov believe that employees use such terms solely for the purpose of impressing their superiors. Honestly, I doubt such phrases are sufficient to make an impact on your boss. After all, most of the phrases does not say anything important or useful.

What’s more, business speak appears to have creeped into life outside the office, with 46% of the working respondents admitting that they buffle even at home and with their friends. It has apparently become quite difficult for workers to stop using the clichéd phrases at home, since they are so addicted to saying “blue-sky thinking” and “singing from the same hymn sheet”.

If you’re interested to know, here are the top 20 “buffling” business terms in the UK:

1) Thinking outside of the box

2) Touch base

3) At the end of the day

4) Going forward

5) All of it

6) Blue sky thinking

7) Out of the box

8 )  Credit crunch

9) Heads up

10) Singing from the same hymn sheet

11) Pro-active

12) Downsizing

13) Ducks in a row

14) Brainstorming

15) Thought shower

16) 360º thinking

17) Flag it up

18) Pushing the envelope

19) At this moment in time

20) In the loop

As much as I’d like to believe that I’m immune to business jargons, since I’m hardly part of the corporate business world, I must admit that I have included at least five of the pointless phrases in my own conversations. This just goes to show that the “buffling flu” has evidently caught on.

Written by nasirah

December 17, 2008 at 12:32 pm

C&B stories dominate in 2008

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Money makes the world go round, so they all say. We just can’t do without it – or why else would we be working? And 2008 has been a rollercoaster year. While the year started off as a bullish economy, we’ve  seen soaring oil prices and spiraling inflation rates in the middle of the year and we’re now headed on a collision course for a recession.

Hence, it’s no surprise that according to our website analytics, C&B stories have been dominating our list of most-read newsletter stories for 2008. (We only started collecting website data in mid-April after our server migration though.)

Stories of shrinking pay cheques, pay increases and retaining employees were hot stories in the beginning of the year. But as the year wore on, stories about treating retrenched employees and retenchments came into prominence as well.

What was a surprise was the number of clicks Bizarre HR garnered – enough to make it the second-most read story for this year. Really?

So tell us, what stories did you like? Do you agree with this list? What would you like to read about in 2009?

Top story of 2008: Do employees have unrealistic wage demands?

Singapore – At least 45% of executives say they expect an increase of 20% or more when changing jobs, according to a survey by Robert Walters.

2) Bizarre HR: Staff use horse power to get to work

US – Half the staff at a dentist’s office in Arlington, Washington have ditched their cars for a more traditional form of transportation – the horse.

3) Is this a good time to increase wages? HR consultants say no

Singapore – Business consultants says companies looking to increase wages to help employees cope with rising food and fuel prices should heed Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam’s warning that this would cause a further spike in inflation.

4) Want a bigger pay increase for 2009? Forget about it!

Singapore – Forget about asking for a higher salary increment this year, as HR practitioners’ salary increments are likely to range from 0 to 10%. Furthermore, if you are a talent management or a resourcing specialist, you may just find yourself out of a job too.

5) Promote me or I’ll leave

Asia – Employees are demanding for career advancement opportunities and appreciation from their bosses – or they would pack up and leave.

6) Pay cheques shrink after inflation

Singapore – Singaporean workers will not be getting large pay increments in the next 12 months, despite the record high 6.6% inflation rate.

7) The right way to fire someone

Singapore – If a line manager has never fired anyone before, things could get nasty during the termination meeting. This may lead to litigation against the company and loss of employee morale.

8. 10 killer strategies to protect your turf

(Okay, this isn’t a HR Bulletin story per se because it was a cover story in our revamp issue, but I’m still including it because HR practitioners should read it!)

It will be a tough year to hang on to talent as everyone’s on the hunt for better people, so how can you keep the poachers from your door? Here’s 10 real world strategies to protect your headcount from the wolves.

