Sample of assignment: The Effectiveness of Employee Motivation System in A Call Center

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Executive summary


This thesis consists of four major parts regarding case study of the motivation system using the case of China team agents of Scicom (MSC) Berhad under the call center project with the cooperation with the client Air Asia. This study begins with a detailed examination of the company in term of business operation, client profile, corporate financial performance, Core value, Strategic orientations and HR management practices to provide an in-depth understanding of the background of the case. The second major part of the study is the theoretical review of the employee motivation system which offer theoretical support to help understand how motivation system functions, three major theories are involved in this part: Maslow (1943)’s Hierarchy of needs and Herzberg (1969)’s two-factor theory and Adams (1965)’s equity theory. The next part of the study is the major content of the study by critical reviewing of the case with the help of quesionaire, interviews and review of the major concerned issues. After the concluding remarks the last part of the study is to provide recommendations to help improve the employee motivation system in the company based on the analysis above. And please take note that the recommendations provided in the end of the study are conditional though they are theoretically and logically viable and some suggestions even have successful application experiences in other projects, negotiation efforts are still needed from the management of the Scicom (MSC) Berhad with client to obtain the approval to perform the recommended tactics. Although all of these recommendations are initiated and some of them are necessary to provide a better customer experience to the customers and increase the employee commitment and motivation in the work place, the final decision is still up to the client through a tradeoff between cost and better customer service. With the authorization from the operational manager, this thesis will focus on the evaluation of the motivation system in the company and provide recommendations on improving the system to enhancing the company’s core competitiveness.





I would like to thank for his considerate care and guidance during my doing this project; he is always patient in helping me and giving advices for further improving the content and structure of this assignment. I am also so much grateful to those who had helped me through this task, epically my friend who had provided me with such a good case for my study and also my families. Thank you.

Table of Content

Executive summary………………………………………………………………………………………….. 1

List of figures, tables and charts………………………………………………………………………… 5

1.     Introduction of Scicom (MSC) Berhad………………………………………………………… 6

1.1      Business operation……………………………………………………………………………. 6

1.2      Client profile……………………………………………………………………………………. 7

1.3      Financial performance………………………………………………………………………. 8

1.4      Core value……………………………………………………………………………………….. 9

1.5      Strategic orientations………………………………………………………………………… 9

1.6      HR management…………………………………………………………………………….. 10

2.     Background of the case…………………………………………………………………………….. 11

3.     Problem Definition…………………………………………………………………………………… 12

3.1      High employee turnover………………………………………………………………….. 13

3.2      Underperformance of agents……………………………………………………………. 14

3.3      Complaints of the motivation system………………………………………………… 15

4.     Research Objectives…………………………………………………………………………………. 16

5.     Literature review……………………………………………………………………………………… 16

5.1      Maslow (1943)’s Hierarchy of needs and Herzberg (1969)’s two-factor theory     17

5.1.1     Maslow (1943)’s Hierarchy of needs theory……………………………… 17

5.1.2     Frederick Herzberg (1969)’s two-factor theory…………………………. 20

5.2      Equity theory (Adams 1965)……………………………………………………………. 23

6.     Case analysis of Air Asia call center project………………………………………………… 25

6.1      Need analysis under Maslow (1943)’s Hierarchy of needs framework…… 25

6.2      Five top issues……………………………………………………………………………….. 28

6.2.1     Salary and compensation related…………………………………………….. 29

6.2.2     Office environment and equipment related………………………………. 30

6.2.3     Company policies………………………………………………………………….. 31

6.2.4     Work schedule………………………………………………………………………. 31

6.2.5     Management and subordinate relationship……………………………….. 33

7.     Concluding remarks…………………………………………………………………………………. 33

8.     Recommendations on job enrichment and job changes…………………………………. 34

8.1.1     Direct feedback of performance……………………………………………… 35

8.1.2     Regular announcement of the customer satisfaction survey………… 36

8.1.3     More flexible and simplified work shift system………………………… 37

8.1.4     Empower agents to offer limited waiver on their own……………….. 38

8.1.5     Encourage cross-departmental communications………………………… 40

8.1.6     Maintaining individual accountability for results………………………. 41

Reference list………………………………………………………………………………………………… 43

Appendix 1.0 Scicom (MSC) Berhad’s Global Support Network…………………………. 48

Appendix 2.0 Agent employment status during 2010…………………………………………. 49

Appendix 3.0 China Team performance data in 2010…………………………………………. 52

Appendix 4.0 Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs analysis survey sample……………………… 56

