The Snitch

Just a little of everything HR

Posts Tagged ‘Employee engagement

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!

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

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.

HRTV: Engage employees through their senses

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Singapore – Learning programmes are getting increasingly creative, as companies strive to find interesting ways to engage staff while training them.

In an interview with HRTV, Gareth Poh, owner of The Training Company, said unique learning environments can help improve engagement levels in a class.

Poh said by providing a novel yet comfortable setting, participants would be more willing to take part in activities and “let their guard down”. That’s when the employee will be able to absorb the information presented best as the relaxing atmosphere allows them to be more receptive.

Likewise, his training facility has been decorated to look like the beach, complete with wallpaper designs, wooden lounge chairs and piped music. Poh also uses aromatherapy to create a holistic seaside experience for learners.

He shared that adding scents like lavender and oranges along with soothing ambience music to a training venue will trigger more senses which help participants retain their new knowledge better.

According to Poh, training programmes are becoming more interactive and many encourage employees to go on a journey of self-discovery and reflection.

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

July 27, 2011 at 2:43 pm

HRTV: PwC on the importance of work-life balance

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Singapore – Employers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of providing staff with a good work-life balance, and the impact it has on employees’ productivity.

Deborah Ong, human capital partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), said companies who are able to provide their employees with a healthy work-life balance will see an increase in their staff’s productivity. This is because organisations will be helping employees develop holistically through work and play, and make the staff feel valued and taken care of.

In an interview with HRTV at the recent JP Morgan corporate challenge run, Ong added it is essential human resources (HR) get support from senior leaders and the upper management in the organisation in order to effectively execute work-life balance programmes.

“HR will not be able to do it alone,” she said, adding that management buy in will ensure the proper “integration” of work-life balance initiatives within the organisation.

She also advised HR to look into providing more creative and innovative engagement plans, such as holiday subsidies as a remuneration, to better engage and retain staff.

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Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

June 22, 2011 at 1:13 pm

HRTV: Small Talk on managing creative staff

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Singapore – It is no secret creative employees have their own working style, but managers who can help them work together with the more traditional thinkers can reap positive results.

Edvarcl Heng, senior manager of social media at MediaCom, said a traditionalist can “help temper” the highflying ideas of a creative. “Similarly, a creative can create new efficiencies in the organisational work templates.”

He also suggested keeping work routines unpredictable in order to inspire creative staff. There is also the challenge of not bruising egos. Douglas Harding, executive producer at Apostrophe Films, said managers should constantly keep in mind that criticism can affect the employee’s enthusiasm for work.

Sabrina Zolkifi and Lee Xieli discuss in this episode of Small Talk how else managers can do to motivate their creative employees. They also share the two types of toxic managers human resources (HR) professionals must look out for. These are the tyrants and the mediocre managers.

Terry Sheridan, managing director of executive consultant firm Guardian Angel, explained the tyrants are the bullies of the workplace and will use the company’s resources for their own gains. Meanwhile, the mediocre ones will do the bare minimum work and spend time with office politics.

She added employees working under a bad manager will become “ineffective and inefficient”. Sheridan also advised HR to document the negative incidents and complaints against the bad manager so it would make dismissing them an easier process.

“Make sure they are aware of why they’ve lost their job,” she said. “A lot of people are blind to their faults, which is why the performance review is so essential and a core component of an HR manager’s job.”

Additionally, Sabrina and Xieli discuss why HR professionals are in such high demand this year, and what happens when a German insurance firm took its male employees to a spa for some shady reward incentives.

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Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

May 27, 2011 at 12:00 pm

HRTV: Engage employees like the Americans

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Singapore – Companies in Asia should adopt the “partnership” engagement strategies many US and European organisations use if they want to see lower employee turnover rates this year.

Rolf Bezemer, managing director for Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Australia for technology services provider Lumesse, called the employee engagement process in US and Europe a “partnership”. He said the partnership involves having both sides constantly communicate and express their requirements and expectations of each other frequently.

