Monday, October 23, 2017

Opinion: Sound leadership and better working conditions for employees paves the way for high staff morale and productivity : An open proposal to Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say and the Singapore Government

With the implementation of the Tripartite Standard on Grievance Handling scheme that was launched by the Manpower Minister and supported by 220 employers, our workers can be assured of better working conditions (New scheme guides firms in handling staff grievances; October 20, 2017, The Straits Times).


Friendly ageing hiring, recruitment practices and retrenchments processes are important issues that needs to be addressed quickly as companies restructure with cost savings in mind.  To this end, it is comforting to know that these matters are being looked into by the unions and the manpower ministry. All workers – whether they are union members or not, need better working conditions and fair HR practices.


It was also mentioned in the ST report that supervisors have to be trained in managing employee feedback and unhappiness. With the government encouraging Singaporeans to upgrade themselves through continuous training, it is just as important for managers to be flexible and open to ideas from trainees and not stick to rigid procedures.  Bottom line: Both managers and bosses need to ‘think out of the box’.

Employees and all Singaporeans alike want to be listened to and feel that their concerns are taken seriously.

Some of the issues that cause unhappiness at the work place that sometimes leads to high turnover rates and much unhappiness include the following:

Lack of recognition: Staff will feel unappreciated when their superiors or bosses do not recognise the effort/s they put in to carry out any task.  It’s amazing how far a simple pat on the back, or ‘thank you’ note for a job well done can motivate staff.

Good ideas thrown out: Creative ideas and suggestions that can improve the well-being of the organisations or our nation should be embraced and not tossed out of the window just because it may entail extra work.   

Lack of remuneration: Employees who have not been promoted or given pay rises for several years will sure to feel dissatisfied, resulting in their not wanting to give their very best. They bottle up their unhappiness and dare not approach the boss as they are afraid of being ‘marked.’  In some cases, depression sets in, where work life and home life cause big problems as relationships sour – both on the home front as well as in the office.

No clear career path ahead:  When employees are not given clear career paths, they are not likely to give their 100 percent effort, but carry out the tasks at hand grudgingly because there is no motivation for them to push the limits.

Favoritism: Employer-employee relations can be tricky and at times, subordinates who lose out on promotions can be de-motivated, what more with office politics not being uncommon, and some bosses, regrettably, tending to favour certain staff.  For as human beings, we all have our ‘little favorites’ This was one of the issues I raised in my article to a local media company entitled Supportive Bosses raise Productivity”

For more details, do take time to read the full article by clicking onto the link below


Uneven spared of workload:   It often happens: The dynamic worker who can get the job done almost immediately and efficiently will be given a much heavier workload most of the time, while those who are not that productive will get a much lighter workload. Then there will be much unhappiness when the less productive worker gets pay increases or promotions while his/her colleague who has been very productive gets little or nothing. 


There have also been instances when the staff appraisal is used as a ‘weapon’ against an employee who falls out of the favour of the boss or the supervisor.   With this new scheme in place by the union in collaboration with the manpower ministry, workers can be given a fair chance to air their grievances so that if they are weak in certain areas, they can be counselled and given a chance to improve their performance within a given time frame.


This is why it is absolutely necessary to have a two-way staff appraisal in place, and this was a suggestion I made in the Straits Times some time back. I believe Mindef has such a system in place, but in the interest of all workers, unionised or otherwise, all government agencies and private companies need to adopt such a good HR practice.


Older Singaporeans with vast experience can mentor younger workers


Older Singaporeans who possess years of invaluable work and life experiences ought to be given the opportunity to mentor younger workers as they are well positioned to inspire and motivate inexperienced workers.  There should be no obstacles or road blocks put in the way of experienced elderly Singaporeans in reaching out to the middle age and younger workers. We must do away with the civil service mentality of ‘going by the book.’ There must be flexibility to adapt to different settings.


Layoffs should be the last resort


Unfortunately, when it comes to layoffs, usually the first workers that are asked to leave are those who command high salaries and have stayed loyal to the company for decades. We need to value such loyal employees – just as the Japanese style management does.  They view such workers as an asset, not a liability. 


With this new scheme put in place, a productive worker who has contributed to the well-being of the company and enhanced its image, through useful contributions, but not given fair recognition can raise the matter up in an amicable manner through the proper channels.


As companies restructure and downsize, it is inevitable that some unproductive workers may have to go.  Layoffs are of course painful as it can create behavioural and cost, hurt everyone in the company; with staff morale taking a beating.


No one likes unpleasant surprises. Instead of rushing off to carry out layoffs across the board, dedicated workers could be asked to take a few months of unpaid leave and still remain gainfully employed.  This will not only help the company to cut some costs, but will also allow the affected workers to either attend skills upgrading courses or look for other jobs.  Those on unpaid leave can also seize the opportunity to spend more quality time with their families.


It takes a leader to lead by example


Strong leadership must come from management who desire not to just save costs, but to save hearts and jobs as they display compassion for their loyal staff.


Undoubtedly, Raffles Hotel fits the bill as they embark on seconding staff who worry about losing their jobs, to their sister hotels for employment opportunities as the hotel will lose revenue with an 18-month restoration project that is taking place.


Raymond Anthony Fernando

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