The Snitch

Just a little of everything HR

Archive for October 2012

The Office Snitch is moving!

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Just giving all our loyal followers the heads up that we’ll be shifting our weekly blog posts off WordPress as of this week and onto our magazine’s website

We know change can be difficult (you HR peeps will know this more than anyone) but sometimes you just need to shake things up – so, we’re also changing our name.

We’ll now be posting our column under the new moniker of “Off the Record”, which will contain the same wit, musings, rants and HR insights as always. But perhaps with a bit more bite.

To make sure you get every fantastic post (and our FREE monthly magazine, if you don’t already), be sure to sign up to our daily online newsletter here:

Check out our first column today here.

See you on the other side!

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

October 25, 2012 at 11:59 am

Posted in Uncategorized

The Office Snitch: Too cool for tech

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I may be a Gen Y but I’m not the biggest fan of technology.

Until I switched to my current super, super smart phone, I was using a thick planner to track my appointments and maintain a to-do list. Today, as soon as I wake up, my phone is ready to tell me who I’m supposed to be meeting with, what we’re meant to discuss and  what time my dinner reservations are.

Yes, occasionally I feel like I need my phone surgically removed from my hand, but I am of the opinion that technology, while aiding communication in ways previously unimaginable, is actually driving us further apart as people.

This epiphany hit me the other day when I was texting my sister… from the other room. I could actually see her sitting at her desk, tapping furiously into her phone, when that conversation could have easily taken place face-to-face.

In our office, we communicate primarily over Skype. It’s a great way to log conversations, have a team meeting and chat with our colleagues based in our regional offices.

But to be honest, I get upset – violently sometimes – when someone sitting two, nay, one desk away insists on having a conversation with me over Skype. Is it too much to ask for to have someone pop their head over our low desk partitions to ask me where we’re going for lunch or that there’s a package for me at the lobby?

This phenomenon of chat over talk is happening everywhere. People are on their phones at dinner tables, while on dates, in the middle of that extremely boring budget meeting and even on the toilet (“ttyl, taking a pee”).

Which all begs the question: Is our dependency on technology starting to get just a little bit overboard?

Here are my propositions.

If you, like me, use some sort on IM to chat with colleagues, you are to stop for at least three days. If the person you need to talk to is sitting a couple of feet away, just get up and talk.

I don’t know about you, but there have been so many times where the most exciting and hilarious conversation is happening on Skype amongst my team members, but when I look up, the office is quiet, all I hear is typing and their blank faces are staring intently at their screens. What happened to the “LOLs” and “(facepalm)” emoticons I was promised?

The other thing I would like you to try out is not checking your phone every three seconds – especially if you’re in a meeting. It is not only distracting; it’s disrespectful towards your peers.

And feel free to take this habit out of your personal lives as well. You’re attached to your partner/children/friends, not your phones or tablets. Work-life balance starts with ditching the phone at dinner, people. It’s as simple as that.

Lastly, try a phone call once in a while. Emailing is great – it is, after all, how Harry met Sally – and it’s done a fantastic job of getting information over to someone almost immediately, but getting five one-liner emails in a row to clarify something is highly interrupting.

Personally, I like to have a 10 minute chat over the phone, bang out the details and clarify whatever it is I need to, and follow up with an email summarising the call so everyone has an action plan or is up to date.

Technology is still something relatively new to us, but with the new generation highly adapt to life online (I’ve seen kids who are better at navigating an iPad than they are at walking), companies need boundaries and a culture that till promotes traditional interaction.

So get on this mini tech detox and help make sure we’re still very far off from me writing for a magazine called “Robot Resources” rather than Human Resources.

PS: Check out today’s Bizarre HR. That guy knows what I’m talking about.

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

October 19, 2012 at 10:31 am

Posted in Uncategorized

The Office Snitch: Is Singapore better off without expats?

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I had drinks with a friend last week who had recently moved from London to take on a role in Singapore. Then yesterday, I had lunch with an Australian who has been living here for five years, and as I’m typing this out, I’m sorting plans to have lunch with a fellow Brit journo later.

It could be that my social and professional circles just happen to involve more foreigners, but there seems to have been an increase in the number of international talent heading into our sunny city-state.

I get why some Singaporeans are getting worked up about having more and more foreign talent in the country, but I can’t say I’m on the same train of thought.

In August, during his National Day rally, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Singaporeans have to be more tolerant of expats.

“I think it’s fair enough to express concern, or to disagree with our immigration trends, or to oppose our immigration policies,” Lee said.

“But I am worried by some of the nasty views which are expressed, especially online, and especially anonymously. Such outbursts by citizens against foreigners, on the Internet and in public, reflect badly on us [and] damage our international reputation – people think that Singapore is anti-foreigner [and] xenophobic.”

I believe, hand on heart, that Singapore has so much to gain from having people from all across the globe live here.

Here’s some fun Sabrina trivia: I hate travelling. I love seeing new places and meeting new people and eating bugs off a food trolley in Bangkok, but I hate having to physically move from one place to another. Airports and I are not friends. (N.B.: Seriously, we can put a man on the moon and invent the iPhone 5, but we can’t figure out teleportation?)

