03 June 2006

A Traditionally Modern Challenge

I have just completed individual job descriptions for 80 employees, part of the organization's Trading Business Division, using a structured interview process.

The company is one of the oldest in the region, and many if not most of its employees are middle to elderly aged males who have provided service for 30 odd years or more. Most of them have a highly traditional view of the world with statements such as, "The Managers might not notice, but God notices", "What sort of ideas do you expect from a man who has spent his whole life doing the same thing?", "I am happy even though my pay packet is extremely low, because this company always pays on time so I feel secure." The question that boggles my mind is that how do these people manage to love their management, have the most high levels of organizational committment I've ever seen, despite the fact that they have had absolutely no career or financial growth in the company?

The laws of this land are geared more towards the employer rather than the employee. I found that in my conversations with these employees, observing their body language, and listening to their unflinching loyalty toward the company's stakeholders, was deep-seated fear. Fear of the law turning against them if they decided to wake up and leave for a higher pay. Upon probing, the very people who have served the company for 30 years have succumbed to "guilt-based" retention tactic on the part of the organization, specifically about what would happen if the company put a visa ban on them. However, more than the legal irriatations of leaving, they feel they wouldn't have opportunities outside of their company because of their age. This puts me in an ethically charged situation, because they are depending on my report to the Management. This position is also a very positive one to be in. A chance to promote positive change in a traditional organizational culture is why I choose to do this work.

I need to paint a realistic picture to the Management about what their employees have been going throughout the last 30 years. The Job Description Interviews were an obvious starting point to capture the realism behind the paperwork. Now some of these employees are about ready to retire, and have no interest and aspirations for further career growth. For those in the organization who are looking to grow in their competence and contribution, I need to help the Management surface a culture where that is encouraged. The only way for them to encourage this, is to link it with bottom-line results for the company.

Times are changing, and so will the laws. As employees go on their way to get more legal protection for themselves, employers will have to create ways for employee retention beyond the threat of a visa ban. Visionaries must be aware of what the reputation of their companies would be in the future looking back at the track record of how they treat employees now. The survivors and thrivers in the global scale will be those companies who are taking adequate steps to satisfy their employees' needs based on the high standard of living in this city, and develop employee competencies that serve organization-specific goals... and they'd better do it now rather than wait for times to change.


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