berthahenson

Posts Tagged ‘employers’

Climbing the corporate ladder – systematically

In Money, News Reports on November 13, 2014 at 12:08 pm

There’s a story in MSM today that you probably missed. It’s to do with the progressive wage model. Sounds “blah’’ I know but I have been trying to wrap my head around this concept that the labour movement has been promoting for some time now. Most of us would probably associate the model with cleaners who now operate with a minimum wage floor that will go up when they obtain skills or can do “high-order’’ work. More recently, the security industry was announced as sector number 2, to begin in 2016, to be followed by workers in landscaping. I can understand the need for a wage floor for the lower paid because they simply are paid too poorly. In fact, for cleaners, adoption of the model is part of a licensing scheme that all cleaning companies must get before they can bid for contracts.

But I can’t seem to wrap my head round why other better-paid sectors would need it. So the NTUC is happy that nearly 270 unionised companies have come on board to adopt the model, which is basically a career and wage progression ladder. I would have thought private sector companies, especially the big ones, would have human resource departments which have already mapped out how their employees should be assessed and paid or promoted. It seems the private sector already does plenty of merit-based promotion and payment but the labour movement wants to make this process more systematic and transparent. I wonder how many companies actually want to tell their employees how they promote and pay people. After all, this an important lever for a company to get more from its workers. And would they want to be bound by a wage structure that says when and how they should promote? Seems to me a bit like tying the hands of employers. At the very minimum, they have to abide by a wage floor for employees.

Looking through the case studies presented by NTUC at its conference yesterday, I was surprised that Singapore Airlines and SMRT were among the companies that have recently adopted the model. SIA promotes not just on merit, but also level of competency. Here’s what its human resource person said: “In the past, promotions were hard to come by. People had to wait for vacancies to arrive through resignation. Our staff are loyal so the attrition rate is low, as far as our general staff are concerned, so you had to wait a long time for vacancies to arrive.” Since it implemented the model, it has promoted 85 general staff.

I guess that’s a point in employees favour. Too often, they look up at the seniors in the company hierarchy and wonder when they will be pushed off their perch so that a vacancy is available. It must be pretty demoralising for a young person to see so many not much older people above him on the ladder. It’s a temptation to job-hop, to seek better prospects elsewhere. Yet, I wonder too how the companies feel about having a bigger and bigger wage bill, unless of course, it is accompanied by bigger and bigger output.

It seems some people in the F&B sector are taking on the model with a starting pay of $1,300 a month for service crew, instead of $1,200 a month. Instead of five levels to the top, which is Operations Manager, it created another two rungs in between. I think employers will have to keep persuading staff that this isn’t a way to slow down progression, which will be how some people will see it (as road blocks rather than rungs). I had a look at the ladder and the good thing is that the top level can stand to earn at least $4,500 a month instead of the current maximum of $3,800. Of course, how long it will take to get through seven levels instead of jumping through five….It seems that the labour movement wants these companies to be a nucleaus of sorts to infect the rest of the sector and has set up tripartite sectoral committees which will decide on wage increments and any changes to the ladder. It’s like price-fixing with a floor, except that both employers and unions have a hand in it.

I asked NTUC why employers would even want to be part of this and the answer that came back: Labour crunch. Employers would want their workers to stay on rather than job hop to the next employer who pays $10 more. I suppose in this full employment period, this is the best time to press employers to raise wages in accordance with skills and more or better service. I hope though that it isn’t the case that just because someone has a diploma or two, it means an automatic push up the ladder. Because it can turn the phrase “life-long learning’’ into a weary paper chase. And we thought we left school a long time ago!

Work hard; Be happy

In News Reports on July 19, 2014 at 5:52 am

There’s an interesting report today in ST about a 1,000-worker and 500-boss survey on work-life balance. It threw up some odd results, like how most thought they were “in control’’ of their work-life arrangements although very few took up flexi-work options. Extrapolate further on why they thought they were in control and what comes across is that they can take “emergency leave’’ and “time off’’ at short notice.

Seems we have a very low threshold of pain… I liked what Guardian Health and Beauty chief executive Sarah Boyd said about the survey: “I think for me, the ability to take time off at short notice or emergency leave shouldn’t be considered a part of the frame of reference for work-life balance – it should be a basic human need… If Singaporeans were able to see what work-life balance and flexi-work means in other parts of the world, they would get a very different frame of reference for their decisions.”

I wish this part of the report was expanded further. What DO work-life balance and flexi-work mean elsewhere?

