Singaporean celebrity Michelle Chong recently took to Facebook to share her thoughts about how "Singapore would be a better place if people really just take pride in their work"; making the observation that "people here generally don't care about what they do", in her view.
Chong's post sparked a debate among netizens - many agreed with Chong, while others offered up reasons for this lack of pride including being over worked and underpaid, a lack of appreciation by bosses, and the influx of foreign talent.
Human Resources reached out to HR leaders for their views - if they observe a lack of pride in employees' work, and what can be done to change or prevent this issue. Here's what they have to say:
(All views are personal, and not necessarily representative of the organisation that they represent.)
Manoj Viswanathan, regional head of HR, Asia, Oceania, Africa, and Middle East, Nestle Health Science
I would restrain myself from making a sweeping statement either affirming or negating the view regarding lack of pride in employees in Singapore. I see a significant percentage of employees who take pride in what they do. They try to do their best in what they do and are very happy with what they do. Having experienced various cultures, I find employees here no different.
I think this is more than a workplace culture issue. If everyone is able to do what he or she likes, as Michelle Chong is able to do, then I am sure you would see more passion and pride. I think Singapore's core DNA needs a transformation for this to be achieved.
It has to start from the education system. We need to encourage and allow kids to build skills and develop in areas they have a natural inclination, interest or passion from an earlier age.
"We need to encourage and allow kids to build skills and develop in areas they have a natural inclination, interest or passion from an earlier age."
- Manoj Viswanathan, regional head of HR, Asia, Oceania, Africa, and Middle East, Nestle Health Science
When they grow up as adults and are able to do what they are good at and comes somewhat naturally, you will see passion and pride. For example, I am not sure if you will see passion from an artist or a sportsman if he or she is made to a do a 9-8 compliance job, stuck in a chair in the office.
One of the immediate things which we can do as HR practitioners is to ensure we hire the right people with the right motivation, attitude and aptitude for every role in the organisation.
What I mean is we shouldn't hire just for skills and experience but also for interest and passion for the job. Skills are the easiest to train or teach. Rather, we should hire someone very high on interest and passion for the job and medium on skills than the other way around.
Another thing is managers and leaders have to make an effort to understand the strengths and weaknesses of individual employees under their remit. What drives and inhibits performance would be different for everyone.
We also need to let creativity flow - with certain rules and guidelines, of course. Individuals need to be recognised and appreciated for bringing diversity of thought, and not necessarily the end output. I believe this will definitely bring more passion and pride to the job.
James Foo, head group HR, ABR Holdings
There are bound to be people who don't take their work seriously, who find the way and time to 'eat snake' and/or have a 'bo-chup (don't care) attitude'. From my observation, these people normally don't stay long in a company because they cannot 'survive long'. I feel the existence of people who don't take pride in their work will continue till they learn their lesson or get out to be their own boss.
Having said that, I strongly believe that majority of the staff members do take pride in their work. But this success does not come overnight - it is a result of an ongoing HR initiative that was rolled out regionally across our brands as part of our employee retention strategy, some of which include:
Briefing staff on their job scope and responsibilities
Staff are briefed on their job scope and responsibilities, making them fully aware of their work is important in contributing to the success of the business. This has to be done otherwise junior staff might think that their role is not significant so there is no point in putting in extra effort etc.
It is part of the company culture to treat each other with respect.
Having monthly focus group sessions
Our monthly focus group session gives employees the opportunity to receive feedback on a regular basis. We also conduct monthly reviews of performance and apply corrective order both ways (management and operation staff) to give encouraging words and recognise work-well done. This helps motivate employees and keeps pride at its highest level.
At times, employees - especially junior employees - may feel that they are the last to know what is going on with the company. Hence, we encourage all our managers to make time to share the company progress with employees (good or bad); to engage staff, while getting their views, and suggestions. This will make them feel more involved in the company, and in turn, they will show more loyalty and become more engaged.
Gareth Ling, chief talent officer, Singapore, GroupM
In professional services, pride must run through everything that we do, and having a purpose in your work creates pride. With more Millennials in the workforce, regular feedback and recognition is crucial. We have a thriving internship programme which aligns Gen Y and Z with expectations of corporate life early.
At GroupM, we practice a culture of continuous feedback using tech like Reflecktive! This means, instead of annual performance reviews, we're constantly checking in with employees, and aligning their work with their personal drivers.
"With more Millennials in the workforce, regular feedback and recognition is crucial."
- Gareth Ling, chief talent officer, Singapore, GroupM
We call out great work all the time and celebrate it with awards etc., and in the event of a challenge or misaligned expectations, we're able to call it out early and manage it, decreasing the chances of employees losing motivation and pride.