Appendix 5.0 Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs analysis survey sample (continued)……. 59

Appendix 6.0 Authorization letter……………………………………………………………………. 60

List of figures, tables and charts


Figure 1 Scicom (MSC) Berhad’s logo and business coverage map. 5

Figure 2 Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. 17

Figure 3 Process of motivation (Source: Borkowski 2011, p105) 19

Figure 4 Maslow model and Herzberg model comparison (Source: Ades 1992, p146) 20

Figure 5 Distributive Justice (Source: Beugré 1998, p3) 24

Figure 6 The theoretical relationship between empowerment and employee motivation  38

Table 1 Number of agents hired by teams in Air Asia project 6

Table 2 China Team performance in 2010 (sees Appendix 4) 13

Chart 1 Company and profit before taxation (Source: Annual reports 2008 & 2010) 7

Chart 2 Corporate revenues during 2006 to 2010 financial years (Source: Annual reports 2010) 7

Chart 3 Need survey using Maslow (1943)’s Hierarchy of needs model 26



The Effectiveness of Employee Motivation System in Scicom (MSC) Berhad

1.        Introduction of Scicom (MSC) Berhad





Figure 1 Scicom (MSC) Berhad’s logo and business coverage map


1.1    Business operation


Headquartered in KLCC of Kuala Lumpur, the most bustling district in Malaysia and established in 1997 with more than one decade’s constant effort, Scicom (MSC)[1] Berhad has become one of the largest contact outsourcing service providers in the country as it has been entitled the “Best Outsourcing Company” for 4th consecutive year in 2010 (Scicom Annual Report 2010). Its business scale covers operations of outsource and in-source operations, training, consulting, quality management and certification services in more than 89 countries in 40 languages by serving 40 million customers (sees also appendix 1.0) all over the world through cooperation with some of the world famous MNCs and regional clients (Official website of Scicom 2010). Some of the most representative projects currently include Nokia, SingTel and the project that will be studied in the study, Air Asia, which started to tie up its contact call center service with Scicom (MSC) on 8th November 2008 and later more than 300 Customers Care Officials (CCOs) or agents had been hired according to the project’s operation manager Holi Erlambang Soedradjat as the table below illustrated, though the project didn’t end up as perfectly as it started.


Air Asia Teams Number of Agents Employed
Malaysia Team 157
Thailand Team 88
Indonesia Team 62
Vietnam Team 30
China Team 28
French Team 7
Japanese Team 10
Total: 382

Table 1 Number of agents hired by teams in Air Asia project

(Source: Internal documentary data issued on 30 December 2010)

1.2    Client profile


Aiming at achieving the belief “Now Everyone Can Fly” by providing the best low-cost flying experience to the 3 billion people who are underserved with poor connectivity and high ticket fares, with the jointly effort from the associate companies, Air Asia X, Thai Air Asia and Indonesia Air Asia, Air Asia has risen to become the world’s best low cost airline in term of being listed as World’s Best Low Cost Airline for a second consecutive years in 2010 by Skytrax ( 2010) with continued development effort through the innovative solutions, efficient processes and a passionate approach to the low cost aviation business. With the recent achievement of transporting more than 100 million passengers, Air Asia as the most populous budget airline in the Southeast Asia, it is always trying to expand its business involvement in a worldwide scale while at the same time focuses on controlling its cost especially in term of non-core operations. And in term of customer service that it has outsourced, a mixed goal of low cost, efficiency and quality will be necessary to enhance its core competiveness when facing with both the increasing number of passengers and increasing demand of quality customer service due to the strengthening awareness of consumer rights.


1.3    Financial performance



Chart 1 Company and profit before taxation (Source: Annual reports 2008 & 2010)



Chart 2 Corporate revenues during 2006 to 2010 financial years[2] (Source: Annual reports 2010)


As shown in the chart 1.0 and 2.0 above, during the most recent financial year the company’s revenue was RM 122.67 million with a year on year 15.2 percent drop compared to that of 2009 and in term of net profit the company manage to control the decrease to 4.2%. While the financial performance witnesses a reduction in term of both revenue and net profit, the company’s core business, the outsourcing and education services in Malaysia have exhibited an obvious trend of growth in revenue and profit according to the Chairman[3] Krishnan Menon though the impact of the discontinuation of the majority business of Air Asia project is yet to be evaluated.


