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Human Resource Management Analysis of Scicom (MSC) Berhad
-Performance management issues
This paper is dedicated to the research of performance management which is an important function of the human resource management in the business entities. According to Richard C. Grote (2002), the performance management process in organizations has conflicting purposes. It is used to determine merit increases, performance feedback for work done, training needs and also as a key tool in succession planning as well as keep the employees dedicated to the high level of performance, therefore it would be an interesting topic and constructive study to look into a real company’s performance management practices. And in this study, we have selected a Malaysia local company, Scicom (MSC) Berhad located in the Kuala Lumpur for the convenience of study. Below are some background information about the company.
2. Company background
Scicom is one of the largest contact centre outsourcing service providers in Malaysia, having provided services for some of the largest global MNC’s in the world. Since its incorporation in 1997, Scicom has consistently provided premium quality customer care, technical support and associated fulfilment services, as well as an extensive portfolio of training, loyalty marketing, call centre consulting and human resource development services. Scicom has a unique and flexible business model based on financial transparency and contractually agreed performance targets, with a reward or penalty structure for a win-win client-vendor relationship (scicom-intl.com 2011).
And In term of corporate governance, as a large well established group, Scicom’s own board of director which consist of the CEO (chief executive official), Non-Independent Non-Executive Director & Chairman, Independent Non-Executive Director, CFO (chief financial official), Director of the Audit Committee and also other directors to work together to ensure that the maximization of the shareholders value of the Group would be achieved.
3. Research objectives
3.1 To identify the HR issues and challenges
3.2 To collect reflections from the employees regarding job content, work environment, compensations and other HR issues
3.3 To generate solutions and suggestions for further improvement on the identified issues to improve the employee performance
4. Research methodology
4.1 Research design
Qualitative research in term of observation and survey will be done to reveal the employees’ range of behaviors and the perceptions about their job and compensations to see how effective the human resource management is and what are the challenges and possible difficulties.
4.2 Data collection method
In term of first hand data, firstly direct observation will be adopted. “Seeing” and “listening” are key components of direct observation. Observation provides the opportunity to document activities through out the whole research and also some problems could be identified through the preliminary observations; secondly, a structured questionnaire would be done to analyze the effectiveness of the human resource management work as well as identify the current challenges from the perspective of the employees. In term of second hand resource, we will refer to the theories and examples that could be found online as well as in books to support our researches.
Since the compensation and benefits are varied according to different clients in different project, for the convenience of the research, we have chosen one of the largest projects that the company is current doing, the SingTel project which is entrusted by the client, Singapore Telecommunication. There are currently around 500 employees allocated in four teams: general enquires team (around 150), billing team (around 50), sale team (around 200) and technical team (around 100). And because of the difficulties in inviting all the employees to participate as well as limitation of time to collect all the responses, we have randomly invited 50 employees from the four teams to participate the survey.
4.4 Procedure of implementation
The survey is done using the company email system with the approval from the operation manager, and the first replied effective answers would be collected for the study purpose. The email was sent on 20 Feb 2012 and the first 50 answers were received in the 21 Feb 2012.
4.5 Data analysis
A whole data analysis will be adopted that includes inspecting, cleaning, transforming, and modeling data with the goal of highlighting useful information, identifying the HR problems as well as providing suggesting conclusions and solutions.
5. Current human resource management policies: Performance management policies
Performance Management is one of the key processes that, when effectively carried out, helps employees know that their contributions are recognized and acknowledged. Performance management is an ongoing process of communication between a supervisor and an employee that occurs throughout the year, in support of accomplishing the strategic objectives of the organization. The communication process includes clarifying expectations, setting objectives, identifying goals, providing feedback, and evaluating results (berkeley.edu 2010). Because Performance management (PM) includes activities that ensure that goals are consistently being met in an effective and efficient manner, in the perspective of the employees, the performance management is about doing everything to ensure that the desired performance level of the employees are maintained to help achieve the company’s business objectives. Below we will review the human resource policies that the company is current using in its performance management practices.
5.1 Wearing and clothing rules
To ensure that employees are serious about doing their daily jobs and tasks, Scicom has the clothing rules in all projects stating that from Monday to Thursday formal wearing is a must (shirt, leather shoes and trousers for men for example), according to the government policy Friday will encourage informal wearing and during weekend casual wearing is allowed but in these three days, short pan and slippers are still prohibited to avoid employees becomes too ease about their work and therefore lose their professionalism.
5.2 Office and pantry rules
With similar considerations, the management of the company enact floor rules which are mainly applied in the workplace and also the pantry which is also in each floor to provide places for dinning and other activities if necessary. Clean, tidiness and quietness and professionalism are the principles that need to be followed on the floor. For example, no food and any drink (except for plain water) is allowed in the work place and also bags and hand phones are also not allowed and would be requested to be put in the lockers.
