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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.

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

August 15, 2012 at 11:50 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

Love them or risk them leaving… In style.

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Over the past few months, I’ve sat comfortably at my desk and watched with bemusement as the world tripped over itself trying to find new ways to quit – and leave a mark.

Let’s face it – the economy isn’t really rocking right now, so to quit a job in certain industries takes courage as it is. But when you top that up with an open letter published in the New York Times, jumping off a plane or getting a marching band playing your resignation, then you’ve got a winner – and the attention of the world.

Greg Smith, a Goldman Sachs executive director, made headlines this week after publishing an opinion piece in The New York Times, declaring that after 12 years, he’s had it with Goldman Sachs’ “toxic” culture.

“To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world’s largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way,” Smith wrote. “The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.”

The piece, which was published the same day Smith handed in his resignation, revealed intimate details of what Smith claims happens in the corridors of one of the world’s easily recognisable investment banking and securities firm.

“It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as ‘muppets,’ sometimes over internal e-mail,” Smith said.

But while Smith’s dramatic – and extremely public – exit got heads turning, a personal favourite of mine is Steven Slater’s resignation. (Granted, when I said he jumped out of a plane, it was already safely on the runaway and not 30,000 feet in the air. Now, that would be something.)

In 2010, Slater, a JetBlue flight attendant, was so fed-up with his job that when a female passenger refused to stop unloading her carry-on luggage from the overhead compartment because the passengers haven’t been given the green light to do so, the luggage falling on his head was the last straw.

The passenger refused to apologise and instead hurled a couple of vulgarities at Slater, causing him to react accordingly. He promptly got on the plane’s public address system and said, “To the passenger who just called me a m*****f***er, f*** you. I’ve been in this business 28 years, and I’ve had it.”

He then grabbed a couple of beers off the aisle (you know he means business), released the emergency exit slide and made his unforgettable departure from the plane – and his career.

And who can forget Joey DeFrancesco, a Marriott Renaissance hotel employee, who was done with the “horrendous” working conditions that he ambushed his boss, announced, “Jared, I’m here to tell you I’m quitting,” and walked out of the hotel as the marching band started to play triumphantly behind him.

Oh, and did I mention the whole thing was caught on video and promptly uploaded onto YouTube, garnering over 3 million views at last count?

I call him the pied piper of disgruntled employees.

Which leads me to the point of all this. Employees these days need you to care – fair and simple. There aren’t really two ways about it, especially in current business climate where a bit of TLC can do a lot more than an extra couple hundred dollars of pay.

Speaking at the first Ogilvy Do debates in Singapore last night, So-Young Kang, founder and CEO of global leadership development and experience design firm Awaken Group, said the one thing missing from the workplace today is love.

But while I won’t go so far as to agree with her and urge you to give your employees a hug right now (you can if you want to), I will say that a bit of recognition and a lot of listening to make sure they’re happy and fulfilled is critical.

Businesses these days cannot afford to be focused on just the bottom line. With employees often more than eager to jump ship at the next best opportunity (fellow Gen Y-ers, I’m looking at you – but I’m generalising), leaders need to step up and make sure they’re not just bosses, but colleagues.

Many have waxed lyrical at the near-magical effect of employee recognition, but as a captive audience of the HR world, I have to admit I’ve seen it do wonders. So go ahead, ask about your employee’s day, take an extra minute to listen to them and find out what drives them in the morning and keeps them awake at night, and who knows what that emotional investment might bring you in terms of business results.

It’s worth a shot, and it’s definitely easier to manage than a public embarrassment should they pull a resignation stunt.

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

March 16, 2012 at 11:30 am

Small Talk on work happiness and longevity

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Singapore – New research has proven that those with a happy and supportive working environment tend to live longer.

Tel Aviv University released a study that showed employees with an encouraging office culture were 2.4 times more likely to live longer in a 20-year study period. Additionally, informal peer relationships were a better indicator of health.

“As we spend most of our daily time with our colleagues, it is thus important for the [work] environment to be collegial and harmonious,” Christina Siaw, chief executive officer of the Singapore Cruise Centre (SCC), said.

The Israel study added most modern day companies do not have supportive environments because of factors such as telecommuting and the lack of face-to-face conversations. It suggested providing areas in the office where people can talk freely and organising informal outings to strengthen relationships.

This week, Small Talk also discusses the changes in the employment pass criteria in Singapore, and how it will affect smaller businesses. Employers in sectors such as retail, and food and beverage are hoping the government will be more lenient with industries that are facing a genuine talent shortage.

Ho Nyok Yong, president of the Singapore Contractors Association, said he hopes a policy that helps retain skilled foreign talent is implemented. He added repatriating workers who have already acquired certain skills or experience in their tenure here will be a “loss to our nation”.