1.4    Core value


While the company has been listed in the global Service top 100 Companies for 4 consecutive years (Scicom Annual Report 2010) the quality customer service is the most important source of core competitiveness to the company by upholding the core vision of “Total Customer Delight” especially when the company is losing its competiveness to other countries which have been raising as popular call center location due to its lower labor cost such as Indonesia and India. To deliver the company’s promise, staffs from executive customer service to senior management have consistently adhered to the five core value: Quality, Teamwork, Innovation, Integrity and People by following up the 10 corporate edicts.


1.5    Strategic orientations


Scicom (MSC) Berhad sources it core competiveness to help the clients retain and increase the revenue obtained from the existing customers and enlarge the customer base by acquiring new customers from the following factors that it has listed on its official website as the base of the core competitiveness which are stated below.

l  A Focus on business transformation outsourcing

l  Extensive vertical domain Expertise

l  A Proven and experienced management team.

l  Commitment to the long-term development of our employees.

l  Providing Innovative solutions for evolving business needs


And in a challenging and fast changing business environment, by upholding these five principles Scicom manages to avoid and control the uncertainties by focusing on three factors to strengthen the clients’ business success which in return bring benefits to the company: creditability, growth of the clients and the careful employee selection.


1.6    HR management


As a critical source of core business competiveness, human resource management (HRM) in Scicom is more than routine operations but with great strategic implications. The company has long infused human capital principles into the corporate culture and business practices to drive the substantial business growth. And in term of the actual HRM practices, the most recent and remarkable move that the company has taken to strengthen the advantages of its strategic human resource is the successful training of more than 2000 service professionals in the services management field through effort of its wholly owned subsidiary “Scicom Academy” which leads to the award of “Best Training Provider” in March of 2010 to the company. Though speaking on paper the human resource seems to be well managed in the company, its HR department should had done a better job which could be found out when the HRM practices are later probed into.


2.        Background of the case


Maybe Scicom (MSC) Berhad should have doubted the sincerity of its partner, Air Asia in term of lack of willingness to build up long term co-operation relationship with the company as Air Asia set the re-contract period as one year only which is not usual in the call centre outsourcing industry because a lot of resources will be invested in the projects regardless of the length of the projects in term of pre-work training effort for example. What is more, consider the nature of its clients Air Asia being a budget airline which is famous for the low and even zero price ticket fare. So Scicom (MSC) Berhad should have noticed these facts and feel the pressure of providing quality customer service on behalf of its client. It is unknown whether the management of Scicom (MSC) Berhad had not noticed such risks or the successful re-contract experience in 2009 provided enough of confidence to the company to be proud of its services, but it is true that history cannot be changed and the management seemed being not aware of such risks of being replaced and that’s why a decision had been made to expand the China team from only about 10 agents to around 25 Chinese agents recruiting more than 15 Chinese agents who are holding Chinese passport to answer mandarin and Cantonese calls as a request from the increasing business scale in mainland of China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan of the clients in the late 2009.


Throughout the years some decisions had been made that had in-depth influences over the development of the project. The first decision is to establish a sale bonus scheme to encourage the agents to push sale through the phone by providing a percentage of the sale in term of cash incentives to them; The second decision was made in the HR department to enforce a policy to the new recruited Chinese agents which is stated in the contract to deduct RM 500 out of RM 2500 basic salary as the rental to the company accommodation that was provided to the employees; The third decision was made after the release of the Premium Customer Service Line which was in July to serve the Malaysian local market but the callers need to pay RM 1.95 per minute to obtain fast and quality customer service ( 2010), and the decision was to change the languages setting[4] of the Chinese agents to answer the calls of premium line with priority and these calls were majorly answered in English.


And also some changes had happened within the same period that worth a mention. The most significant change that brought significant changes to the China team was the resignation of the Assistant Manager (AM) or the line manager, Kelly, and this position was replaced Alexia, who was beforehand the CET, a position that is in charge of the monitoring of the agents to ensure that they would be following Standard Operational Process (SOPs) to provide good customer experience to the customers. And the CET position was replaced by an external candidate, who also had work experience in call center as an assistant manager though she did not have similar product knowledge in the airline customer service business.