Bezemer added companies in the region have to focus on bridging the gap between managers and their staff, instead of keeping a distance because of corporate hierarchical fears. “Employee engagement is simple,” he said. “It starts with identifying them on an individual level.”

A recent survey by Aon Hewitt concludes that the formula for success for firms lies in having a “performance-driven culture, clear vision and convincing employee promises, efficient and effective people practices, strong organisational alignment and accountability in the company”.

Chief of all, Aon Hewitt said the key to success lies in engaging employees effectively to win their commitment and allegiance.

Recently, together with The Business Times and CATS Recruit of The Straits Times, Aon Hewitt recognised Ritz-Carlton Millennia Singapore and McDonald’s Restaurants as “outstanding” employers, with high employee engagement levels.

Bezemer added that developing young talent remains a key priority for companies so it is just as important to engage the younger workforce early in their career. Besides coaching them in the daily job requirements, leaders have to engage younger employees in “open and consistent” discussions. This will help them understand the staff’s needs and aspirations, and help develop them professionally, as well as individually.

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HRTV: Small Talk on leadership lessons from GE

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Singapore – Now that the dust around the general elections (GE) is beginning to settle, Small Talk takes a look at the leadership lessons companies can take away.

William Rothwell, a professor who teaches human resources (HR) management and development issues at Pennsylvania State University, said when picking new leaders, organisations need successors who are open-minded. He added it is important they can fill in the gaps of the current leadership, and are able to deliver fresh perspectives.

Sabrina Zolkifi hosts this week’s episode of Small Talk and discusses what else local leaders can learn from the elections, as well as why you should teach your employees the same way you would primary school children.

Mary Sue Rogers, general manager for IBM’s global human resources (HR) for learning and recruitment, said when planning a learning programme, HR should develop one with a learning style familiar to its employees.

“Go back to primary and secondary school, and see how the teachers are teaching your future employees,” she said.

Small Talk also explores how Singaporeans’ favourite language Singlish can affect career prospects and what HR can do about it.

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Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

May 13, 2011 at 1:33 pm

HRTV: Satisfying both employees and customers

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Singapore – Employee satisfaction is a “two-pronged approach” involving both staff and customers, according to Glenn Tan, executive director of motor vehicle distributor Tan Chong International.

Tan said it is important to meet the needs of both employees and customers in order for a business to succeed. He explained an unhappy employee will not be able to provide a “feel-good” experience for the customer, and that in the long run would affect the overall business.

“We want customers to feel good buying from us, but at the same time, we also want our people to feel good working here,” he said. “It’s a two-pronged approach and it’s easier said than done, but it’s got to start somewhere.”

Tan added part of making employees feel good at work was ensuring they have job satisfaction. He said once an employee finds his job rewarding, he would be more “excited” to come to work and be productive. “Satisfaction is more important than the benefits you provide because employees will then have a sense of achievement for what they’ve done.”

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Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

April 27, 2011 at 11:09 am

HRTV: Small Talk on why engagement surveys fail

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Singapore – The results from your internal employee engagement surveys may not be as truthful as you think.

This is because many companies usually make 10 key mistakes when carrying out engagement surveys. Brad Federman, president of Performancepoint, said one of the biggest mistakes an organisation can make is to ignore the “big brother syndrome”.

“People rate the organisation well because they know the company has access to their ratings. If you want insights to strengthen your organisation, do yourself a favour and use a third party,” he said

Small Talk discuss other survey blunders companies can avoid, and why some times, conflicts between different business divisions can be healthy. It also discusses why social media sites can sabotage your working relationships with colleagues.

More than half of 400 respondents in a Robert Half survey said social media has negatively impacted their workplace relationships.

Small Talk also shares what employees can do to project a professional image online, and the part HR can play in creating a better employer branding strategy.

Martin Cerullo, managing director for development for Alexander Mann Solutions in Asia Pacific, said a good employer brand can increase retention rates and loyalty.

“It’s very important for organisations to work on their brand at the very beginning of a programme, so they can get support from all the leaders in the business and not just human resources.”

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Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

April 15, 2011 at 1:30 pm