Additionally, Small Talk talks about a lifeguard who was dismissed for refusing to wear a Speedo, and why having a neatly decorated desk can improve your productivity and work relationships. Also, Small Talk discusses retail chain Abercrombie & Fitch’s recruitment campaign in Singapore as it looks for attractive sales staff.

Don’t forget to take part in our weekly poll on our website, and tell us your pet peeves when it comes to personal office decorations.

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

August 26, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Small Talk on smartphone addiction and respecting employees

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Singapore – While smartphones are helping people stay connected 24/7, the mobile devices may actually be doing more harm than good when it comes to productivity.

A survey from the UK revealed that two-fifths of respondents admitted to using their mobile phones to text, email and take calls when in a face-to-face meeting. Employees who are constantly glued to their mobile devices are also more likely to be distracted by work, even during weekends or when on vacation.

While some may argue the dependency on smartphones helps them stay connected, the survey reported that 36% of employees found the distractions made it harder for them to complete work. Another 22% said they suffered from information overload and more than a fifth are unable to think creatively.

Small Talk this week also discusses why respecting your employees and peers can lead to higher retention rates. A new report by Regus showed 72% of Singaporeans believed a good working environment stemmed from managers showing respect to their employees.

But managers have to be aware of why certain staff will still choose to leave a job. The latest Kelly Global Workplace Index 2011 showed that Singaporeans listed career changes, evolving personal interests and better work-life balance as the top reasons to jump ship.

While on the topic of career progression, Small Talk reports how having good presentation skills can improve your chances of getting a promotion. Employees who show confidence when presenting are more likely to be “visible” to the top level management, said Hazriq Idrus, a corporate trainer with Firefly Horizon.

Additionally, Small Talk explores how an open office concept is actually distracting employees from their work and how more local companies are moving into the suburbs to cut cost.

With office rents skyrocketing in prime areas such as Tanjong Pagar and Raffles Place, more companies are heading towards locations such as One@Changi City, Changi Business Park and Mapletree Business City.

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

August 12, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Small Talk on racist staff and Gen Y’s expectations

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Singapore – Employees in Indian call centres have been told it was okay to hang up on “dumb” Australian clients while senior leaders in Singapore worry over their Gen Ys’ high expectations.

One trainer at the call centre even went so far to tell staff that Australians are racist towards Indians and did not begin attending college until recently. These demeaning stereotypes were brought to light after a journalist from news magazine Mother Jones underwent a three-week training course at the Delhi Call Centre last year.

This week, Small Talk discusses the irony of that story, as well as how employers can manage the expectations of their Generation Y (Gen Y) employees. According to Richard Lai, chief executive officer and managing director of logistics company Mapletree, younger staff want more money and opportunities but also a good work-life balance.

Lai said employees have to be more realistic in order to be happier at work. “At the end of the day, it is up to the individual to find their own level of contentment in their jobs.”

Also, find out more about how getting a team to cook together can help with bonding as HRTV heads down to The Sentosa Resort and Spa for a first-hand look at a new “Iron Chef” team building programme.

“It takes a break from the normal corporate retreats which usually involves teams being in seminars all day and talking business,” Ryan Sonson, the hotel’s executive chef, said.

Additionally, learn how companies are supporting older workers, along with their concern over rising wages as Singaporeans become increasingly pessimistic about their job opportunities.

Small Talk: Leadership tips from most admired companies

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Singapore – Senior managers seemsto share two things in common – recognising the value of engagement and a common distrust of emails.

The annual list of the world’s most admired companies by FORTUNE magazine was announced this week, and leaders from those organisations shared their secrets in motivating and engaging staff.

“What we’re trying to foster at Google is a culture where you speak up if it’s not going the way you thought or if you think there’s a way to make it better,” Sarah Robb said. She is the head of people operations for general and administration at Google in Asia Pacific (APAC).

Narihiko Uemura, managing director for Sony Electronics in Singapore and APAC, added that bonding with employees over lunch or at out-of-office activities can help leaders understand their teams better.

Google and Sony Electronics practise seeking feedback from employees to ensure they are inspired and motivated to work by conducting engagement surveys and engaging them in regular dialogue.

However, while still on the topic on conversations, executives in the US are finding emails a waste of time.

According to the Jive Social Business Index 2011 conducted by research firm Penn Schoen Berland for Jive Software, two thirds of them believe that social networks will “fundamentally change the way people share, connect and learn at work”.

This week, Small Talk also explores why a British banker decided to ditch the corporate world and become a witch doctor instead. Additionally, find out why employees in the US are afraid to leave their jobs.

This is despite nearly half of them reporting they have been working for a bad boss, or managers who make their working environments tough.

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

July 8, 2011 at 12:42 pm