The Snitch

Just a little of everything HR

Archive for September 2011

Small Talk: Global leaders do not exist

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Singapore – Peter Cappelli, director at the Centre for Human Resources (HR) with The Wharton School, does not believe global leaders exist.

Cappelli said he is puzzled over the concept of such leaders as it is hard to define what differentiates a regional boss from a global one. “There has been an enormous amount of talk for the need for global leaders but when you press people what they mean by that, you never get a clear answer.”

He added one way people often define a global leader is by determining how in sync they are with global cultures and sensitivities.

However, he said this brings up the issue of whether leaders with vast but superficial understanding of several countries are worldlier than those with in-depth knowledge of a smaller number of countries. “The problem always gets pushed back to HR to solve, but it’s not an HR problem,” he said. “It’s a problem of the company not being able to figure out what it wants to be.”

Cappelli added it is therefore critical companies not only define their culture but also determine how they would like their organisation to operate. “We have to figure out things like the core beliefs and values of the organisation, and how much of local control we want to give.”

Small Talk also catches up with Scott Price, chief executive officer for retail chain Walmart Asia, and finds out what he looks for in his candidates. Price has some candid answers to how he often grills job interviewees. Cappelli and Price were both in town for the 2011 Singapore Human Capital Summit, which took place earlier this week.

Human Resources magazine also attended the opening of Coca-Cola’s new concentrate plant in Singapore and DBS Bank’s recruitment open house for university students.

Samantha Mark, chief operating officer for DBS Singapore, said it was important to provide engaging recruitment exercises such as open houses as it gives both the candidates and employers a better understanding of each other.

But not everyone who attends a recruitment open house will be a future hire. “It’s not about being all things to all people, but you have to find people who believe in what you believe in,” Mark said.

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

September 30, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

HRTV: Malcolm Gladwell on human capitalisation

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Singapore – Business author Malcolm Gladwell believes that companies should not confuse a lack of human capitalisation with a shortage of talent.

Speaking at Singapore Institute of Management’s Annual Management Lecture earlier this month, Gladwell said leaders need to be able to provide people with opportunities to explore where their strongest point lie.

He gave the example of long-distance runners in Kenya. Gladwell said young teenage boys in Kenya are given the opportunities to run and develop their running ability. Therefore, he said the chances of discovering an outstanding long-distance runner are mush higher than in Singapore.

However, he said that does not mean there is no one in Singapore who is incapable of running long-distance. Instead, the lack of long-distance runners here is simply the result of a lack of opportunities for local runners to discover their athletic abilities.


Gladwell also shared a story about how in the past, pianists struggled to perform classical music compositions that were considered so overwhelmingly difficult that no one could play them. However, he said with better coaching, more pianists were slowly able to perform these masterpieces and overcome those challenges.

On that same note, Gladwell urged leaders to give ample opportunities for talent to be nurtured in Singapore. He added by providing the right training and support, people can achieve much more than they initial believed.

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

September 21, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

HRTV: Kellogg humanises HR shared services

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Singapore – ­When Kellogg Company rolled out a shared services model for its human resources (HR) function, its main concern was ensuing employees could still feel a human connection with the organisation.

“The big challenge was getting people to accept the idea that they may not have that tap on the shoulder anymore,” John Gigerich, senior director of application solutions at Kellogg, said.

The new HR shared services model meant that employees no longer have to approach a business leader or the HR department to obtain or clarify information about their work.

“Before, if the [HR] generalist was out for two weeks, employees will have to wait two weeks for a response,” Gigerich said.

Gigerich explained an effective shared services model is about “getting questions answered quickly or escalating that to someone who can answer it faster”.

Since implementing this centralised structure in 2008, the cereal company has witnessed an 18% return on investment in the first year. Currently, 65% of staff queries are answered within the first call, and 75% of requests are replied within the day.

Another advantage of using a shared services model is that as companies continue to expand, it becomes challenging to have functional experts “spread around the locations while maintaining consistency”.

Gigerich said having information that is easily shared and accessed at one location narrows the gap between employees based in different countries and offices. Business leaders are also better equipped at making faster and more informed decisions because they have “data at their fingertips”.

As the shared service model only completed its final implementation for the US, Canadian and Latin American operations this year, Gigerich said Kellogg has no plans to roll the programme out to Asia just yet.

Gigerich sits down with HRTV to talk about other pros and cons of an HR shared services model, and how it can further support HR. To watch the full interview below.




Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

September 14, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Small Talk on marrying marketing with HR

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Singapore – As the HR function within organisations continues evolving into a more strategic role, HR practitioners are beginning to see the benefits of incorporating marketing techniques.