3.        Problem Definition


Several unusual and problematic symptoms make the revaluation of the employee motivation system necessary and even critical to the continual survival and development of Scicom (MSC) Berhad as a large Malaysian based call center service providers which is right now losing its cost advantages to the foreign competitions such as Indonesia and the raising India as mentioned above earlier. And if such issues had not been resolved accordingly with appropriate solutions, much more serious consequences could be resulted and they will damage the profit generation of the company.




3.1    High employee turnover


The first symptom is the high turnover ratio in the call center agents especially the local agents who do not have the security bond that the foreign agents have written in their contract. Take the Air Asia project as an example, during the 2010 calendar year the total employee turnover rate reached 52.38% and among the local agents this digit is even higher in term of 66.67% (detailed calculation sees appendix 3.0). Though the industrial average level in Malaysia is unknown, this usual high digit compared to the that industrial average turnover rate of 31 percent in the United States (Dilevko & Gottlieb 2004, p13) should attract enough of attention from senior management particularly in the HR department. What is more, the high employee turnover rate is not only witnessed in the executive positions but also in the low management level positions. For instance, in June last year one of the most experienced staffs of the Air Asia team, Kelly, who witnessed the establishment of the team from the beginning in 2008 resigned as an Assistant Manager (AM), and there had been rumors suggesting that extreme work overload and low salary and little bonus paid for the overtime work are the major reasons that lead to the resignation of the AM. And actually the high turnover ratio in the work place had already resulted in great direct cost in term of leaving cost, replacement costs and indirect cost such as lowered performance level, damaged employee morale and decreased service quality.










3.2    Underperformance of agents


Table 2.0 Key Performance Index (KPI) targets of China team


Performance elements and KPI targets
QUIZ/CM S. hours IB[5] call Call/Hours AHT[6] OCC% Util%
> 80% 8.0 Hrs 75 10.5 6 >= 100% >50%
ACW[7] AUX 1[8] AUX 2[9] AUX 3[10] AUX 4[11] AUX 9[12] TTL AUX
< 1 MIN < 30 MIN < 10 MIN 0 < 25 MIN With approval <=10


QUIZ/CM S. hours IB call Call/Hours AHT OCC% Util%
0 8.06 Hrs 37.66 4.67 7.97 101% 45%
2.17 MIN 26.4 MIN 9.6 MIN 0 13.8 MIN 10.8 MIN 13%

Table 2 China Team performance in 2010 (sees Appendix 4)


The two tables above are the Performance elements and Key Performance Index (KPI) targets compared to the actual performance of the China team throughout the year 2010, though there had been suspects doubting that the performance goals had been set in too high a level which was not pragmatic and could not be achieved even by the best performing agents, the overall performance level in 2010 was lagged behind the targets claimed by the operational manger. In term of the two most important KPIs, number of IB (inbound) calls and AHT (Average Handling Time) of each call, the targets were set as 75 calls for every agents each day provided that there had been a high call queue and 6 minutes limit for each call to be handled but these two obviously were not satisfactory. And when that the target of the number of inbound calls could not realized to some extent could be understood because there could not always be a high call queue on the line, the AHT which the Air Asia client as a budget airline should be very focusing on because it showed the efficiency of the agents in the work place to create value for the company is 7.97 minutes and this could be understood as in average a customer service agent was spending about 2 more minutes in each call they answered. And based on the 6 minutes requirement, the agents were underperforming in average by 33.33% in term of AHT which is apparently not acceptable by the management of Scicom (MSC) Berhad and the client Air Asia.


3.3    Complaints of the motivation system


Last but not least, in the perspective of many agents, the motivation system of the company instead of bring positive incentive for them to work better actually in some cases discourage them and even attract complaints. This can be seen from the facts that the cash incentive seems can only be enjoyed by a small proportion of the agents due to its high requirement and the Council Form (CF) penalty system will cause depression and distress to the agents who trigger the punishments for whatever reasons. Beside the small number of agents who would enjoy the sale bonus, the amount that given to the diligent agents was also said to be not enough to motivate the majority of the employees to work harder in order to obtain the bonus which will be elaborated later in the study. Based on the symptoms as discussed above, it would be necessary to revaluate the employee motivation system in Scicom (MSC) Berhad.


