The Snitch

Just a little of everything HR

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Taxi driver musings

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I was in the taxi on the way to work today when a story about holiday recruitment for teenagers (who usually would find jobs such as sales) was broadcast over the Chinese news radio station.

The taxi driver then scoffed, saying something to the effect of, “Companies are retrenching now, why do these kids even want a part-time job?” The taxi driver went on to talk about how companies would rather retrench a person holding a $2,000 – $3,000 salary for a fresh grad who was cheaper.

I won’t deny that such incidents do not happen. But I won’t agree that these incidents are representative of the labour market in general. Depending on the skill sets, attributes and experience needed, for a company to sack a person of more experience for a fresh grad shows a lack of long-term planning.

As much as I think taxi drivers (especially the chatty ones) are the ones with the pulse on what is happening in society, I always happen to think that a certain subset of Singaporeans are a pretty cynical bunch in general. When the economy is in good times and reports of higher wages are all over the news – people ask: “Who is this happening to and why aren’t I getting a raise?”

Especially now in the bad times, there are questions being raised at local politicians of how foreigners are taking away jobs held by Singaporeans. Is this true? With the rising foreign population, it can be. But in our cynicism, we also forget to think about how the growing population is fuelling a demand for new goods and services, or how some enterprising foreigners (like my boss, for instance) actually help create new jobs and businesses here.

When we don’t have a big picture, sometimes we take our perceptions to be the ultimate truth.

And just for fun, some of the other topics my taxi driver talked about included:

  • Married women who don’t want to give birth
  • How I should take the Nicholl Highway in the future
  • Murder rates in Singapore
  • Taiwanese politicians
  • How narrow expressway ramps contribute to congestion
  • The dearth of topics on the Chinese news station
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Written by Human Resources

November 12, 2008 at 9:19 am

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“Could the lay-offs have been avoided?”

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With the news of job cuts rampant in the dailies recently, it’s no wonder everyone is feeling the jitters.

Conrad Raj from Today posed an interesting question regarding DBS’s decision to lay off 900 people, or 6% of its total workforce by end of November. “Could the lay-offs have been avoided? What other measures did the group look at before deciding to take the present drastic action?”

Citing UOB’s response to use job cuts as its last resort in surviving the global economic downturn, Raj questioned if DBS Bank’s management could have re-deployed their cost-cutting measures in other ways to protect jobs.

While laying people off is the easiest way for most banks to achieve cost reductions, according to an article by Times UK, it can disrupt the staff morale, which in turn affects the quality of service provided to the customers.

Instead, to keep companies afloat during the economic turmoil without retrenching anyone, the article suggests introducing pay cuts for both senior and junior employees.

However, it warns that pay cuts should be considered only when every bit of waste has been trimmed out of the organisation and the only remaining option is layoffs. “It has to be top down. It should not be imposed on other people while the top guys still take home the same pay.”

Similarly, companies can start using flexible work options as cost saving and retention measures before considering job cuts, as urged by the chairperson for Employer Alliance, Claire Chiang in a recent Human Resources online article. “Maybe you could cut hours, rather than cut people. You are staggering the time so that they can take the leave and yet come back if they wish to. Overall, you keep the talent.”

From the employee’s perspective, Chiang said, “They may take a little less [pay] but it is better than no job.”

With our Finance Minister, Tharman Shanmugaratnam quoted as saying the economic downturn is unlikely to be short term, perhaps it is time for multinationals to rethink their human capital strategy before swinging the axe.

Written by Lee Xieli

November 11, 2008 at 3:41 pm

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East vs West

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Here’s food for thought.

In an article by Reuters, it puts across an idea that companies in Asia aren’t retrenching as many staff as the West because “it’s a culture thing”. Companies in Asia are more likely to bite the bullet and take a cut on pay rather than sack employees, compared to Western countries that simply axe employees clean and good.

Human resource experts say cultural differences explain why Asian firms try harder to preserve jobs in difficult times, which will stem unemployment and may help keep Asian economies afloat at a time of slowing exports.

The more paternalistic East Asian attitude may also make it easier for firms to recover quickly from the economic downturn since they will not need to rehire or train new staff, leaving some experts predicting a Western shift to Eastern flexibility.

“In the Confucian mindset, the right thing to do is to share the burden. There’s that sense of collective responsibility whereas in the West, it’s more about individual survival,” said Michael Benoliel, associate professor of organizational behavior at Singapore Management University (SMU).

