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Archive for the ‘Employee Engagement’ Category

HRTV: EB Live Asia 2012

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Singapore – HRTV is back for its first episode this year. Catch up with HR leaders from Marriott International, Facebook, Starbucks and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) at Human Resources’ recent Employee Benefits Live Asia 2012 conference.

Sabrina Zolkifi speaks to Marriott International’s CHRO Jim Pilarski as he shared trends he is witnessing in the hospitality industry. Madan Nagaldinne, head of HR for Facebook in APAC and Paul Lam, head of partner resources for Starbucks in APAC, also discussed how technology, communication and Gen Y management all come together to create a more dynamic and productive workforce.

Low Peck Kem, divisional director of national human resources at MOM, talked about the labour challenges Singapore can expect in the coming months.

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Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

August 15, 2012 at 11:50 am

The Office Snitch: A pirate ship office, a giraffe-themed workspace and, err, Naked Fridays.

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When I started work here, we were in the heart of downtown Singapore in a quaint little shop house that used to flood during downpours. After a while, The Boss got fed up with rainwater dripping directly on his desk and moved us west last Christmas into a spanking new office with lots of natural light, clean white walls and a roof where we drink beer and have water gun fights (often at the same time).

Moving from a cramped shop house where I was working in a loft with no windows and a temperamental air conditioning unit, the new office was a breath of fresh air.

Anyone will tell you offices are starting to become cool places you can hang out at – which makes sense considering you spend a bulk of your day there. I had the privilege of chilling out at Google’s Singapore office back in May when we spoke to Sarah Robb, the head of HR. Although not as mind-blowing as the Mountain View headquarters, the local office was a great place to be. It had a games room, a meeting table fashioned out a tuk-tuk and micro-kitchens and cafeterias providing staff with an array of food choices on Larry Page’s tab.

But it seems some companies are going the extra mile to make every day at the office an experience for staff.

The head office of Davison Design & Development, an invention promotion firm, is called Inventionland, and stays true to its name. The facility houses not one, not two but 16 themed sets including a pirate ship, a cave, a giant robot, a tree house and a motor speedway. I have the highest degree of respect for people working there because I know I’d spend my days distracted and living out childhood fantasies.

Credit: adme.ru & Tengri News

Other really interesting offices include one in Newcastle, which has – and I’m not kidding here – Naked Fridays, where employees comes to work, well, in the nude.

“It was brilliant. Now that we’ve seen each other naked, there are no barriers,” Sam Jackson, front-of-house manager of design and marketing company onebestway, told The Sun.

I’m not sure that’s something that will take off (pun intended) anytime soon, but I wouldn’t mind working in the offices of TWIGA in Moscow where it’s giraffe-themed. I can’t even begin imagining the immense joy of working in an office filled with 836 figures and images of my favourite animal.

Or the Paris offices of Pons and Huot, where each employee works in a Plexiglas sphere (If I did work there, I’ll probably invest in a snow machine and pretend I’m working in a snow globe).

We’ve been to some pretty cool offices in Singapore but if you know of one, or even better, if you work in one, let us know.

We will be starting a profile of innovative and creative workplaces pretty soon so here’s your chance to get involved. Drop us a comment here or email me, Sabrina Zolkifi, at sabrinaz@humanresourcesonline.net. We might just pop by the office for a visit and coffee soon.

To see photos of all the cool offices mentioned, click here: http://en.tengrinews.kz/opinion/240/

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

July 27, 2012 at 11:11 am

The Office Snitch: Show me the money!

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So here’s the deal: If you’re going to promote me, I expect a little bump or two in my pay.

Unfortunately though, it seems not everyone agrees with my point of view. In fact, we ran an article last week about how HR managers in Singapore are the third most likely in the world to promote with pay increment.

My simple question to them is why?

I mean, come on, let’s face it. I, like many others, love my job and the non-monetary benefits I get. Flexible working hours? Check. Ability to work from home? Check. Cool invites to media parties? Check.

That being said, it’s nice to be recognised and rewarded for all the work invested into any job. Above that, being promoted means bigger responsibility. Where I come from, that just means a bit more remuneration for what you do.

However, 68% of HR managers responding to a survey by Robert Half said they don’t give pay rises with promotions, with more than half offering a performance bonus instead.

“Employees like a challenge, but there are risks for companies offering a promotion without a pay rise. While pay is not the only factor employees consider, if companies do not provide adequate compensation either through pay or other benefits, then they may lose their top performers to the competition,” Stella Tang, director of Robert Half Singapore, said.

Well, at least someone’s with me on this one.