4.        Research Objectives


To find out theoretical support to the functioning of the employee motivation system


To have a comprehensive understanding of the motivation system in Scicom’s Air Asia China team


To figure out the motivators of the agents in the China team


To evaluate the effectiveness of the motivation system


To provide recommendations on how to improve the motivation system to achieve better performance in the executive positions


5.        Literature review


As employee motivation has been a popular research field over many years, various theories had been developed and could be mainly classified into two types of employee motivation theories: content theories and process theories (Borkowski 2011, p105). The content theories of motivation, also known as needs theories, seek to answer the question that “what factors could drive people” by holding the perspectives that people are driven and motivated by their inner desires to satisfy the needs involved. The usefulness of content theories in the work environment is that it helps understand what arouses, energizes and initiates employee behaviors; another type of motivation theories is process theories, or cognitive theories, which in contrast deal with the level of motivation in term how behaviors are energized, directed, sustained and stopped.


5.1    Maslow (1943)’s Hierarchy of needs and Herzberg (1969)’s two-factor theory


5.1.1            Maslow (1943)’s Hierarchy of needs theory

Figure 2 Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is considered as one of the most fundamental content motivation theories in the workplace that originated from a theory of personality development in a psychology. Abraham Maslow classified the human needs into five layers as shown in the figure above: physiological needs. Safety and security needs, love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization. Among these five kinds of needs in the hierarchy, physiological needs are those in the bottom which sustain life such as food, shelter and clothing which are both biological and personal in nature (Monica 1986, p51). In the work place, the assurance of the income to ensure the satisfaction of the physiological needs is essential. And only when these basic needs are under threat and the life quality is decreased, the need for the income would become physiological needs because people could use the money to purchase a lot of goods in need such as luxury goods. The second kind of needs, safety and security needs, refer to freedom from danger and extremes of the environment and also the avoidance of economic difficulties and neurosis in term of stress and occupational health issues for instance. The key strategy to meet the safety and security need would be to reduce the uncertainties and environmental risks in both personal and work life to manageable minimum. The third level in the hierarchy is love and belonging needs refers to the needs of not only giving but also receiving affection by participating in the groups and teams in the organizations (White 2004, p33). While the safety and security needs meeting deal with the physical and external environments the love and belonging needs are critical for the mental health of the employees in the work place. Above the love and belonging needs, the next level in the hierarchy is the need of esteem which could be classified into two types, the desires for adequacy, mastery, competency, achievements, confidence, independence and freedom and the desires for respect, attentions, recognition, status, prestige and dignity and other forms of esteem internally or externally to the people (Culhane 2011, p75). The top level in the hierarchy is the self-actualization which concerns with the individual’s accomplishment of becoming whom he or she wants to be and what he or she wants to do by working to the full potential (Rogers 1961). Those who have achieved the self-actualization had been described by Maslow (1970) as those who are fulfilled and doing all they are capable of.


There are several major assumptions and implications in this theory. The first assumption is that people have needs to be satisfied which are ranging from the lowest order needs (physiological needs) to the highest order needs (needs for self-actualization) in a hierarchy, and people are proactive to work to get these needs satisfied. This assumption also shows Maslow’s view about the nature of human in his theory which is closed to the Theory Y (McGregor, Cutcher-Gershenfeld 2006), the theory developed based on the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. According to Theory Y, people are not naturally lazy or irresponsible and they could be self-directed, self-control and willing to do a better job in personal and work life.


The second assumption is that the human needs have to be satisfied and once satisfied the needs will move to the higher level, only when the lower level needs have been met (Maslow 1987) the higher needs will become prevalent. For instance, when the lowest level of needs, i.e. physiological needs are relatively satisfied, the next higher level of needs, safety and security needs will emerge and become salient (McCauley 2005). The assumption in another suggests that human beings are primarily self-motivated and self-controlled, and in term of the work environment people will also seek self-fulfillment through taking challenges, responsibility to create a sense of pride at work (Lucey 2005, p75).


The third assumption which is core to the employee motivation is that only by meeting the currently unsatisfied needs will bring positive motivations, to put it in a simple way, only unsatisfied needs are motivators. Based on the two assumptions we have above, Maslow believed that motivation is built upon the unsatisfied needs that are met through levels of hierarchies (Rutledge 2008). This assumption also corresponds with the definition of motivation which is a psychological process through which unsatisfied needs or wants lead to drives that are aimed at goals or wants (Borkowski 2011, p105). From the figure below, we can see that the motivation process starts from the presence of the unsatisfied need or want which create internal tensions among the individuals from which the people seek relief by satisfying them through efforts that they deem appropriate and necessary leading to the satisfaction of the needs.