But cultural differences may not be all of it. Mark Ellewood, head of Robert Walters for Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand says a lot of it could also be due to the labour laws in the West – which generally favour the employee – and could lead to litigation lawsuits against the company.

Most people would agree that they would rather work for a lower pay than have no job at all. But this article makes me wonder – are there other factors that come into play which we don’t know about? For one, you could argue that companies in the West have to lay more people off because they are suffering from a greater impact of the economic downturn.  Or it could be a “kiasu” (colloquial term for ‘scared to lose’) effect, where companies don’t want to let people go because they want as many hands on the deck in order to keep the business going.

What do you think? Can it be boiled down to a mere “culture” thing?

Written by Human Resources

November 4, 2008 at 2:11 pm

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The new face of networking?

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Networking, according to this New York Times article, has a bad rep among people in the younger generation. Specifically, it invokes an images of “strategically talking to people and trying to be their friends.” In short, it’s just fake and insincere.

According to the article, “likemind” is the new networking. Spawning in places such as Shanghai, Mumbai and Sweden, Likemind connects people (derived mostly of young entrepreneurs and freelancers), and meetings have no fixed agenda or fees even.

Likemind might sound like a 2008 version of networking, but to participants, likemind events are distinctly different from the traditional networking parties of the ’80s and ’90s, where slick-suited would-be executives teetered around with a cocktail in one hand and a fistful of business cards in the other.

Likemind caters to young professionals in advertising, media and design who are products of the age of personal blogs, warts-and-all YouTube videos and viral marketing. For them, the best pitch is the disguised pitch. Nothing, participants said, is more uncool than the hard-sell of traditional networking (which may explain why likemind is not capitalized).

“We just show up over coffee and talk,” said Eric Cedo, a participant in Detroit, in an e-mail message.

So the question really is: Is Likemind just a new repackaged way of networking? And can networking be anything less than insincere? Is networking even unauthentic to begin with?

Written by Human Resources

October 29, 2008 at 4:38 pm

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What Minister Mentor Lee talked about..

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Like him or not, Minister Mentor Lee Kwan Yew has managed to develop Singapore into a ‘knowledge economy’ in the 60’s even before the catchphrase even existed.But the discussion encompassed a little bit of everything – Singapore’s sociopolitical situation in the 60’s, history, politics, his views on leadership and the most important thing: human capital.

Some points which MM Lee covered in the discussion at the Singapore Human Capital Summit includes:

  • The economic downturn and how long the recession might last
  • The rising competition between Chindia and Singapore, and the competitive advantages of Singapore
  • European history (really!)
  • Foreign talent and why Singapore needs it

Written by Human Resources

October 24, 2008 at 7:42 pm

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Thoughts on the Singapore Human Capital Summit

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  • Plenary discussions are a really great way to know who is a better speaker than the other.
  • How crazy is the security on the third day? It makes the Shangri-La hotel feel like an airport.
  • I really enjoyed Capitaland Liew Mun Leong’s presentation on the second day on what makes Capitaland much more than just a real estate developer. I conducted an interview with him last night and I’m still trying to decide if I should put his story in the print issue of the magazine or write it up for an online story.
  • Hands down, the best dressed person at the conference was the lady, who on Day 2, wore a dress with Space Invaders on it. Way too cool!

Written by Human Resources

October 24, 2008 at 12:41 pm

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Day 2 at the Singapore Human Capital Summit: Perspectives from an Asian CEO

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Just earlier today, Liew Mun Leong, president and CEO of Capitaland gave a presentation on the company’s view on building and managing talent from a perspective of an Asian CEO and leader.

Just a few takeaway points which I thought were interesting:

  • Capitaland only sends out employees who are “A++” overseas. This ensures that employees who receive overseas assignment stints know that they are not being sent on “an exile to Siberia”.
  • Capitaland has not one, but two schools that aims to train its employees. One of the schools – Capitaland Institute for Management and Business (CLIMB) – is located at Sentosa which trains on leadership and managerial skills. The other, Ascott Centre for Excellence (ACE) is located at Novena and trains its employees in its hospitality business.
  • Capitaland makes bold distinguishes between employees who are average performers and employees who are top performers.
  • Out of the 20 CEOs in Capitaland, 18 are trained from within, with only two that were recruited from outside. Three of them are women.
  • Capitaland’s succession planning is reviewed every six months.

Written by Human Resources

October 23, 2008 at 4:50 pm

Posted in Conference & events

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