5.3 Call monitoring and SOP
In call centers, it is industrial practices that each call that an agent makes or receives would be recorded down for training or monitoring purposes to avoid the happening of future conflicts and disputes. In the project of SingTel, as requested by the client and also by the management of the company, in every month 3 to 4 calls will be monitored and listened by the call monitoring official which is a senior level position. Hence the call monitoring will be done through an “one on one” fact to face discussion between the official and the involved executive customer service agent. The call monitoring flow includes three major components: the first component is that the executive customer service agent will listen back to the call picked up by the call monitoring official; the second part is that the call monitoring official will analyzes the call according to a call monitoring form which rates the scores of the compliance of the SOPs (standard operation procedures) such as the opening (greeting), call holding, call transfer, call drop handling, value and truth of the information provided, whether full solution is provide, words used, tone, volume, speaking speed and also the clothing of call, these SOPs have been taught during the first month training before the agents answer calls; the last part is a casual conversation between the agent and the monitoring official regarding the job content and any other issues related to the call answering and handling.
In term of the result of the call monitoring, in order to ensure that the agents are allocating sufficient attention and seriousness to each call, there is relevant penalty as well as rewards according to how they are doing in the call picked up in the call mentoring. 100 full marks would bring the agent with cash rewards as well as company internal compliments and also such good records will be written into the employee profile which would add marks in the future promotion. And in another end the failure of the call monitoring will lead to oral warning and even counseling form issuing and termination in the extreme cases. The counseling form issuing penalty system will be elaborated in the next paragraph.
5.4 Counseling form (CF) issuing
The counseling system is designed to penalized when any employee in any level has broken the important rules that are well stated by the company in its policies. Behaviors of such irregularities include but are not limited to: sexual harassment, continual failure of call monitoring, no obvious improvement of performance after the issuing of oral warning during the given period and also other clearly defined behaviors. Two bad consequences of receiving the counseling forms are: firstly, employees are not allowed to apply for internal promotion within the first 12 months after the issuing of one counseling form; secondly, the counseling forms are accumulative, and the accumulation of four counseling forms will lead to the issuing of final warning, and the fifth counseling form will result in the direct termination of the involved employees.
5.5 Team target setting and monitoring
By definition a team is a distinguishable set of two or more than two people interacting toward a common goal with specific roles completed within a large organizational context (Kozlowski & Bell 2003). Performance management in the field of team management offers an evidence-based methodology to guide performance measurement, strategic planning, feedback, and reinforcement in order to maximize effectiveness and efficiency at both the team and individual level without being mutually exclusive (Smither 2009, p. 199). And in a large company like Scicom with a large number of employees, it would be necessary that the company focus on the team building as well as ensuring the the team performance is well controlled and monitored.
Within each department, for example the general enquiry department, employees are further divided into small teams, around 10 agents for each team under the direct supervision of an assistance manger. And in order to level up the overall performance, the management has set team goals for each team to hit, for example the average handling time for each team is 6.5 minutes exceeding which will lead to criticism in the internal pubic email and also warning issued to the related assistance manager by the operation manger, who is the immediate leader of the assistant managers. In order to update every employee about their team’s performance, on the floor a standing white board has been place in a obvious place showing the updated average handling time of each team. And also every week the summary of all teams will be sent to every employee via the internal company email system.
5.6 The coaching system
Hamlin et al.’s (2008) research has indicated that coaching, over the years, has been defined and conceptualized in various ways. Traditionally, it has been perceived as a remedy for poor performance, and as an approach that links individual effectiveness with organizational performance. For some scholars, coaching is defined from a deficit orientation and is conceived as a process for improving problem work performance (Fournies 1987). Others approach coaching from a more developmental perspective and empowerment paradigm and conceive coaching accordingly which we will not further discuss but focus will be turned to the study of the coaching system in our research company.
The coaching system in the SinTel project in Scicom is a new performance management tool request to be implemented by the client, SingTel in the December of 2011 to provide more guidance and direction from the management to the executive customer service agents who are in daily direction interaction with the customers who phone in the hot lines for a number of purposes such as enquiries, filing complaints and sign up or re-contract the SingTel services. The coaching is done by the assistant managers to their respective team members. According to the most recent company policy, every executive customer service agent need to receive at least four times of coaching for a month and each time last for half an hour, and it is enforceable and a must that the coaching schedule must be adhered or else the related assistant manager will receive warning. Though the initial goal of setting the coaching policy is to enhance the management employee relationship and also increase the executive customer service agents’ professional capability, there are also some disadvantages of the coaching system which will be further discussed in the next session.