Figure 3 Process of motivation (Source: Borkowski 2011, p105)






5.1.2            Frederick Herzberg (1969)’s two-factor theory



Figure 4 Maslow model and Herzberg model comparison (Source: Ades 1992, p146)

Based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs model, another famous motivation theory which was postulated by Frederick Herzberg (1969) is the theory of motivation-hygiene which is also referred as the two-factor theory. The theory as shown in the figure above shares a similar hierarchy with Maslow’s Hierarchy, a designation that sets its rationale in the dual nature of its approach to source of job satisfaction and ultimately job motivation (Miner 2007, p47). The theory is more specific with guidance on the employee motivation research field than Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs which is more focused on the study of the human nature in a psychological perspective. Within the earliest studies done by Herzberg and his associates at Psychological Service of Pittsburgh (Herzberg, Mausner, Peterson & Capwell 1957) on the job attitudes and satisfaction, a list of factors had been identified in two major classes: hygiene factors and motivation factors. As demonstrated in figures of comparison between Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs model and Frederick Herzberg (1969)’s two-factor theory, hygiene factors are the basic needs in Maslow’s Hierarchy which contribute to the job dissatisfaction and motivation factors are majorly needs to be esteemed and the needs of self-actualization in term of the desires for recognition and achievement in the work and the motivation factors in contrast will lead to the satisfaction in the work place.


On one hand, the most basic needs consist of the maintenance of the hygiene factors which are linked with the job dissatisfaction. These needs frequently involved include the basic salary, compensations, working conditions, job security, company policy, interpersonal relationship among the peers and across the levels. The maintenance of the hygiene factors or dissatisfiers, (Miner 2007, p48) is of significant importance, if these basic needs are not appropriately met serious results can be resulted in term of great dissatisfactions like complains, resignation and negative emotions and all these behaviors and emotions will finally lead to the lack of motivation in the work place. But the fact that these factors were named as hygiene factors or dissatisfiers also indicates that they could not be relied on to produce positive working experience and satisfactions to encourage employees to improve their performance at work. And to achieve better work performance from the perspective of the management, the other type of factors, motivational factors are necessary and should be turned to by the management.


In term of job satisfaction, which in Frederick Herzberg (1969)’s the theory of motivation-hygiene could be referred to as a status of the outgrowth of achievement, recognition (verbal), the work itself (challenging), responsibility and advancement (promotion). These five motivational factors are also shown in the figure above and in comparison with Maslow (1943)’s Hierarchy of needs model, these factors are all in the top two classes which are esteem, ego and status needs and self-fulfillment needs indicating that only a small proportion of the people would have their needs come to these levels because it requires the lower needs (hygiene factors) to be satisfied in advance. On the other hand, these five factors are intrinsic aspects of the work itself and are usually considered much closed to each other both conceptually and empirically and they mark a typical success career life in a traditional manner. And according to Frederick Herzberg and his associates’ research by reviewing the past and current studies in the field of the job attitudes and satisfaction at that time, with the presence of partial or all these five factors in the work place and together with the basic needs (hygiene factors) being satisfied, job enrichment and employee motivation in the job could be expected.


The implications of Frederick Herzberg (1969)’s the theory of motivation-hygiene are simple but impressive and are frequently used in the actual human resource management (HRM) practices. First of all, the hygiene factors should be dealt with carefully at all time by satisfying the fundamental needs such as the work security and relationships to avoid dissatisfaction by the lack of the hygiene factors; Secondly, since the benefits and satisfaction generated by caring the hygiene factors is limited up to a certain point, companies should not relying too much these factors to encourage work place motivation and this means that the efforts being invested on the hygiene factors should also be limited to a certain low level provided that it would not attract dissatisfaction and other negative emotions or behaviors among the employees; Thirdly, to achieve positive motivations, focus should be kept on the intrinsic factors of the work itself rather than the extrinsic aspects. Without building up the intrinsic part of the work content to be interesting and attractive to the employees so as to make them motivated based on the work they are doing, employees could only be motivated as hygiene seekers. And according to John B. Miner (2007, p48), hygiene seekers are usually poor risks to the organizations since they are motivated to work hard in a short period of time and tend to require constant and increasing doses of external rewards to keep them motivated. In case of crisis, these hygiene seekers are very unreliable in term of leaving the company quickly without too much consideration as they are focusing on the basic needs such as the salary and compensations which could easily be provided by competitors. Another reason why hygiene seekers are great hidden risks and uncertainties to the companies is that driven by external rewards hygiene seekers due to a lack of motivators will tend to sensitize other colleagues to any lack of hygiene factors leading to the demand of more and more hygiene factors to be provided by the companies to keep the same level of performance in the work place. And so one critical implication in Frederick Herzberg (1969)’s the theory of motivation-hygiene is that focus should be kept on the intrinsic factors of the work itself rather than the extrinsic aspects as commented by Herzberg and his associates that “Jobs must be restructured to increase to the maximum the ability of the workers to achieve goals meaningfully related to the doing of the job…The individual should have some measure of control over the way in which the job is done in order to realize a sense of achievement of personal growth (Herzberg, Mausner & Snyderman 1959, p132).