“I think it’s only right for employees to be given a salary boost when they are promoted because it’s a show of recognition on the employer’s part that the work they’ve done so far is valued,” Sarah Lee, a first year lawyer who declined to reveal her firm’s name, said. “Plus, people will be more motivated to continue their good work if they know they will constantly and consistently be rewarded.”

Tang also said while certain benefits such as flexible working hours may have more value to some employees, it is important for both bosses and staff to find that balance.

I reckon it comes back down to understanding your employees, their needs and what drives them, and then tailoring a package that fits them. I know it may sound like a ton of work, but in today’s competitive job market, where a $500 pay increment offer from a competitor could mean you saying bye-bye to your superstar, it is definitely something worth keeping in mind.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts, so leave a message and I’ll get right back to you. Have a super weekend!

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

June 22, 2012 at 9:45 am

Does your office harbour a ninja superstar?

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I would like to start off this post by announcing that I would like to coin the phrase “ninja superstar”. Yes, I came up with it myself and yes, there’s a story behind it.

While on one of my many refreshing breaks today, I came across an article on Inc.com about hidden talents within your organisation. I’ve always been a believer in the notion that great ideas can come from anywhere and anyone and I think it can be applied in the office, all day, everyday.

See, many times, we rely on our office superstars for the next big money maker. Need a fresh take on an idea? Why not ask Jake, the guy who’s been giving us great ideas since ’03. Need a second opinion on the people strategy? Why not call in Paul, who has been leading the global strategy team for years?

But do we really need to keep going back to the regular top performers? Yes, they’re called a top performer for a reason, but who’s to say the quiet guy next to Jake or that geeky kid opposite Paul hasn’t got the best idea ever to hit town?

Inc’s article uses the example of Jeremy Lin, overnight basketball sensation. When asked about “Lin-sanity”, LA Lakers hotshot Kobe Bryant only had this to say: “Players playing that well don’t usually come out of nowhere… his skill level was possibly there from the beginning. It probably just wasn’t noticed.”

That said, I am convinced there are several ninja superstars lurking in your office just waiting to be noticed. Seriously, I promise you, they’re there.

As a leader, it is your job to constantly allow staff opportunities for growth. If you keep going back to the Jakes and Pauls of your team, you’re going to lose the golden nuggets hiding inside your office’s very own Jeremy Lin.

Harvey Mackay, who wrote the article on inc, shares four simple tricks to make sure your ninja superstar becomes an overnight sensation:

Pay closer attention to performance reviews

Be on the lookout for special abilities or exceptional initiative. In addition, ask employees to rate their own performance and explain what areas they are especially interested in developing.

Reinstate the good ol’ suggestion box.

The employees who share innovative ideas may also be the folks who have some hidden talents that would help incorporate their suggestions. Reward the best ideas, and recognise them publicly so that others will be encouraged to share their skills.

Ask for volunteers.

When a new project comes along, instead of just making assignments, invite employees to step up and take on the tasks that suit their interests and skills. Perhaps you’ve seen the video of the Southwest Airlines flight attendant who found a way to ensure passengers would really pay attention to the typical pre-flight instructions. He decided to use his rap skills to make the announcement. The passengers will always remember where the exit rows are now, and the airline continues to bolster its reputation for making mundane travel fun.

Don’t overlook less obvious advantages.

A department assistant at an urban university liked to knit on her lunch hour. Soon other employees brought their yarn and needles, and they gathered one day each week over lunch to make caps for newborns at the children’s hospital. They hadn’t known each other well before that, but as they became better acquainted, the interdepartmental cooperation burgeoned. And the university enjoyed some very positive community reaction as well.

If I were you, I’d get right down to uncovering your ninja superstar. Remember, everyone’s got something to put on the table – isn’t that why you hired them in the first place?

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

May 31, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Leaders should be laughing stocks. Or at least just laughing.

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You know the childhood song that goes “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands”? Well, when was the last time you clapped at work?

I’m a firm believer that you have got to work where you’re happy. I’m not saying quit your job and join the circus (but if you know of any openings, give me a buzz), but as a leader, I do think it’s on you to make sure your staff aren’t dragging their feet into the office everyday, dreading the next eight or nine hours of their lives.

I recently read an article, which not only supported my view (one down, thousands more to go) but also suggested leaders with a funny bone are more likely to be better managers. I had a sneaky suspicion this was true, but decided to ring up Umar Rana, founder of Comedy Masala in Singapore, and hear what he reckoned.

“People who are fun definitely have an advantage,” he said. “If you’re liked, people are willing to go the extra mile for you. Good leaders are always people who are able to make a good impression.”

Umar shared that in comedy, it takes an audience just 30 to 45 seconds to decide whether they like the comic standing in front of them. That’s not a hell of a lot of time.

