The Snitch

Just a little of everything HR

Archive for June 2010

Preparing for unforeseen crises

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Companies should always be prepared to handle disruptive events without compromising operations as far as possible, according to Thomas Phelan, one of the founders of United States Department of Homeland Security. Out of the many Incident Command System (ICS) 100 training programmes Phelan has conducted with companies, he named IBM, Boeing, Pearson Technologies and a subsidiary supermarket chain owned by Walmart, Asda, as examples of those with good Business Continuity-Disaster Recovery (BCDR) practices.

In the video, Phelan talks about the importance of BCDR and some ways to improve BCDR practices in organisations.

Written by Jocelyn Lee

June 29, 2010 at 5:29 pm

Dealing with employees’ psyche

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Are your employees under tremendous pressure?

Living in an Asian country with a results-driven education system, I grew up with the belief that we are only worth as much as what we can contribute to the society. One can only subsist when one is useful. This is the very reason of my existence, as this is the attitude that employers strive to instill in their employees. Does this really drive productivity? Do executives have to resort to unscrupulous means in order to jostle their way up the corporate ladder?

Employees are frequently pushing themselves to perform better than their peers so as to stand out among the others, consequently paving their paths for promotions. In the midst of doing so, they would not stop at any obstacle. They sacrifice time, a commodity that many executives give up for their jobs, and work-life balance. Essentially, most of them give up the fantasy of smelling the roses once in a while, and as for the ones with children; they can only indulge in wishing they had more family time.

Subsequently, those employees become unhappy soul-less members of the workforce who work mechanically for their organisations while making obscene critiques about their bosses whenever they can. Can an organisation benefit from this negative attitude even though they continue to work conscientiously like blind army ant minions?

Perhaps what employers can look into is sincere communication with their employees to understand what they are thinking. Although it is vital for bosses to ensure their employees to work their hardest for the sake of organisational growth, it is also imperative to not just see their employees as bottom lines. Nobody likes to be a mere pawn, among many, in driving profits.

In fact, some employees may even be beating themselves up for not being able to perform up to their bosses’ expectations. Hence, should the bosses be more pro-active at addressing employees’ psyche issues, HR problems such as employees’ dissatisfaction may decrease in the long run. Employees may even go the extra mile for their companies out of their own free will as they feel valued by their bosses unconditionally.

Particularly in a large organisation, where it is virtually impossible for top management staff to know every employee personally, it is the responsibility of line managers to maintain continuous interaction with their subordinates. To achieve better results, line managers should attempt to be a friend or a buddy to their workers.

In conclusion, not mentioning employees who are evidently unwilling to perform their best in their workplaces, some employees may have valid reasons for their underperformance and it is up to their bosses to find out why. For all you know, they may be doing badly at work due to the excessive pressure they put themselves through to do a better job at work.

Written by Jocelyn Lee

June 28, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Sensibility versus suitability

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Is the job made to your fit?

Ideally, the jobs people look out for should always be somewhat desirable, be it in the area of their interests or attractive remuneration packages, to them.

Most jobseekers, especially fresh graduates, would match jobs to either or both of the aforementioned criteria before deciding if they want to pursue a certain career path or take up the job offered to them. However, what they hardly ever consider is whether their personalities are compatible to the jobs they want to take up.

The fact is, most job functions require workers to be of compatible personalities to the role in order to achieve optimal work performance. Qualification levels and salaries aside, jobseekers should be more aware of what their personalities are and what the job entails. Ultimately, trapping oneself in a personality-incompatible job is hardly desirable at all.

Besides, employers are beginning to see the importance in assessing the personalities of candidates to see how suitable they are in the job required, as opposed to placing any candidate with the right qualification in a job.

Pre-school educator NTUC First Campus is one of the employers who are concerned about whether its potential candidates are suitable for the profession. In the introduction of new career tracks for early childhood teachers, NTUC First Campus talked how they consider their teachers’ “job fit” as an important criterion.

Being “emotionally resilient” is one of the examples cited when asked about the criteria for the selection of pre-school teachers. Chief HR officer of NTUC First Campus, Geraldine Lee, told Human Resources, “If you are unable to manage your own emotions, how are you going to teach a child?”

