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IVIUI\|II By CHIA YAN MIN gi':'- ;'1 \' 'rr:rri .. .,^': THE STRAITS TINTES MONDAY, MARCH 3. ) t, - l.1a\TION "productivity" and = -- :i think of a level of ruthless ef - ::::e:cv that stems from spending :::--:ev on technology and employ- =. ::aining, but there is a less tech- : - -:atic angle as well. leputy Prime Minister Thar- ::-.-^ Shanmugaratnam added that : j.rr3 ingredient in his Budget il:ich, pointing to the relatively "=.rrphous concept of social :.:ITIS. instead of focusing only on ' :-rllars and cents", transforming ::-: economy also means "chang- ::t our social norms", he said, -rghlighting three broad areas ::at could be improved. One is that companies should Jer-elop a workplace culture ii'here the views and contribu- :ions of employees are valued. Society as a whole should also nurture a culture of job mastery - "u'e have to take pride in develop- .:l_: expertise and flair in every vo- ,:tion. seeking not just compe- r:r^cc but excellence". "Doing the iob well is what , :;its. not long hours on the '- r. " said Mr Tharman. ::nall,v, consumers should - -.::ie their habits to feel more at :=:<'.r'ith self-service technolo- ..: i . quality service, in other ',t. ::s. need not mean being con- .: =:.:.'.'.r-aited on. -::-:ie investing in new tech- :.: -:;'.' ,:': seeking new sources of ::-,-=:-=. s;ch changes are not sim- ;-:' = =.r:ter oi implementing new :;::ir:J:rtrs and ironing out kinks. in comparison with other devel- .rped economies around the u'orld. it does seem like Singapore has some u'av to go. In London, for instance, supet- market shoppers rarely encounter a cashier. Most checkout counters are automated and customers scan and bag their own groceries. fapan is renowned for its high- tech retail and dining concepts. 1.1:-:lri'hi1e. cor-rntries such as Germany and Switzerland have re- tained their competitive edge with the help of well-honed apprentice- ship programmes that turn out master tradesmen and certified professionals in different areas. lrlot just cclss in a machine NATIONAL University of Singa- pore sociologist Paulin Straughan said a vital element of becoming more efficient is "being able to see ourselves as part of a larger process " . "\\re oftetr separate the u'orker from his skills because of this idea that labour is dispensable," said Dr Straughan. "When you have en- gaged employees who are active stakeholders, it becomes more than a job to them." A ZO\T Gallup poll of about 600 Singapore workers found the ratio of "disengaged workers" - 76 per cent - to be one of the high- est in the world. Singapore fared worse than countries s'uch hs the United States (52 per cent) and Britain (57 per cent). Similarly, the ratio of "engaged u'orkers" here 9 per cent {c L paled in conpa::-.:: bal average .-rf ;l := Gallup's S::. South-ers: is:: Leong Chc. Tun3. Business T:n-..s :: -. search hJS si..*-:- most prraj -,, :i'..-r'.r achieve " i-r:. i:or.-. pulpose" ::-. ::.ir "i tural chal.e :.apFi: pan\"s tc,p -eaJe:. the values .ld be:, ing u-ith e=:. r'.'e=s "This -=: c::-', ls=lers i:. -' ::.::.:.' ;]rui;tri . _/., ta:-, ,ii....{''

Spore Firms Need Mindset Change

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    gi':'- ;'1\' 'rr:rri..



    l.1a\TION "productivity" and=


    :i think of a level of ruthless ef -::::e:cv that stems from spending:::--:ev on technology and employ-=.

    ::aining, but there is a less tech-:

    - -:atic angle as well.leputy Prime Minister Thar-

    ::-.-^ Shanmugaratnam added that: j.rr3 ingredient in his Budgetil:ich, pointing to the relatively"=.rrphous concept of social:.:ITIS.

    instead of focusing only on' :-rllars and cents", transforming::-: economy also means "chang-::t our social norms", he said,-rghlighting three broad areas::at could be improved.

    One is that companies shouldJer-elop a workplace cultureii'here the views and contribu-:ions of employees are valued.

