The Snitch

Just a little of everything HR

Archive for January 2009

Sombering statistics

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In what seems to be the scariest and sombering statistics ever, The International Labour Organization recently said that 51 million jobs may be lost worldwide due to the recession this year, pushing the world’s unemployment rate to 7.1% by December 2009.

“Many governments are aware and acting, but more decisive and coordinated international action is needed to avert a global social recession,” says ILO’s director-general, Juan Somavia via BBC.

Asia happens to have the world’s lowest unemployment rate, with East Asia capping at 3.8%. That was followed by South Asia (5.4%) and Southeast Asia & the Pacific (5.7%). North Africa and the Middle East, on the other hand had the highest unemployment rates at the end of 2008, of 10.3% and 9.4% respectively. 

However, it seems as though the second wave of layoffs have already started, as coffee empire Starbucks announced that it would close 300 stores and lay off up to 6,700 jobs worldwide due to a “weakening global consumer environment”. While these recent announcements were “extremely difficult decisions”, explains a Starbucks Singapore spokesperson, the coffee chain hopes “these necessary actions will sustain the organisation and reduce the need for additional workforce reductions” in its goal of preserving long-term viability.

However, the impact to local Starbucks stores and employees is unclear just yet. She adds, “Though there may be some local impact based on these announcements, we do not have specific details to share at this time.”

Written by nasirah

January 30, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Posted in Retrenchments

New issue is up!

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The latest issue of Human Resources magazine is now up on the website!

In this issue, you can find:

Written by Human Resources

January 28, 2009 at 4:26 pm

Making meetings more productive

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For some, staff meetings can be a nightmare. Whether it because everybody seems to have an opinion to share or presentations that go on for too long, most agree that meetings can be shorter than they really have to be.

Steve Tobak, a high-tech industry veteran puts the blame of unproductive meetings squarely on the managers. “Most managers are so inept at conducting effective meetings you’d think it’s rocket science or a rare genetic trait,” he says.

Here are some tips he shared which will help make a meeting effective.

1) Never hold a meeting for more than two hours, weekly. Less would be too short and more too long.

2)  A meeting must be ruthlessly managed.  That means the boss is responsible for every aspect, including agenda, attendance, punctuality, and documentation. That person keeps everyone on topic and moves the meeting along, no matter what.

3) Debate critical issues. Attack the problem, not the person.

For more tips from Tobak, click here on more.

What are some of your own tips or ideas on how you make a staff meeting productive?

Written by nasirah

January 28, 2009 at 10:50 am

Is $20.5b enough?

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The eagerly anticipated government Budget has just been announced earlier this afternoon, with many people wondering what measures the government would take in order to fight what could possibly be the worst recession in a long time.

According to ChannelNewsAsia, some of the workforce-related recession measures include:

  • Low-wage workers on the Workfare scheme will get 50% more in payout. A 50-year-old worker earning $1,000 a month stands to get $600 more, on top of the $1,200 he receives from the workfare scheme for work done this year. This means, he will get a total of $1,800.
  • The government will introduce a Jobs Credit which will encourage businesses to preserve jobs as much as possible in the downturn. The Jobs Credit that an employer receives will comprise 12% of the first S$2,500 of the wages of each employer who is on the CPF payroll. It will be given in four quarterly payments, with each payment being based on the workers who are with the employer at the time.

Other business-related measures include:

  • 40% tax rebate for industrial and commercial properties.
  • JTC Corporation, Housing and Development Board (HDB) and Singapore Land Authority (SLA) will pay a 15% rental rebate to their tenants and land lessees.
  • All foreign-sourced income earned before January 21, 2009, will be tax-exempted.
  • Goods vehicles, buses and taxis will get a 30% road tax rebate for a year.
  • Corporate income tax rate will be cut from 18% to 17% for the Year of Assessment 2010

Some thoughts from KPMG Tax Services on the Budget:

  • Danny Teoh, managing partner, KPMG LLP in Singapore

“The measures announced by the Minister demonstrate a clear understanding of what needs to be done to support the economy in these turbulent times. The exceptional injection of funds will go a long way towards saving jobs and positioning Singapore for future competitiveness.”

  • Chiu Wu Hong, executive director, KPMG Tax Services on the impact on SMEs

“SMEs are the big beneficiaries in this budget package with clear steps laid out to help viable companies stay afloat in these challenging times. Companies have also been provided incentives to encourage them to position themselves for long-term growth. Particularly innovative is the manner in which bridging loans will provide a life-line and liquidity to cash-strapped companies, while the Jobs Credit scheme helps to keep workers in the factories and at their desks.”

  • Owi Kek Hean, head of tax, KPMG Tax Services on the 1% reduction in corporate tax

“The proposed corporate tax rate reduction of one percent is in-line with what we expected. While significant, it may not be helpful for cash-strapped companies in the short term since it only takes effect in 2010. Nevertheless, it should go towards helping make Singapore a more attractive destination for foreign investment.”

What are your thoughts? Are these measures enough to keep your business afloat? Are the Job Credits helpful enough to want to retain your employees? Let us know what you think.

Written by Human Resources

January 22, 2009 at 6:25 pm

Posted in Retention

How do formalised severance policies pay off?

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Companies with formal written severance practices usually save more on retrenchment packages than those that base such packages on informal written guidelines. Yet only 29% of Singapore HR practitioners surveyed have formal severance policies implemented for their companies even though retrenchment figures are expected to rise during this downturn.