Lee added that teachers who are undergoing training at the institute are further observed to get a better assessment of their level of suitability. Applicants for teaching positions are also expected to take tests before their formal interviews so recruiters could evaluate the candidates’ personalities and whether they are the best people to take up the positions available. The tests “provide means for principals and current managers as basis to conduct the interviews”, said Lee.

It may lead to adverse results should one land in jobs incompatible to one’s nature, from both employer and employee point of view. From an employer’s viewpoint, the lack of job fit in their employees may result in poor work performance and low productivity. As for the employee, the reluctance to fulfil the duties in one’s job is likely to result in prolonged unhappiness, hence leading to the inability to progress in one’s career. The employee would then be stagnant in his or her development in the organisation.

In a nutshell, while employers have the responsibility to assess how suitable candidates are for the jobs they applied for, I think employees should also take the first step in gauging their own suitability at the job by matching them to their personalities.

Written by Jocelyn Lee

June 22, 2010 at 5:29 pm

Gen Y should we believe?

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Can the Gen Y workforce rise to the occasion?

In the modern economy where change is constantly occurring, Gen X employees frequently find themselves struggling to keep up with the accelerating pace of organisational growth. Even the bosses, who belong to the same generation, are working hard to push themselves to adapt to the changes. This is the reason why HR executives are often overheard talking about how hard their companies are pushing them to employ the right talent. The answer to their prayers– the promising Gen Y.

Albeit “green” as recruiters like to refer young inexperienced jobseekers as, organisations still consider members of the Gen Y as potential talent who will eventually grow and become leaders in the future. However, will the ostensibly promising generation live up to the expectations employers have for them?

Besides being considered to be a promising bunch of talent, Gen Y employees and jobseekers are also famous for their negative traits. They are notorious for their unrealistically high job and wage expectations, laziness and on top of those; some are noted to be too opinionated, hence unable to amalgamate into the communal working culture in organisations.

Nevertheless, like it or not, members of the Gen Y will take over important organisational roles in time to come, with some of the more experienced ones currently already in leadership positions. Thus, both government and companies in the private sector are driving programmes relating to talent development. Recently, Channel NewsAsia has announced a leadership development programme for youths which will provide support for the future talent in the media industry. This over S$1.5 million initiative effectuated by private service provider Starhub and the National Youth Organisation, *SCAPE, aims to nurture young Singaporeans and groom their leadership abilities.

The confidence in Gen Y to deliver no less than excellent work performance is apparent; money has been put on them. The perturbing question prevails– will the generation so full of promise, with all-rounded guidance from both private and public sectors, live up to their predecessors’ expectations?

Although it is impossible to foretell exactly how competent Gen Y employees would be, we can extrapolate from their current efforts. The increasing popularity in the use of social media technology, for instance, a new technology which members of Gen Y are most familiar with, has been reported to drive efficiency and productivity in companies.

According to another recent Channel NewsAsia report, experts said by 2014, the Asia-Pacific market for such tools and solutions classified under unified communications and collaboration will more than double to US$5 billion (S$7 billion). Singapore Management University’s assistant professor in corporate communication practice, Michael Netzley, commented that social media, when used well, can increase the speed of communications, productivity and collaboration. “They give us amazing opportunities for employee engagement and there can even be cost savings in terms of reducing paper costs,” he said.

Although the reliability of the new technology is often questioned by experts, we cannot deny its benefits in various organisational functions. Furthermore, based on the widespread implementation of social media technology in business functions, one can at least see the efforts Gen Y workforce put into driving success in the area of innovation.

Being part of the Gen Y workforce, in order to not disappoint the high hopes set for us, I do hope that my peers and I can grow to become fine successors of our previous generation.

Written by Jocelyn Lee

June 18, 2010 at 10:12 am

Give your employees a break!

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Your employees are longing for a well-deserved vacation

During interviews, most people talk about how they enjoy certain job functions and how they are inspired to perform their duties with the utmost passion. The truth is, for most of us common folks on payrolls, since the day we land ourselves in some sort of employment, we live from weekend to weekend, albeit weekends always seem to pass by so quickly. No matter how exciting one’s job is, one gets bored with the regularity after a while or gets tired of the stress it entails. This is when we start dreaming about the vacations we must take to recharge. As the economy is improving now, more people must be sharing my sentiment about going on a vacation.