9) The Snitch: It’s all about the money

What will be the size of your year-end bonus, and will you get a raise soon? In our first ever video interview, C&B leader of Hewitt Singapore, Samir Bedi, talks about what salary trends are likely to play out in the coming year.

10) Cutting salaries is no go for some

Singapore – While companies are scaling back on employee wages, one Singaporean company is bucking the trend by increasing year-end and variable bonuses for their employees.

11) Financial sector goes into retrenchment overdrive

Singapore – As the credit crunch really begins to bite for banks and financial firms around the world, more layoffs are to be expected, starting with Citigroup’s plans to cut 52,000 jobs worldwide.

12) Asian employees bogged down by bosses

Singapore – Around one third of Asian employees are frustrated in their jobs despite being highly engaged at work and it all boils down to the lack of empowerment and professional development.

13) Time to give up on print recruitment ads?

Singapore – Despite the rise of companies investing more in online recruitment ads to entice the internet-savvy jobseekers, print recruitment ads are here to stay. Or maybe not.

14) Unhappy employees torn between quitting and staying on

Singapore – More and more employees who are highly dissatisfied at work are choosing to either switch jobs or taking a sabbatical to recharge themselves. But is that a wise thing to do?

15) Christmas bonus might not be so rosy

Singapore – This year’s salary increase has been projected to be at 3.8%, a figure 30% lower than the earlier projection of a 5.4% increase.

Written by Human Resources

December 16, 2008 at 4:02 pm

Four cheap ways to keep employees happy

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If the slowing economy has affected the company’s budget for work-life activities and HR has to come up with an innovative employee engagement programme without breaking the bank, look no further. The Herman Group’s president and strategic business futurist Joyce Gioia shares with Human Resources four low cost morale-boosting ideas to keep the multigenerational workforce happy at work.

Watch on to find out.

Have trouble loading the video?  Why not check your company or computer’s firewall settings to make sure that Youtube videos can be streamed on your computer.

Written by Lee Xieli

December 16, 2008 at 1:03 am

Change your job searching habits

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1) There is no such thing as a perfect resume.

Searching for a job is really not all about the resume. Candidates often put too much time and emphasis on resumes that it comes to a point whereby they tend to neglect other job securing strategies. Candidates have to understand that the resume is a tool to help you secure an interview but the overall decisive factor does not lie in the resume alone.

According to Cleve Rowley, president of his own company which specializes in assisting companies improve performance through better screening and  selection of potential candidates, “It is more advisable for one to start networking. Relationships are after all the core of society. A relationship of mutual trust and commitment, as well as genuine interest for the other is highly beneficial in the long run.”

2) Be creative about personal growth

Research have shown that the natural process of aging causes the loss of creativity. This causes our lives to become less spontaneous and more inflexible. A job search requires one to have both mental and emotional energy as well as clarity. Making time to do something creative for yourself, like engage in a refreshing new project or taking up a new class will help energize your job search.

While most seem to think that appearance is secondary, engaging in a fresh, creative activity will help enhance one’s overall appearance. Somewhere along the hiring process, appearance may become the deciding factor and it may even have more to do about the way you look, rather than the way you dress.

3) Look like a professional

Never think that your appearance doesn’t count. Model after successful people and dress the way they conventionally do. This will give you a better idea of what determines professional dressing. Observe and learn how successful people dress and carry themselves as you meet and talk with them.

Last but not the least… while conducting your job search, also consider other options like starting your own business ventures. You have, after all gained experience over the years running your own unit within the company. Why not stretch your boundaries and try tailor your business according to what the market trends are, tapping in on your strongest talent.

This will especially come in handy when you have a unique speciality, resulting in greater demand for your speciality.

Adapted from: It’s Not About the Resume: Creative, Successful Job Search Tips by Cleve Rowley.

Written by nasirah

December 15, 2008 at 3:06 pm

Posted in Personal career

Tough times, Jerry Yang writes

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Yahoo! laid of 1,500 employees from its US office yesterday and what how does their CEO Jerry Yang respond to it?