So having the world come to me with tales of their small fishing hometown around the British Isles or the experience of working on the factory floor in a remote outskirt Chinese factory, is a major plus in my books.

Above and beyond that, imagine just how much richer Singapore is with this influx of culture and experience.

Yes, there is a risk that someone who isn’t local gets your promotion. Yes, there is the off chance that people might hire the Indian who has worked for five years at Hyderabad, rather than a fresh IT grad eager for experience.

But here’s my argument. It isn’t the expats we should be upset with. It’s the employers.

Companies have to push to keep locals at the core of the workforce, while there have been many commendable efforts by various parties to focus on that, more can always be done.

For our October issue, I had the chance to spend half a day with Pete Elroy, VP of HR for UPS APAC, and while he admitted UPS started its presence in Asia with Americans heading up the teams, he is happy to report many of those roles have been taken over by Asians.

“People aren’t just looking and seeing that our senior management are Asian, but they’re looking and thinking, ‘I can be in that position’,” he said.

We have to face the fact that Singapore isn’t a very big country and people are our only natural resources. Haven’t we always sold ourselves as a melting pot of colours, flavours and accents?

Sab trivia number two: I’m on a detox/get fit regime, and a friend who is supposed trying to help me stay on track (all he’s really done is confiscated my sugary snacks – I guess that’s a start) said: “Sabrina, with the exception of sugar, you can eat anything you want during this diet. Just make sure it’s in moderation.”

Not only is it great advice for a diet, but it can also be applied when dealing with this expat influx situation. The government’s measures of managing the number of expats coming in are great, but like all things yin-and-yang, a nice balance is always welcomed.

I think I might see if my Brit journo friend would like to have some sushi for lunch. Oh, isn’t that the greatest thing about having the world in one city – the food? I am such a Singaporean.

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

October 12, 2012 at 10:47 am

Posted in Uncategorized

The Office Snitch: Maybe baby

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For a while now in Singapore, the debate about parental leave has been as hot as the weather.

But if you haven’t been keeping up with the news, or are not based in Singapore, here’s the 411: The government called for suggestions on what can be done to boost the fertility rate, so the NTUC suggested longer maternity leave and mandatory paternity leave.

As you can imagine, not everyone is on board with this. The Singapore National Employers’ Federation, for one, said providing mandatory paternity leave would create “an entitlement mentality which is an unhealthy work value” (which I don’t agree with, but we’ll get to that).

At the moment, mothers in Singapore are given 16 weeks’ leave, and NTUC is urging it be bumped up to six months. Dads, on the other hand, have no such thing as mandated child care leave, although a lot of companies offer about two days as a perk.

Now, I’m not a parent. But I was a pre-school teacher for a while, so I think I’m entitled to have my say on this.

I can see where both sides are coming from. On one hand, having employees – especially mothers – away from work for six months will be disruptive to organisations. In a team of five, if one member is gone for half a year, the additional workload the remaining staff has to take on will be significant.

But at the same time, is it such a bad thing that parents want to be there for the first few months of their kids lives? Isn’t that sort of something a tax-paying, hard-working citizen is entitled to?

Last week, TODAY ran a piece about how increasing annual leave days could boost fertility rates. The article pointed out more leave days equals more rest days, which would lead to happier and more productive employees who will then “have the time, energy and mood to start a family”.

I don’t know about you, but I find it a bit odd. What am I suppose to do? Ring up my editor and say that cute boy from circulation and I are going to Phuket for a week to find “the time, energy and mood to start a family”?

So here’s my take on this. I am all for fathers being hands-on and taking on responsibilities with child care. Go ahead and have mandatory paternity leave! Fathers should be just as involved in their kids’ upbringing and I honestly believe that companies who believe otherwise are short-changing themselves.

Six months of maternity is a bit much, and to be honest, from chats I’ve had with working mums, not a lot of them are keen on being away from the office that long either.

Companies, and perhaps Singapore as a whole, need to stop throwing benefits and perks in order to get people to seriously consider starting families (and no, that Mentos video wasn’t the way to go either – though I have to admit it was a catchy beat).

There are so many other factors to consider; the cost of childcare, education, medical, housing, cars, clothes, toys, tickets to the Barney show. I really believe it is more about creating a work environment that welcomes families.

I’m happy to say I’ve got that here. Occasionally, the boss’ toddlers pop in for a visit and type lengthy emails in a language I can’t quite grasp yet to their imaginary friends.

There have been a couple of times where I’ve had to be away from work for a few hours to watch my sister play a gig, or take my grandma for a check up. I know this isn’t close to being a parent, but I appreciate having a culture where no one’s going to frown upon me wanting to be with my family.

This isn’t a topic that’s going to die down any time soon, and it would be interesting to see how it plays out, but I honestly believe we will manage to figure out how to best provide for the parents in our workforce, while protecting our bottom line.

If you have a thought on what can or shouldn’t be done to support families in Singapore, drop us a note, or tweet us at @Mag_HR.

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

October 5, 2012 at 11:01 am

Posted in Uncategorized