According to a CareerBuilder’s survey, more than half (56%) of the 4,800 American employees surveyed said they are more in need of a vacation this year than they have been in past years. More than a third (36%) are comfortable with the idea now than in 2009 as the economy has been showing improvements. Around two-thirds (64%) of the respondents already made plans or are planning for a trip.

However taking leave from work is probably the biggest hurdle to employees who want to go for vacations as employers are generally averse to the idea of their employees disappearing from their desks for more than two days. In most cases, it would mean finding temporary help or sharing some of their subordinates’ workloads, in which neither sounds very pleasant. Hence, some employers might choose to crush their workers’ hopes by limiting the period of time for which they can go on leave.

However this decision, in my opinion, is not very wise in the long run. Here are some reasons why employers should allow employees to go for vacations for as long as they like.

  1. Employees would be revitalised after taking their deserved breaks and would devote themselves more intently to their work.
  2. Employees would be grateful to their bosses and be obliged to perform well at work, at least until they go for their vacations, once their leave gets approved.
  3. They would be willing to cover their colleagues’ duties when they go for their vacations since their colleagues are doing likewise for them. Hence bosses do not have to worry about HR issues when their employees go on leave.
  4. When vacations are taken, chances are employees would need their jobs more than ever, so this can be a great way to retain workers in the long run.

Written by Jocelyn Lee

June 10, 2010 at 6:52 pm

Posted in Retention, Work-life

Get them hooked during meetings

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Get them hooked during meetings

By Joanne Rigby

All of us have been on a web or phone conference where the host asks “are there any questions” and the sound of a clock ticking is all you can hear after that. What about getting a response like “could you repeat that question please, I was on mute”? Frustrating, isn’t it?

Sensing the tone and voice reactions of your audience in a virtual environment doesn’t always come as easily as face-to-face meetings. Often, the important message that you are trying to get across is missed in the process.

So how can you close the gap? Here are some simple guidelines you can use to gauge your audience’s level of interest and how to keep them engaged.

It’s all about learning the basics

A famous study by Albert Mehrabian concluded that human beings communicate as much as 38% of our message through our voice (tone, pitch, and so on), with as little as 7% through the words we actually say.

When it comes to meetings, always be on the lookout for “what” the other party is saying and most importantly, ‘how’ they say it. If you’re in a web meeting, it’s good to encourage your guests to use their web cams because it will give you more of an insight by looking for cues in their eyes and overall body language. Most importantly, learn to interpret messages from the tone of their voice.

Ways to read your audience and keep them engaged

1.         Listen to their speed and tone – Like body language or facial expressions, tone and speed can tell you a lot about your audiences’ level of engagement. For example, if they reply in:

o          Monotonous and curt says, “Can we please move on and get this done? I’ve got better things to do”.

o          Slow speed and low pitch communicates, “I’m not in the right frame of mind for this meeting and want to be left alone.”

o          An abrupt speed and loud tone say, “I’m frustrated and not open to input!”

o          Muffled with drawn-out speed indicates “Pardon me, I’ve not woken up yet”.

When any of the above happens, try to spice things up with your audience by doing:

o          Ask if there is anything else they would like to discuss apart from what’s on the agenda

o          Give them a task to do and get them to share it with the rest of the attendees once the time is up

o          Regularly ask each attendee for their agreement or feedback verbally

o          Throw a little bit of humour to lighten up the mood

o          Run polls through the web conferencing interface. Make these fun or informative and use them often.

2.         Listen to their voice inflections: Stressing different words in the same sentences gives you clues to your audiences’ moods. For instance, stressing the words “would you” in this sentence makes it sound defensive: “What would you like us to do about it!” But if they stress the words “like us”, it hints that they are curious and want to find out more.

3.         If they’re not talking, get them talking: If you are experiencing the uncomfortable silence during a web meeting, you may want to ditch the PowerPoint and use a digital whiteboard as a substitute. If this happens during a conference call, you may want to pass presenter control to your audience and encourage them to voice their thoughts and ideas instead.

Also, always have back-up activities – such as polling and voting – that require your audience’s participation to illustrate a point. When you create an open, collaborative environment, you’ll be surprised who comes out of their shell.