What’s worse is 100% of HR respondents expect no changes to their severance policies in 2009. Michael Lee, a senior consultant for HR consultancy firm Right Management, explains how employers will benefit both financially and in goodwill from having a good formal written severance policy in place.

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

January 21, 2009 at 11:18 am

Open plan offices aren’t all that great

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Are you falling sick often and feeling more stressed out at work? If your office has an open-plan layout, there is a possibility that this office design could be the cause of your condition.

Research has found that having an open-plan design can have an overwhelmingly negative impact on employees, with 90% reporting a deterioration of health and adverse psychological effects. Conflict, elevated blood pressure and rapid staff turnover are all associated with open-plan offices as well.

“Employees can face a lot of problems like the loss of privacy, loss of identity, low work productivity and low job satisfaction when working in an open plan work environment,” says Dr Vinesh Oomen, research author from the Queensland University of Technology.

So while an open-plan office can help save on precious space and promote higher interaction among co-workers, it can also make you sick and stressed as well. What do you think? Do the benefits of an open plan environment outweigh the costs?


Written by nasirah

January 19, 2009 at 11:41 am

Posted in Healthcare

Making use of the rumour mill

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Office gossip is often something viewed upon as messy and pointless and can even jeopardize careers and destroy reputations. Efforts to curb gossips are obviously futile since it has become such an integral part of human nature… so we might as well try get something good out of this, right?

In an article by Financial Times, senior managers believe that informal channels and conversations in the workplace can be helpful to employers. Many have used the “gossip network” to test out staff reaction to potential proposals.

For instance,

The managing director of a Sydney-based recruitment agency recently grappled with a problem. He could not afford to award all employees a pay increase but was worried an alternative proposal could destroy morale. So he decided to start a rumour.

He told a trusted subordinate of his plan to award higher salaries to a few key staff, who would also have to take on greater responsibilities. As expected, news spread rapidly through the company and employees were surprisingly positive about the proposal. So he decided to press on with the new pay structure.

Grant Michelson, research director at Audencia Nantes Business School says, “It doesn’t mean you should take action on every bit of information you hear but if it’s from a reliable source, it is probably worth listening to.”

While it may be one thing for the people at the top to start a rumour , employees should be more discerning and careful about even thinking of spreading a rumour.

Stephen Viscusi, author of How to Bullet-Proof Your Job, believes the best strategy is to be friends with the office gossip.  “[The] trick is to absorb the information without repeating it, to appear to be above it even while you’re filing it away for future reference to use, if necessary, to bullet-proof your job”.

Office gossip material are most interesting, in spite of all the complications that comes along with it. Damned if you believe it, damned if you don’t. Still, how many of us here have avoided doing something “gossipable”, just to save face? I admit that I have. I can’t stand those wagging tongues, can you?

Via Financial Times

Written by nasirah

January 16, 2009 at 1:52 pm

Gossip: Which company committed a retrenchment boo-boo recently?

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Blind item: Which company recently made a big boo-boo by conducting its mass retrenchment exercise auditorium-style?

Now we all know retrenchment exercises are never pleasant for the people involved. But if companies have to lay people off in a bid to keep itself afloat during this economic downturn, the least they can do is show some compassion to their soon-to-be former employees.

Yes, The Snitch understands giving pink slips to over 200 people might take a while. But telling these employees to report straight to the auditorium the minute they reach the company’s guardhouse in the morning just so you can save time? Shame on you.

Heard of any other retrenchment horrors lately? Have a rant in the comments below.

Written by Lee Xieli

January 15, 2009 at 2:51 pm

Posted in Retrenchments

Save money and jobs with lateral moves

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Most companies are tightening their belts during the downturn but local childcare chain Cherie Hearts remains on course in its recruitment plans for expansion. Co-founder Gurchran Singh reveals his secret to keep costs low and employee motivation high.

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

January 15, 2009 at 10:18 am

Google goes Ommm

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Apparently Google wants to do more than just help employees develop their career and skill sets as they are interested in employees’ spirituality.  At a recently held a spirituality seminar called “Happiness and Its Causes”,  one of Google’s top employees talked about a new school on Google University – the School of Personal Growth.

Chade-Meng Tan, a panelist at the conference and one of Google’s early engineers suggested that Google’s School of Personal Growth is a futuristic model for every workplace. “Google wants to help Googlers grow as human beings on all levels,” Tan said in his presentation.  Employees can take classes that deal with mental development, emotional development, holistic health and well-being, and a Buddhist notion of “beyond the self”. Classes are aptly named “The Neuroscience of Empathy” and “Search Inside Yourself.”

The company’s strategy is to boost the brainstorming powers of Google’s  crème de la crème and their powers of self- examination. Monika Broecker, a former leadership coach and therapist with Google, who was an architect of the program, said, “It’s very effective because studies have proven that if people are relaxed and open, they won’t repeat the same ideas and mistakes. They become more creative.”

Have you heard of any other companies engaging in such less conventional programs? It does sound useful to me, because when everything else seems to be falling apart or stressing you out, it would definitely be useful to locate the inner strength to help tide you over.

Google has made no public announcement about their educational endeavor but to read more, click here.

Written by nasirah

January 14, 2009 at 1:48 pm