5.2    Equity theory (Adams 1965)


When the two employee motivation theories and many other well structured theories in this field focus on the identification of what needs employees expect to exchange for from offering their hard work, there are also some process theories developed to study the field that how people are motivated which deals with the level of motivation in term how behaviors are energized, directed, sustained and stopped as mentioned earlier. One important principle measuring and influencing the delivery of employee motivation is the fairness and the importance of this term in the employee motivation could be seen from the conclusion made in Herzberg’s original research (Miner 2007, p94) that unfairness as feeling of unfairness had been reported as the most frequently reported source of job dissatisfaction. And one of the representative theories regarding the equity of the distribution of the satisfaction of the needs is the equity theory which based on Homans (1961)’s modele of distributive justice was developed by Adams (1965) by holding the perspective that individuals look at their world in term of comparative inputs and outcomes and people will compare their inputs and outcomes with others (Landy & Conte 2010, p375). According to this theory, all people including employees are like calculators and they will in their own heart calculate a ratio by comparing their input and outcomes, the input include time, skills and efforts and so one, outcomes like the salary, appraisal, benefits, etc (Pride, Hughes & Kapoor 2010). After the calculation of their own outcome/input ratio, people start to calculate the ratio of other people especially those around then in the work place according what they perceive as the outcome/input ratio of the other people which could be right or wrong depending on the mastering of the true information by the employees in the actual cases.


Regardless of whether calculation of one’s own and the other people’s outcome/input ratios reflect the actual fact or not, Adams (1965) contends that there are two situations in which a sense of equity would be felt by a person: the first situation is that when a person compares the his or her outputs are equal to his or her inputs, he or she finds out that inputs and outputs are almost equal to each other; the second case happens when equality is also found among the comparisons made between one’s outcome/input ratio the that of the referent that the person calculates based on the information that he or she can access to. And in both of these two cases, a feeling of equity would be prevailing in the mind of the person, vice versa when an obvious discrepancy is found rather than equality the individual will experience the feelings of inequity as the following formula shows and engages in the inequity-reduction behaviors (Beugré 1998, p147).


Figure 5 Distributive Justice (Source: Beugré 1998, p3)

Except in the situation of equality being found, two kinds of status would be found and perceived by the person who makes the comparisons as mentioned above: being over paid or underpaid. Results of several studies and researches have indicated that people will lower their performance when they are underpaid compared to their efforts given out and raise the effort in term of working harder if overpaid is to be perceived (Adams & Freedman 1976; Greenberg 1982). The inequality in the work place is said to be great risk to the human resource management efforts especially the feeling of underpayment perceived by the employees and researches also discover that people tend to exaggerate the result of the observed inequality and such behavior is described as “copying strategy” (Festinger 1954).


And as different people may have different of value, way of thinking and preference for various outputs, equity theory has limited application in the human resource management practice as it is difficult to make predictions with the equity theory (Cropanzanop 2001, p336). But still the distributive justice as a research area remains alive and well (Deutch 1985), and by providing a new perspective about how needs satisfactions are distributed and how the process of the motivation functions it does own its specific implications to remind managers that perception is reality and the appearance of what they do and how they treat different employees has implications for employee motivation (Condrey 2010, p538).