4.         Identify multi-taskers: We all do it, and we can agree it makes for less productive meetings. Who’s muted and but is actually on the other line with her friends? Who’s in a remote office and not in the conference room with others?

When you know that you have multi-taskers in the group, try to encourage them to own a piece of the meeting like taking the minutes or even moderating the flow of the discussion. During a web meeting, you can also get the multi-taskers to share their desktops so they can demonstrate an application or walk the audience through a presentation. These tricks will definitely work in keeping them away from their inbox, chat, or browsing the web.

At the end of the day, if you are the one running the meeting, always remember to be fun, entertaining and most importantly, yourself. Start the meeting by telling a story or delivering a creative opening to set the right mood and tone. Original examples, especially from your own recent experience, always work well to relate and identify with your attendees. Engaging your attendees with an occasional relevant joke also helps them to loosen up and raise the level of expectancy and anticipation. When you know that your audience is excited, you will feel confident and they will settle in more easily.

With that in mind, good luck!

Joanne Rigby is the Asia Pacific Marketing Director at PGi. She is responsible for driving PGi’s marketing strategies across its full communications offering throughout the Asia Pacific region.

Keep a look out for PGi’s The Art of Great Meetings Part 2 on 10 “unique” meeting personalities you often encounter in meetings and tips to improve your interactions with them.

Written by Human Resources

June 10, 2010 at 11:07 am

Catch People Doing Something Right

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Always do the right thing

by Lalita Nithiyanandan

As leaders we need to keep a close check on our orientation – where we focus our energy on and what we choose to look at.  Many organizations and their leaders have a tendency to see problems first and spend a lot of their time finding solutions to these problems. This means that the focus of the leader is centered on what is not working and what is going wrong.

We Become what we Focus on

Whilst we know the logic behind the thought process that “We become what we focus on”, somehow we tend to throw this out the window when it comes to the corporate world. We often get fixated on things that don’t work and in the process, compromise what’s working. For example, a manager who puts his attention on the non-performers misses out on the performers; and if he/she spends too much time fixing the non-performers, he will lose the performers who do not want to be held back because others are not performing.

Some years ago when I implemented a quality program within one of my businesses, I decided that all our quality audits needed to focus on “catching people doing something right” instead of finding things that were not working. This meant that we provided the team with timetables in advance, on processes that we were going to audit, giving them a chance to fix things before the audit. We cycled through all the key processes within the company in this way, and in the process created ways to reward good behavior. The good thing about this was, it became contagious as people like rewards and compliments. Soon, the teams were focused on fixing things in advance of audits and demonstrating the behaviors that were conducive to overall quality improvement which led to performance improvement.

Encouraging Positive Behaviours

In the book, Influencer, the authors talk about the study of positive deviance. To find the groups of people within a given environment who demonstrate vital behaviors that bring about positive outcomes. Within the context of an organization, it is about identifying those people who are producing consistent results that are better than everybody else. If we as leaders empowered our teams to locate those who produce good results, and then study how they do it and what they do, we will be able to identify those behaviors that can shift the game positively for the whole company.

How do we do this?  It stems from an attitude. With the leaders I have dealt with, there are some who believe that most individuals come to work to do a good job and there are others who think that most people are lazy and need to be driven. I have also seen that this is what they live out in their work life because they create what they look for.  It is a difficult thing to do – disconnect from the day to drama and turn away from the problem areas.  In truth, you are not turning away from the problem…you are merely looking to solve the problem by identifying behaviors that create results that are opposite to the problem on hand.

A few behaviors changes can usually drive a big change, in the case of a medical centre that studied  positive deviance amongst their healthcare professionals, they found that it boiled down to just 5 behaviors that led to customer satisfaction. These are: smiling, making eye contact, identifying oneself, letting people know what you are doing and ending every interaction by asking “Is there anything else that you need?” Sounds like simple common sense stuff but by marking this out as a sequence for all their healthcare professionals to do, they were able to improve customer satisfaction dramatically.

Imagine what change you could bring to your whole organization!

This column contribution is written by Lalita Nithiyanandan, executive advisor, Global Center of Excellence (CoE) for the Executive Search and Leadership Consulting practices within Kelly Outsourcing and Consulting Group. For more information, visit http://www.bticonsultants.com

Written by Jocelyn Lee

June 3, 2010 at 8:00 am