How qualified are you for the job?

Graduates in Cap and Gown While summer season is the time for relaxation and vacation, most University students would find themselves in a frenzy to secure a Summer internship either locally or abroad. Personally, I am one of those students and through my relentless search for that ideal internship, I have also noticed how much local companies place emphasis on grades and use that factor as a filtering process for potential candidates. In certain banking institutions, grades become the indicator of one’s work ability in the work place. Are academic results a good indication of your achievement or rather, ability to be an effective worker in the workplace? While some acknowledge that the amount of discipline and consistency put in place to achieve the stellar results reflects your drive and motivation as a person, some beg to differ. There are other factors that companies look out for in employees in the long run, such as personality traits, job-fit etc.

More importantly, the term “qualification” is very much subjective with the increasingly complexity of constantly changing work, training and education environment. For example, who is more qualified for the post of an accounts executive?
(A) Person A who has a CAP score of 4.8
(B) Person B who has a CAP score of 4.3, leadership experience in school, represented Singapore in a debates competition and came in as 2nd runner up.

Well, it depends on what companies are looking out for in their candidates. With all things held constant, I would pick person B, Nonetheless, questions are emerging as to the validity of many qualifications as a measure of competence, for competency is more important in the long run for companies.

This brings me on to the next point: How qualified are disabled people to be employed?
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As seen from the excerpt, even in a developed country like Singapore, disabled people are still stigmatized in the workforce. In America, employers fear the cost associated with hiring. Despite the implementation of American Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1995 to help level the playing field for people with disabilities, there is still an education gap in the workplace. Many employers assume that they would have to spend unnecessary amounts of corporate funding to bring their business up to ADA standards if they were to hire someone with a disability. More so, there is a fear of additional supervision and loss of productivity. Employers are concerned about the special attention that may need to be devoted to employees with disabilities and may view this as a waste of time. Secondly, employers are concerned with their perceived requirements to have different productivity standards for two employees doing the same job. Imagine the workload of the Human Resource Department if such accommodations have to be made!

However, not every company is deterred as there are benefits involved when hiring disabled employees! The Holiday Inn is one of the few encouraging examples who see this pool of workers as alternative source of employment to solve their labour crunch woes. According to them, they stated that the company saved a lot on training and levies because of the high retention rates. Savings can amount up to $100,000 a year in foreign worker levies and staff training costs just by hiring 35 disabled workers!

Furthermore, from a public relations standpoint, hiring disabled workers can improve the image of the company in the eyes of the public. If the company hires a small community, they can establish a reputation as a company that offers a more diverse workforce, attracting prospective employees, customers and business associates. Other companies may also be inspired to follow, creating a more diverse and accommodating business climate.

Needless to say, government support plays a crucial role in encouraging companies to hire disabled employees.  For example, the new Open Door Programme  announced recently by Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing, helps facilitate the hiring of disabled people by setting aside $30 million in funding.

 

 

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This scheme is a greater incentive for companies as they can apply for subsidies of up to $100,000 if they hire at least one disabled worker and are committed to hiring people with disabilities. The money can be used on equipment, to redesign jobs, to train co-workers and to renovate the building to make it more accessible. There are also integration programmes in place to assist the HR department to train supervisors on how to manage persons with disabilities or training of co-workers on how to effectively interact and work with persons with disabilities.

In conclusion, I feel that potential employees need the chance and avenue to prove their competency and commitment to their job. While paper credentials are important, it cannot be used as a one-size-fits all approach to hire. There are many research that address the various aspects of what defines a good employee for the company, little has been done to include the marginalized community of disabled people in Singapore. It is my wish that apart from chasing productivity and being results oriented, local companies can invest more time to consider embracing such employees since they already have ample support from the government.

References
http://www.ncss.gov.sg/documents/uncrpddocs/260513%20(The%20Sunday%20Times)%20-%20Fit%20and%20happy%20to%20work.pdf
http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/new-programme-to-help/1082188.html
http://smallbusiness.chron.com/advantages-hiring-disabled-people-company-11233.html
http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp/www.disability.gi/images/default.asp?id=255
http://app.msf.gov.sg/Assistance/OpenDoorFund.aspx

How do Leaders deal with Crisis?