Matt Eaton, group editor of Marketing Magazine, co-hosts this episode of Small Talk and discusses with Sabrina Zolkifi how HR can use marketing techniques to improve their processes. Some areas HR can add a marketing focus on include recruitment, policies and development programmes.

Small Talk also highlights a study from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and research firm Penn Schoen Berland that revealed bosses in the US admit to playing favourites in the office. Business leaders were found to base their decision on who to promote on “factors unrelated to a person’s abilities, such as background, ideology or gut instincts”.

Lamar Reinsch, a management professor at McDonough, said favouritism can cause stress and affect productivity and relationships within the company. “They’re now playing office politics instead of focusing on organisational objectives.”

On the topic of leadership and meritocracy, another top story discussed in this episode is on how most managers in Asia are “tall and skinny”. According to business school INSEAD, talent in Asia rise through the ranks quickly, but lack proper managerial skills.

Guy Saunders, director of open enrolment programmes for executive education at INSEAD, said employees identified as top potential leaders must be given adequate leadership development programmes. Without sufficient support from the organisation, new managers will face challenges in aligning their functional expertise with leading a team.

“From being an expert [with technical skills], you now have to manage or help other people to become experts,” Saunders says.

Small Talk also talks about the mass fainting incidents at retail chain Hennes & Mauritz’s (H&M) Cambodia factory and why employees in Italy refused to work after claiming their workplace is haunted.

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

September 9, 2011 at 2:45 pm

Sleeping at work? A dream comes true!

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They have always said that everything you need to know you learn in kindergarten, and one of the biggest things I took away from my pre-school education was the need for afternoon naps.

So when I came across an online article while doing some research (read: taking a break and checking Facebook – yes, I’m back on that bandwagon) that said naps at work not only boost productivity but also reduces the risk of cardiovascular problems, I was thrilled.


There is actual science behind this. When a person is tired, neurons in the brain shut off, which essentially means that while your body is awake, your brain is fast asleep. Taking a quick 15-minute nap helps you recharge and get those neurons up and running again.

In fact, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley confirmed in 2010 that napping also improves the brain’s ability to retain information. They added that mid-day naps “not only rights the wrong of prolonged wakefulness but, at a neuro-cognitive level, moves you beyond where you were before”.

But isn’t it bad enough that employees are already taking breaks for coffee and cigarettes? Will bosses really be okay with workers disappearing for 15 minutes at a time to catch up on some sleep?

Thankfully, I have friends in high places and decided to give them a call to get their take on what I hope will be the next great office fad.

Douglas Gan, founder and chief executive officer of location-based service provider ShowNearby, tells me he doesn’t mind his employees sleeping at work. The last time I visited their office for lunch, Douglas even pointed out the couch in one of the bigger offices and proudly told me, “That’s where some of the guys take naps”.

What’s more, he doesn’t limit how long they can nap for and even encourages his staff to work from home if they’re too tired to come into the office. No wonder ShowNearby was one of the recipients of Asia’s Best Employer Brand Awards this year.

“Naps can help them get rid of a tired mind and move forward,” Douglas says. “Also, I think because they appreciate the fact that they can nap, they tend to work better when they’re awake.”

However, not everyone is onboard with the idea of napping at work. Edvarcl Heng, social media manager at MediaCom, says instead of naps, his employees are allowed to take breaks as often as they like, as long as productivity isn’t affected.

“They are also equipped with Nerf guns (a type of toy gun which shoots foam bullets) and games on their Macs as an explicit nod from management that we will not frown upon fun,” Ed says.

On top of the fun and games, employees are also allowed to go out to buy titbits (another one of my favourite break-time activities), surf the Internet and play games with each other. “A worker is not an automaton. They need rest to boost their productivity,” Ed says.

While writing this blog entry, I was also multi-tasking (talking to my best friend) and found out that the only reason he hadn’t replied my messages the past hour was because he was – you guessed it – taking a nap at work. He claims to even have a sleeping bag in the office, but that’s information I’ll take with a grain of salt.

“The trick is to get the duration just right. 15 minutes to half an hour tops,” he advises, sounding like a professional nap-taker. “Anything less won’t help and too long will make you groggy when you wake up.”

But does it really help with his productivity for the rest of the day? “Yeah, definitely!” he says. “How else do you think I get through the day?”

Well, I guess it all comes down to the industry and nature of the business you are in.

Let me know which side of the fence you’re on by leaving a comment or sending me a message on Twitter (@theofficesnitch).

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m just going to have a quick talk with my bosses on setting up a designated nap area in our new office.

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

September 2, 2011 at 11:23 am