    Society as a whole should alsonurture a culture of job mastery -"u'e have to take pride in develop-.:l_: expertise and flair in every vo-,:tion. seeking not just compe-r:r^cc but excellence".

    "Doing the iob well is what, :;its. not long hours on the'- r. " said Mr Tharman.

    ::nall,v, consumers should-

    -.::ie their habits to feel more at:=:

  • TE -STR\ITS TIMES\tr\\. \IARCH 3,2014


    :t.a-rse oi this idea-s;elra'rle," said

    -\ile:.'.'- *:lave en-

    he ratio of "engaged:e-9percent

    paled in comparison with the glo-bal average of 13 per cent.

    Gallup's Singapore andSouth-east Asia manager, MrLeong Chee Tung, wrote in TheBusiness Times in January that re-search has shown employees aremost productive when they canachieve "autonomy, mastery andpurpose" in their work. Real cul-tural change happens when a com-pany's top leaders clearly definethe values and benefits of engag-ing with employees, he noted.

    "This can only happen whenleaders and managers understand

    deeply that any productivity or in-novation returns they will gainfrom their investments will comefrom their employees."

    A survey by Randstad releasedlast week showed that 20 per centof Singapore companies polled in-tend to hire more people on flexi-ble working arrangements overthe next five years, comParedwith 35 per cent in Australia and39 per cent in New Zealand.

    It showed that concerns aboutemployee productivity are the big-gest barrier to introducing flexibleworking arrangements.

    Mr Michael Smith, country di-rector of Randstad Singapore,said many employers still believein Singapore's traditional busi-ness cqlture, "where job commit-ment is demonstrated throughlong hours and a culture of presen-teeism - the practice of beingpresent at one's place of work formore hours than is required".

    "Business leaders need to beaware that presenteeism due to alack of flexibility might be a big-ger drain on productivity, throughpoor employee engagement andcollaboration, " he added.

    Changing way of thinkingMS LIM Zhiyi, a Singaporean whospent three years studying in To-kyo, said automation and self-ser-vice in the retail and food and bev-erage industries are more com-mon there, especially in lower-end establishments.

    "In Tokyo, it's widely acknow-ledged that service labour is expen-sive - on a par with the wages ofwhite-collar executive positions, "said Ms Lim,76, a consultant at apublic relations agency.

    Dr Straughan said consumersshould not see themselves as mere-ly purchasers of a product or ser-vice. "As consumers, we also haveto understand and appreciate whychanges like more automation inrestaurants and supermarkets arenecessary, and see the whole pic-ture. tt

    Consumers are "hugely adapta-ble" and preferences have evolvedalongside technological advance-ments in sectors like retail andfood and beverage, said Mr AaronBoey, a member of the NationalProductivity and Continuing Edu-cation Council.

    Mr Boey, who is also theformer executive vice-presidentand president of commercial oper-ations for Asia-Pacific at LeviStrauss and Co, said retailers need


  • Consumers need tochange habits too

    to understand their target customers better in orderto take advantage of new retailing concepts andtechnologies that can help boost productivity.

    Some United States department stores, for in-stance, are divided into "selling floors" and"non-selling floors". Products that customers usu-ally need more help with are placed on the "sellingfloors", while shoppers largely serve themselves on"non-selling floors".

    Retailers - including big names like Apple - arealso increasingly making use of automated kiosks.

    "We often think that automated retail is forlow-priced, disposable items, but these machinessell a wide range of products across price ranges,"said Mr Boey. "The consumer doesn't come awaysaying that quality of service has declined simply be-cause the in-store experience has changed - inmany cases, it's enhanced," he added.

    Mr feremy Lim, head of Asia-Pacific health andlife sciences at Oliver Wyman, noted that socialnorms surrounding banking have evolved dramati-cally, with the advent of Internet banking andATMs before that. In the past, visits to the bank of-ten involved long queues at branches.

    "People were gently nudged forward, and I thinkthat the same thing is going to happen as we shapeconsumer attitudes over time," he said.

    While consumers will eventually have to learn tofeel more at ease with self-service technologies,"this does not mean replacing service staff ", whowill have to learn how to serve customers in differ-ent ways and "redefine their whole brand of ser-vice", said Mr Boey.i-J [email protected]