Often, there are jokes with regards to leadership in an organization. We have, at least once in our lifetime, had the perception of what a leader’s role was – having a title that aggrandizes oneself and having a pool of minions working under you.

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However, we have also learnt from this module, the importance of the role of a leader in an organization. Leaders are responsible for leading their employees towards a desired organization goal. In addition, we have covered several organizational behavior challenges one would have to manage in the workplace. Notably, such challenges involve around the issue of employee engagement and satisfaction, managing conflicts arising due to cross-cultural behaviors, integrating employees from different age groups etc. These examples, however, are mostly manageable, dealt with and kept within the confines of the office building. fdUitWFL

 

On the contrary, the scale and intensity of a crisis is tenfold in comparison to the usual conflicts that we observe in the workplace. Crisis management needs to be reactive and lead by the events and subsequent demands and response from the stakeholders. With reference to this pyramid diagram created by Tony Ridley, a seasoned crisis management/leadership professional educator, we see that employees and leaders alike are often faced with general conflicts in the workplace – ranked under “routine exposure”. In the “crisis” level, however, is the pinnacle of disruption in an organization.pyramid

Calamites strike when we least expect it. To name a few, we have the famous 9/11 terrorist attack, the great Mumbai flood in 2005 and recently, the controversial case of MH370 Malaysian aircraft. We also witness both the downfall and triumph of leaders in handling a crisis. Tony Hayward fell into the ditch and had to leave his post as BP’s chief after taking much of the flak for BP’s poor public handling of the disastrous Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill. He left BP company in a dire state, with low investor confidence and prospects, translating to unmotivated employees. On the other hand, Rudy Junilai, New York’s mayor, remained in the guard rails and was nominated as the “Person of the Year” in Times Magazine. He was applauded for his efforts to consolidate and rebuilt the remains of the city, after the 9/11 terrorist bombing.

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Tony Hayward

Rudy_Giuliani
Rudy Junilai

This leads us to the golden question that we should all be asking: How do leaders handle such crisis? Since the stress faced from this situation is beyond normal coping capabilities, how exactly can a leader practice strategic crisis leadership?

According to works studied by academia Gary Yukl, there are several guidelines in place when it comes to dealing with crisis.

  • Anticipate problems and prepare them
  • Learn to recognize early warning signs for an impending problem
  • Quickly identify the nature and scope of the problem
  • Direct and response by the unit or team in a confident and decisive way
  • Keep people informed about a major problem and what is being done to resolve it
  • Use a crisis as an opportunity to make necessary changes

In addition, there are programs and trainings available for crisis management, on websites like www.crisisasia.com  or Tony Ridley’s website http://crisismanagement.tony-ridley.com/.

Nonetheless, it is unsurprising that the silver lining of crisis management comes from how the leader exhibits humility and compassion that conveys a strong sense of assurance and comfort to stricken victims of the crisis. Here are a few pointers which I feel that are critical for an effective crisis management from a leader:

1) Prioritize the people’s safety first as they are your immediate responsibility
2) Assume appropriate responsibility to reduce the damage caused by the crisis at all means.
3) Address the needs of all stakeholder (internally or externally) in a timely manner to uphold corporate reputation
4) All decisions and actions must be ethical and integrity must not be compromised.

The successful handling of a crisis is paramount for the leader of an organization. As studied in previous Organizational Behaviour topics, the personal and positional power of the leader, more specifically referent and legitimate, will increase tremendously in the eyes of the employees. These will translate to greater commitment and loyalty from the employees towards the organization, making recovery efforts more effective and efficient in the long run.

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References:

http://crisismanagement.tony-ridley.com/crisis-management/crisis-management-vs-crisis-leadership
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKQF1tYBqHohttp://www.crisisasia.com/
http://prrider.blogspot.sg/2009/11/crisis-management-martha-stewart.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/09/tony-hayward-bp-was-unpre_n_780814.html
http://edition.cnn.com/2004/BUSINESS/12/22/giuliani.profile/
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2_scWtOa44
Gary Yukl:  Leaderships in Organizations (8th edition)

Coping with different generations under the same company.