Now, bring that stat back to the office. Imagine the difference it would make if a leader has mastered the ability to engage and inspire someone on his staff within the first minute of a meeting or presentation.

So if you’re interested in being a more likable boss, Umar shares some secrets right out of the comic’s handbook to help you make a difference.

“When it comes to speaking or presenting, I think a lot of people rush because of nerves. It happens all the time in comedy. Be it when telling a joke or presenting in front of a town hall, it’s important to look at everyone without actually focusing on anyone in particular.”

Umar lets me in on another secret. Although comics are excellent at making you feel as though they’re looking right into your soul, the truth is the bright stage lights make it hard to see anyone in the audience.

“But as I’m talking, I still need to make them feel as though I can see them and am talking to them. That’s the key.”

The third thing, Umar said, is confidence. “Russell Peters could be telling his best joke, but if he’s looking around, fidgeting, it’s going to be distracting. The same goes for a leader making a presentation. There has to be a visual and emotional connection, and you need to command respect.”

I’ve always considered comics to be the fastest thinkers on their feet. To create material – and funny material at that – almost instantly based off social cues is a skill I envy.

“As a comedian, I go live in front of 200 people every week. I am prepared for anything. So when I speak to anyone, no matter now senior or junior they are, they’re just another person to me. It’s my job to connect with you as another person.”

However, should you still struggle with confidence, there are ways to direct attention off yourself while still engaging your audience. “Just shift the energy to something else. Look at something else, change your body language. That’s all there is to it.”

But is comedy something you and I can pick up? I ask because I’ll tell you, I’ve had my share of cricket harmonies after what I thought was a kickass joke.

“Everyone, on some level, has a sense of humour – it’s just a matter of timing. There aren’t any prerequisites. You just need to want to do it, and that’s the beauty of comedy.”

Aside from trying to be the Drew Carey of your office, Umar also shared other things leaders can do to better engage their employees.

“The first thing you need to do is to get everyone out of the office. You can’t build those bridges in the office. A night of bowling can change a perception of someone. All of a sudden, it’s okay to laugh when the boss throws a gutter ball. Right there, in seconds, you’ve broken all those barriers,” Umar said.

“And for goodness’ sake, don’t do a team lunch,” Umar said. “First, you’ve most likely disrupted someone’s lunch plan. Secondly, I don’t want to be with the same people I’ve been with all morning. And when I get back, I’m going to be sleepy and I still have to deal with these people. Drinks over lunch makes for an easier atmosphere.”

So, if anyone’s wondering, I’ll be at Comedy Masala next week, reporter’s notepad in hand, honing my skills at being a better leader. Yes, yes, I know I haven’t got anyone reporting to me (yet), but I figured, no harm starting early.

Besides, I could definitely use a laugh or two. I’m still not over the fact that journalism is in the bottom five jobs to have.

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

May 11, 2012 at 9:51 am

Best and worst jobs of the year… or are they?

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I always feel a weird kind of excitement when an email pops into my box with the list of the best and worst jobs.

But that excitement quickly turned to outrage when I read that being a reporter ranked 196 out of 200 on CareerCast.com’s latest list. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

Anyway, not all news was bad news. HR managers came in at a surprising 3rd – not bad for a profession that wasn’t even on the list last year! Since the results were based in the US, given the number of layoffs and the slightly downcast employment market, I can see why HR slipped into top three. Companies need good talent, and can only do so with good HR managers. Opportunities are aplenty and there’s undeniable demand for HR folk who can not only help make sure an organisation is running like a well-oiled machine, but also filled to the brim with the best employees.

I rang up our April cover boy Hew Evans, regional HR director for Sony Electronics APAC, and asked him what’s the best thing about being a HR head.

“People make the difference in the business, and to get to work with those people every day gives such a great challenge and opportunity for success,” he said. But he’s not disillusioned either. While there are pros to the job, there is also “the frustration of working with people – yes, it is a double edged sword!”

And then he said there’s that misconception that “all we like to talk about is ‘tea and toilets’.” I guess you can’t win them all.

The top job of 2012 is – for the second year running – software engineering. Frankly, I’m not surprised, with this crazy phenomenon of cool apps and technology that seem to be coming at us from all sides, and being bought for billions of dollars.

PK, a software engineer friend, was only too happy to share why he thinks his profession is worthy of the top spot.

“I have a great amount of control over the work I do and I probably earn twice as much as most of my peers,” he said. “With my laptop and internet connection, I can do my work anywhere. That’s means working in bed or 600km away in Thailand.”

As if the high pay and flexibility aren’t enough, PK also waxed lyrical about the intangible benefits of the job.