He blogs about it.

In his blog posting, Yang posts an email which he sent to his employees, saying:

this is a tough time for all of us and i wanted to take a moment to reach out to you.

saying goodbye to colleagues and friends is never easy. they all are dedicated members of our yahoo! family, who worked beside us and shared our passion.

but as you all know, we must take actions to better perform in today’s turbulent global economy. while we’ve found efficiencies in many parts of our business, laying off employees is unfortunately unavoidable. our difficult decision to let colleagues go reflects the changes we’re having to make to better align costs with revenues – something businesses in virtually every sector are also having to do.

Question – Can an email like this help calm the nerves of employees? Does the email even sound sincere in the first place?

And if you’re so interested, ValleyWag published some Yahoo! documents on how the company trained its managers to inform their workers that they’ve been canned. The document has  sentences such as “Don’t attempt to answer the ‘why me?’ question” and “Don’t make it about you and your feelings”.

Written by Human Resources

December 11, 2008 at 3:01 pm

Posted in Retrenchments

Internet usage at work unnecessary? Think again

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Apparently, employers in the UK really more concerned with stopping the social use of internet within office hours, says data from Chartered Management Institute. Little did they know that such a move is to the disadvantage of their own business opportunities and performance.

Many of the employers view internet activity as a “massive time waster”, leading them to track employees’ internet activities in order to block “inappropriate sites”. While it is understandable that employers are displeased with how the internet is being used during office hours,  but there will always be a handful of people compelled to abuse such freedom.

Thus, it is important for employers to understand that the younger generation of managers and leaders are very much in-tuned to technology and more often than not, depend on the internet usage to network and find useful information.

Jo Causon, director of marketing and corporate affairs at the Chartered Management Institute says, “Clearly, organisations need to harness the comfort levels these individuals have with internet-based resources, because failure to do so will lead to frustration and the loss of top talent at best, or worse, an open door for competitors to build advantage through a better equipped and enabled workforce.”

Furthermore, a majority of the people in the younger age group polled focused on the use of the internet for professional development (72%). Employers need to re-think their policies towards internet usage or otherwise risk alienating their future managers and leaders. In-depth analysis of the data collated confirms that many of the respondents believe employers are less than enthusiastic about web-based technology and are not keen on exploring or implementing the “latest trend” unless they have been tried and tested. Even more disturbing is how almost one-fifth of employees refer to their employers as “dinosaurs”.

So employers, if you want to move ahead in this business, embrace web technology freely.

Written by nasirah

December 10, 2008 at 5:39 pm

Posted in Technology

Breaking all the rules

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A Chinese construction company in Singapore has recently been accused of withholding salaries from its workers, and not paying its workers for working overtime.

So what, you might say. It’s not as though this is not the first time a company has been found of breaching the employment rights of foreign blue-collar workers.  Shouldn’t they file a complaint against their employer with the Ministry of Manpower and get their grievances resolved as soon as possible?

But that is where things  get murky and complicated, says local gay activist Alex Au (of Yawning Bread),  in a story that is now circulating around the local internet.

According to the Yawning Bread report, it talks about how this particular group of foreign workers have faced stonewalling ministry officers, police detentions for “overstaying” and unreasonable bosses.

While some people have criticised this piece to be biased and one-sided, I highly urge you to read the story for yourself to get a sense of the injustice that some blue-collar workers face here working under errant bosses and companies in Singapore.

Cases like these are especially worrying, as International Organization for Migration predicts that labour migration with the bulk of workers coming from China, Philippines and India will continue to remain strong. This is due to “an increasing scarcity of local workers available or willing to engage in low- or semiskilled employment such as in agriculture, construction, hospitality or domestic care,” the report says.

What should be done to errant employers like this, and how else can the law be changed to protect blue-collar transient workers?

Part one of the story.

Part two of the story continues here.

Written by Human Resources

December 9, 2008 at 5:34 pm

Posted in Employment law