Clearly, Singapore is way behind developed countries in flexi-work arrangements and their take-up rates. Employer Alliance chief Claire Chiang thinks it’s because they had to tackle the problem far earlier – more usual for both men and women to work (gender equality) and families did without maids.

But when it comes to employers staggering working hours or having telecommuting arrangements, the numbers here aren’t that bad. Close to half of employers say they have such arrangements. But workers don’t seem to be taking them up. Some analysts put this down to an addiction to work, and how so much of life now centres on work.
Strikes me that maybe, workers may not know they are available. Or maybe, these are not “structured’’ arrangements offered by the company but ad hoc ones given to those who ask.

Or maybe, as Ms Boyd, said the Singapore workers’ “frame of reference’’ is quite different from elsewhere. (Because there is a maid and family support at home?) So even if we do work long hours, we still find satisfaction in work, as a survey on teachers earlier showed. Our idea of balance is to be able to get time out when there are emergencies, for which we seem to be thankful that bosses understand this “basic human need’’.

Worker: Boss, my 80-year old mother had an accident and is now in hospital ICU. Can I leave now to go see her?
Possible responses:
Boss: No, finish your work first. Your mother will still be in hospital when your work is done.
Boss: And who is going to do your work while you’re away? Me?
Boss: You have no brothers and sisters, aunties and uncles, people related to you by blood or marriage who can be with her now?
Boss: Go! Go! This is all part of work-life balance that the company and the country is promoting. Go with my blessings. (Worker keels over in gratitude at the magnanimous gesture.)

Anyway, some interesting findings beyond the top line results:
a. Working mothers with young children is the group most worried about being looked askance if they took up flexi-work arrangements. The survey doesn’t say why but it’s probably because this is the group which most probably HAS to ask for leave and such when boy-boy or girl-girl get sick or get into trouble.

b. It’s the men who want more work-life balance than the women, saying that their well-being, personal and family life as well as work productivity will be enhanced.

c. While most people say they would be attracted to work in a company which promotes balance, not as many say they will quit if it doesn’t. Guess they are stuck or maybe the pay is good…

d. The 20-somethings form the group most in favour of work-life balance, saying that their family/personal life would “improve significantly’’. Gosh! So young and already want “balance’’, more so than the older cohorts who probably have children and elderly parents to look after…wish they would just work first before insisting on “balance”.

e. Bosses interviewed aren’t tough about demanding face-time with workers or that they work long hours or that they take work home. Seems it’s all in workers’ imaginations. But, here’s the rub: Some 54 per cent of bosses say they should be available to “meet business needs regardless of business hours ‘’ but only 37 per cent of workers agree. So it seems that workers want “real’’ time-out, and not be at the bosses’ beck and call.

g. At the end of the day, it’s the workers’ direct supervisor who is the face of a company in support of work-life balance. About 61 per cent of respondents said their supervisor was “more’’ and “much more’’ supportive compared to the company.
I think (g) is the most important point. A company can put out all the arrangements it wants but it is usually the direct line supervisors who decide access – as well as performance appraisal (!)

Earlier this month, 69 companies and individuals received the “Best Companies for Mums” Awards organised by the National Trades Union Congress Women’s Development Secretariat and Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP). It also awards “most supportive supervisors’’. This year, it remembered Dads and added: “Most Enabling Companies for Dads”.

I got hold of a citation for one of the “most supportive supervisors’’ award – for Chan Hoi San of StarHub.

Here is an edited excerpt of the nomination by Eloise Yeo:

“I am a mother of three, and have to rely on family support to take care of my children. Despite the long distance to and from work, Hoi San supports me in times when I have to leave work half an hour earlier so that I can take over the childcare from my mother. The challenges that I have to overcome at home grew when my Dad was suddenly diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2011. He eventually passed away within a month of diagnosis. During that one month, Hoi San allowed me to work from home so that I can take care of my girls while my Mom takes care of my Dad. ..Things weren’t over as after this, my father in-law was diagnosed with cancer in 2013 and had to go through rounds of treatment. Hoi San showed her care and concern as a confidant and gave me advice as a friend. When I had to drive to and from work so that I can fetch my girls, she even helped me to seek approval for limited carpark lots in the office so that I do not have to pay a huge amount of carpark fees every day. At this juncture, I am faced with the illness of my mother and the birth of my third child. I am truly at the most difficult moment of my personal and work life. Hoi San once again supported me in my half day work arrangement to manage the home front and work demands. Through my trials and challenges faced at home and my family, Hoi San has never doubted me. She gave me her full trust and support time and again. I really wouldn’t be able to continue my work and manage my family if not for her constant support, reassurance and advice.”

At the end of the day, it’s really the people you work with that counts.