“There is mainly satisfaction at two levels. The first is similar to the feeling you get when you finally solve that really long maths question and you got the perfect answer. The second is when you know what you made has some real use and value to someone else.”

He added being a software engineer isn’t as geeky and boring as it sounds, and given enough time, he could teach it to anyone with a keen interest. “It’s pretty much like math… just more interactive.”

Now I’m not the biggest fan of math, but if it means working out of a Starbucks on a beach in Thailand while earning twice what I do now, I’m sold. Especially since being a journo ranked all the way down in the bottom five of the list.

Robert, a fellow journo based out of Hong Kong, wasn’t too thrilled when I broke the news to him. “A part of me just died a little. Dishwashers and waiters are ranked above me,” he emailed back.

I asked him why he reckoned being a journo was one of the worst jobs this year. “We don’t meet sales targets or complete projects and assignments – we report news,” he lamented. “Our breathers come when people stop breathing.”

“Hollywood’s fabricated stereotype of hard-nosed, foul-mouthed, truth-twisting bastards adventurously fleeing about with a flask of brandy barely does any justice to the educated, ethical, well-mannered, nervous reality of some who are simply begging for a scoop on the phone,” he added.

“Tinsel Town did get one thing straight though: We aren’t liked.”

Amongst the list’s top ten worst jobs, which included being a butcher, an oil rig farmer and a lumberjack in the top spot, broadcasting came in #10.

“Broadcast journalism certainly is fun and fast-paced but it’s not a flexible industry to work in. Anti-social hours can come hand in hand with the job,” Sarah, a broadcaster working in Singapore, said.

“Plus news never stops, so that means being in the office on bank holidays and having to fight for time off at periods like Christmas and New Year.”

And along with Rob, she added the pay isn’t anything to die for. “I rarely meet rich journalists!”

But I guess at the end of the day, CareerCast.com’s list ranked the jobs using five criteria: physical demands, work environment, income, stress and hiring outlook. They didn’t measure job satisfaction, professional pride or passion – things that I personally think should count for something too.

In a day and age where work and personal life are so closely intertwined, it’s the personal intangible benefits that go further in keeping someone with a job.

Sure, working on a beach seems super fun, but would I really choose that over the insane satisfaction I get when a feature I’ve worked on for weeks is still talked about by people I meet at events months down the road? Probably not.

Feel free to share your thoughts on why you think your job it’s the best or worst in the world.

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

April 13, 2012 at 11:00 am

When Facebook isn’t your friend

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So, you’ve just scored the job interview of your dreams (or at least something close) and you’ve done your research on the company. Right about now, I’d bet you’re feeling pretty confident and prepared for any curveballs they may throw your way.

And then your interviewer asks: “Can you please log into Facebook right now so we can have a look around?”

This week, we ran a Bizarre HR about just that – companies that ask for Facebook logins to access potential employee’s profiles to gain a more, let’s call it “holistic”, understanding of the candidate.

I don’t know about you, but that’s sort of a deal breaker for me. Sure, there are a couple of things on Facebook I wouldn’t want my colleagues to find out about, but there has to be some kind of moral law (or actual law) against this. Right?

If you’ve been following The Snitch for a while now, you’d remember my attempt at staying off Facebook (obviously I went crawling back) so trust me when I say I understand the cheap thrill in venting about the co-worker who wouldn’t stop singing National Day songs in March, or how painful my last work trip was thanks to obnoxious cab drivers and inconsistent meeting times.

However, in the corporate world, a little discretion can never hurt. In the upcoming April magazine, editor Rebecca Lewis writes about the potentially disastrous effects a pissed off employee can have when they go on an online rampage.

Think about it. Here is someone with potentially sensitive information who believes they have been disengaged/insulted/mistreated (delete where appropriate) and has decided the best way to cool off is to broadcast their woes online.

Even something as simple as “Can’t people tell I’ve only got two hands?!” (I’ll admit I’ve tweeted that) can give the wrong impression. And this is if your profile is public.

Is anything even sacred anymore?

I’ve spoken to a couple of HR heads, and while most are against banning social media at work (“They’ll access it on their phones anyway,” one lamented), they do recognise the need to manage it.

With technology progressing faster than you can say Zuckerberg, and Gen Y’s who practically come out of the womb with an iPhone, there is no escaping the fact that social media is part of life.

While I am not a fan of potential bosses requesting access to my personal Facebook or Twitter pages (it would be timely to note I hardly ever accept friend or follower requests from colleagues), I do think HR has to determine how they intend to manage social media and its impact.

Let me know what you think and how your company manages social media both inside and outside the office.

PS: I just realised the irony of this post, considering I am the office snitch after all. C’est la vie!