6. Problems and challenges in performance management identified through observation and survey
6.1 Inhuman factors: the house rules
As mentioned above, clean, tidiness and quietness and professionalism are the principles that need to be followed on the floor, no food and any drink (except for plain water) is allowed in the work place and also bags and hand phones are also not allowed and would be requested to be put in the lockers and also no short pan is allowed. Through our observation we have found that some employees are breaking these rules frequently and under two circumstances these rule breaking is even common: managers are not around or are busying with their job and therefore supervision is loose; in the weekends when managers on duty are few and supervision is also loose and rule breaking seems to be allowed without any official approval. When we talked to those employees why they would break the house rules, the many of them will say that the rules are not human because such rules restrict their normal habit and life such as drinking and waiting for call from families (hand phones are not allowed) and job would become dull for all these rules are strictly implemented and what is more some of them even complaint that some managers are also sending SMS and make personal calls when on duty. Therefore we can see that if the rules are necessary, loose in implementation is a problem to the company, but if the rules are totally acceptable, some changes should be expected in the future.
When asked whether they agree with the statement that “House rules should be changed in the work place to more humanized rules such as allowing hand phones and drinks” in the survey, only 9 percent of the surveyed employees choose “no”, 30 of them choose “to some extent” they think these rules and inhuman while 61 percent, the majority of them agreed or strongly agreed that these rules are inhuman and should seek some changes in the near future. Also from the further talking with the employees, many of them are quite resisting the rules especially the “no mobile phone” rule and they are quite negative and emotional about the ban.
6.2 Time consuming : The enforceable coaching system
As mentioned above, according to the most recent company policy, every executive customer service agent need to receive at least four times of coaching for a month and each time last for half an hour, and it is enforceable and a must that the coaching schedule must be adhered or else the related assistant manager will receive warning. But throughout our observation as well as the survey results, we have come to some conclusions that there are problems with the coaching system in term of their necessity and effectiveness. First of all, by chatting with an assistant manager, we received his evaluation of the coaching system that because assistant managers not only need to handle a number of escalated cases but also they have to perform the daily management work such as the documentation of the leave application and schedule arrangement and also some report writing about the team performance. Secondly, by reviewing the results of the survey, when asked whether they agree with the statement that “I am given adequate coaching and training to improve my performance on the job”, the majority of them (90 per cent) choose either YES or WOW! indicating that they think the coaching and training are sufficient to help improve their performance in the work place. But in the next question, “The enforceable 4 times coaching carried out by assistant managers are not really that necessary”, only 15 out of the 50 surveyed employees think that the four times of coaching are very necessary. And regarding the reasons behind this effect, there could be three major factors through our observation and interviewing the employees: first of all, for those agents who have work for more than 6 months, it usually takes only a short period of time, such as 5 minutes, for the assistant managers to explain a problem to the executive customer service, because the ways of most work related problem handling are well stated in an internal knowledge database. But as stated in the company policy, the 4 times of coaching and each time lasts for half an hour is a must which seems to lack of some flexibility; secondly, as mentioned above, only 15 out of the 50 surveyed employees think that the four times of coaching are very necessary; thirdly, assistant managers usually have a high work load coaching a team of around 10 members and each one will cost the assistant manager half an hour a week will increase the job tasks for the assistant managers.
6.3 Long term impact of the issuing of counseling form
As mentioned above, the counseling forms are accumulative, and the accumulation of four counseling forms will lead to the issuing of final warning, and the fifth counseling form will result in the direct termination of the involved employees. Though this counseling form issuing itself is not the ultimate goal of the management, the initiative is to warn the employees not to break the well defined rule, the problem and issue that concern us a lot is that in case the employee does break the rule and a counseling form or more than one counseling form are issued, would it seriously influence the performance of the employees. Let us review our survey results. When asked whether they agree with the statement that “The Counseling Form issuing system is too serious and will bring great impacts to the performance of those who receive a counseling form”, 32 out of the 50 surveyed employees choose either C (YES) or D (WOW! ), meaning that more than half of the surveyed employees think that their performance will be impacted if they receive a counseling form. When we further talked to the employees, they give two major reasons which are closely related to the penalties: first of all, some employees are performing well and wait for the internal promotion chances and receiving the counseling form will mean that they have to wait for another 12 months since the receiving of the counseling and also the counseling form will be written into their employee profile which decrease their chance of getting promotion even after the one year penalty period; secondly, the majority of them are worrying that if wrong doing are repeated, they would get fired by the company which seems to be concerning them most.