Having discussed about the distinctive characteristics of both Generation X and Y, we have acknowledged the inevitable interaction of young graduates having to work with significantly older colleagues in the workplace. However, many of us, as seen during the class discussion, were apprehensive on how the “generation gap” would affect the workplace climate and also, the tenacious challenge of deriving job satisfaction when needed to balance differing expectations and communicating with one another. Despite the lukewarm response of working with older colleagues, I have a fresh take on this issue to share with everyone and I hope to, perhaps, present to you a different and more optimistic perspective.

Before embarking further on this blog post, I thought that it would be more appropriate for me to iron out the definitions of the various Generations present in today’s society.

Traditionalists:   Born approximately pre-1946
Baby Boomers: Born approximately 1946 – 1964
Generation X:    Born approximately 1965 – 1977
Generation Y:     Born approximately 1977 – 1995
IGen:                   Born approximately 1996 onwards

The more relevant Generations involved in the discussion on workplace diversity and job satisfaction would be Generations X & Y.  I chanced upon an interesting video on Jason Dorsey, otherwise known as the Gen Y Guy. He focuses on solving generational challenges and his speeches have garnered him over 1000 standing ovations from the United States, capturing the hearts and minds of all ages. An interesting take away from this video clip is the ubiquitous mistake of our society for stereotyping and categorizing Generations.  Not only does this narrow our perception of people from different Generations, it hinders the route towards collaboration. Generation Y is known for having an appetite for big expectations but not knowing the steps needed to take us there, an important trait that Generation X has. Inclusiveness and collaboration, as espoused by Dorsey, are vital components to unlocking an immense amount of potential in a generation diverse team in the company.

Now, you may ask – why are more companies adopting the strategy of creating and nurturing the environment for creative self-efficacy and innovation? Does it not pander to the preferences of Generation Ys more than Xs? In my humble opinion, I feel that companies are looking beyond their employees’ Generation whims and fancies but rather, the general business climate that is increasingly dynamic and demanding. While it is a known fact that majority of Generation Ys have a strong sense of entitlement, routine tasks and the lack of acknowledgement for work done naturally reduces our motivation to work. Nonetheless, this sentiment is not pigeonholed in accordance to Generation, but rather, a common consensus amongst people. No one likes to be unrecognized and pushed to the background after putting in effort into a task, isn’t it?

The clip below is taken from “The Office”, an American sitcom that depicts the daily life of employees working under an incompetent boss in a highly unmotivated company culture. Personally, I enjoyed the clip and feel that it aptly captures the essence of motivation and job satisfaction in the workplace.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G59KY7ek8Rk)
The video draws reference to Alfie Kohn’s article, The Risks of Rewards, an insightful article that debunks the perception of rewarding. Similar to the TEDtalk video by Dan Pink who spoke on the topic: The puzzle of motivation, Alfie states that rewards (including monetary incentives) cause people to lose interest in whatever they were rewarded for doing and be less inclined to explore ideas.  Therefore, the question leaders and managers need to ask if not how motivated their employees are, but how their employees are motivated. More importantly, by capitalizing on Generation Y’s high need for self-entitlement, this strategy may cultivate hard working and reliable employees for the company.

In conclusion, it is advisable for employees in the workplace to view one another as value adding partners instead of discrimination based on differences in age and experiences. In addition to the usual call of duty, leaders and managers are also responsible for nurturing a workplace environment that fosters and nurtures employees to gain ownership of their work, which in turn, increases their job satisfaction.

Video URL for Jason Ryan Dorsey Video

Sources
Dorsey, J. (n.d.). The top 10 millennials & gen y questions answered. Retrieved from http://jasondorsey.com/millennials/the-top-gen-y-questions-answered/

Kohn, A. (n.d.). The risks of rewards. Retrieved from http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/ror.htm

Schmidt, M. (2004, FEB 19). The three c’s of motivation. Retrieved from http://www.shininglightreading.com/kidstalknews/2006/02/three-cs-of-motivation.html