From the analysis above, again we have come to the confirmation of the view that if done correctly, performance management communicate what is important to the organization, drives employees to achieve important goals and implements the organization’s strategies, but if it is done poorly, performance management significant negative consequences for organizations, managers, and employees, and management who design and conduct performance management ineffectively will not only fail to realize its benefits, but they can also damage the relationship with or undermine the self-confidence of their employees (Pulakos 2009, p. 5). Below are some recommendations for the further improvement of the management practices in Scicom.
8. Recommendations in pursuit of better employee performance
8.1 From “no mobile phone policy” to restricted usage of mobile phone
As mentioned above, some house rules are not well accepted among the employees though they are implemented for a long period of time, referring to the fact that even some managers have to answer personal calls and reply SMS, the same demand could reasonably be found among the common employees though they are paid to work and answer calls during the office house. After observation as well as talking with some of the employees and assistant managers, here is the change that we are proposing which is to bring in some flexibility to the mobile phone usage in the work place. We have recommended that the Scicom could allow the executive customer service agents as well as the higher level management to usage mobile phones at work but all phones need to be turned into silent mode and also when they are on call, all mobile phone actions need to be stopped immediately. And severe penalty that includes “counseling form issuing” should be used to ensure that such policy flexibility would bring down the level of employee performance. And also further monitoring and performance evaluation should be done to ensure the effectiveness of the policy changes, and the strict “no mobile phone policy” could be again resumed if the result is not satisfactory.
8.2 From enforceable coaching to more flexible coaching
As mentioned above that throughout our observation as well as the survey results, we have come to some conclusions that there are problems with the coaching system in term of their necessity and effectiveness, the most obvious two problems are: time consuming and inflexibility because all coaching schedules are fixed and the length of each coaching is fixed. Therefore, we have recommended that a change from enforceable coaching to more flexible coaching could be implemented to see whether the overall performance of both the executive employees and the assistant managers could be improved. For example, the company policy could state that in term of coaching, each executive customer service agent would receive at least 1 coaching and the assistant managers could extend 1 to 4 coaching session to the employees depending on the needs and in term of length of the coaching, the standard half an hour period would be shorten to 15 minutes but could last up to 1 hour if necessary. This change would enable the assistant manager who are in charge of giving the coaching to the team members to have more flexibility not only to give out the coaching based on the need of the particular agent but also provide more convenience to the assistant managers to deal with their current work and tasks.
8.3 Conditional removal of Counselling Form (s) record
As mentioned above, though the counseling form issuing itself is not the ultimate goal of the management, the initiative is to warn the employees not to break the well defined rule, the problem and issue that concern us a lot is that in case the employee does break the rule and a counseling form or more than one counseling form are issued, it seems that the issuing of the counseling form will have long term and great impact on performance of the employees though so far we have not obtain the exact data about what is the performance loss due to the issuing of counseling forms. After we talked to the management and also many employees who have the counseling forms records, we have come up with a very constructive recommendation to the company to achieve the following two goals: warn the employees not to commit the prohibited behaviors defined by the company related policies and also reduce the long term impact of the issuing of counseling forms on the performance of the employees. The advice is like this: instead of removing the 1 year penalty of no promotion and putting a permanent record into the employee’s profile, the company could still keep similar policy but add a treaty which states that if the employee’s following performance show great progress (let’s say 30%) in key performance index (KPIs) such as average handling time (AHT) and percentage of passed call monitoring in a given period of time (let’s say 4 months), then the counseling form record could be removed. This solution not only think of the company’s needs, i.e. warning the employees and performance improvement and also the employees’ needs, i.e. not to be fired by the company and stay safety and enjoy the chance of future promotion through his or her own effort (improvement of the performance).
List of Reference
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Fournies, F. F. 1987. Coaching for improved work performance. New York: Liberty Hall Press.
Grote, R. C. 2002. The performance appraisal question and answer book: a survival guide for managers. New York: AMACOM books.
Hamlin, R. G. Ellinger, A. D. & Beattie, R. S. 2008. The emergent coaching industry: A wake-up call for HRD professional. Human Resource Development International, 11(3), 287 – 305.
Kozlowski, S. W. J. & Bell, B. S. 2003. Work group and teams in organizatons. In W. C. Boarman, D. R. Ilgen, & R. J. Klimoski (Eds), Handbook of psychology: Industrial and organizational psychology (Vol. 12, pp, 333-375), Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Pulakos, E. D. 2009, Performance Management: A New Approach for Driving Business Results. Oxford: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. p. 5
Scicom-intl.com 2011. About Scicom. accessed on 24 Feb 2012 [online] available: http://www.scicom-intl.com/About_Us.html
Smither, J. W. 2009, Performance Management: Putting Research Into Action. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. p. 199