6.        Case analysis of Air Asia call center project


6.1    Need analysis under Maslow (1943)’s Hierarchy of needs framework


As analyzed in the portion of literature review, according to Maslow (1943)’s Hierarchy of needs it is critical to identify what needs employees are committed to which provides basis for managers to enact human resource strategies to keep the employees highly motivated by provide incentives that could satisfy the needs that desired by the staffs. Below the case analysis will be based on the result of a self report close ended questionnaire (sample sees appendix 5.0 & appendix 6.0) which had been done on 17 out of the 28 total agents who are from the original Air Asia call center project and they are still working in Scicom (MSC) Berhad under another project with the cooperation of SingTel Telecommunications in order to probe into the actual needs when these agents were working under the Air Asia project were desired which provide incentives for them to work to their full potential. And as mentioned above only when these basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing which are both biological and personal in nature (Monica 1986, p51) are under threat and the life quality is decreased, the need for the income would become physiological needs, so that the need analysis under Maslow (1943)’s Hierarchy of needs framework had been carried out focusing only the other four levels of needs: safety and security needs, belonging and social needs, ego, esteem and status needs and the need to be self-actualized.



Chart 3 Need survey using Maslow (1943)’s Hierarchy of needs model


As illustrated in the chart above by summarizing the results obtain from the questionnaire we can see that by setting a full mark of 4, most agents show a strong need of safety and security indicating that there is a lack of safe and satisfactory working environment and desired company policy in their expectation that could not make the surveyed agents feel safe and secured or the salary is not enough compared to the need of the agents to live a decent life in the society that they live. And in term of belonging and social needs, by recording a 2.1 score it indicates that there is only a little tendency that the agents will be focusing on the social needs to be cared by the colleagues and managers and to obtain a sense of belonging to the group and team in the work place to fulfill their emotional needs. And the results of the rest two types of needs, i.e. ego, esteem and status needs and need of self-fulfillment both suggested that these higher level needs are not concerned by the agents during the time when they work under the project.


The score summary of results of the survey done by the majority of the previous China team agents demonstrate a typical hierarchy as suggested by Maslow (1943)’s Hierarchy of needs model. Regarding to the actual case it shows a basic fact that the majority of the China team agents were not feeling secured enough under the working conditions which are not necessary indicating that the working environment is not safe enough in term of keeping the agent from raining or poisonous chemicals but most probably financial needs, hidden occupational hazards and unfriendly corporate policies would be the fundamental reasons why the majority of the survey participants would still stay in the lower needs of the safety and security. The lower scores of the three higher needs compared to that of the safety and security needs demonstrate that an obvious rules in the Maslow (1943)’s Hierarchy of needs theory which had been mentioned earlier that those who are concerned with the lower needs such as health, safety and personal security will be unmotivated toward filling tasks unrelated to these deficiency needs (Hickson, Stacks & Padgett-Greely 1998, p132). The middle score achieved in the category of belonging and social needs suggests that though the tendency is not obvious there should be an increasing of number of agents who will shift their focus from the security needs to the social and relationship needs but it does not happen as the management wished which probably due to the unresolved issues that result in the unsatisfied lower needs. But this possible tendency for the employees to move up their needs along the Maslow (1943)’s Hierarchy indicated that there could be a better motivation system if the management especially the human resource managers could implement some changes needed to address the most concerned issues surrounded the agents as expressed in the last question in which the surveyed agents had been required to select the five most concerned topics in term of key words.


Regarding the last question in the survey which unlike the other questions is an open question allowing the participants to express their concerned issues, the most mentioned topics include: salary and compensation related, office environment and equipment related, company policies, work schedule and management and subordinate relationship related. Though the quite brief answers provide by the agents did not give enough of reasons and explanations regarding the most concerned issues, the summary of the five most worrying issues reconfirms the fact that during the time when the agents were working under the Air Asia projects, they did have problems with the fundamental needs which should had been satisfied in a company like Scicom (MSC) Berhad that as a large organization enjoys so many honors within the BOP business and the society but the issues did not turned out to be receiving appropriate resolutions. The discussion and explanations of the five top issues would be elaborated below in the next part of the case analysis.


6.2    Five top issues


Below the discussion and stamen of the five top issues are based on the result of the need survey using Maslow (1943)’s Hierarchy of needs model and face to face interviews with some of the agents.

6.2.1            Salary and compensation related


It may probably be the fact that the salary issue had never been resolved well during the first contract that the Chinese agents signed with Scicom (MSC) Berhad under the Air Asia project to work in the position of “Executive Customer Service”. According to the face to face interviews with some of the agents, they had too some extend had been forced to make the compromise by signing the contract which includes such a clause saying that “Five hundred ringgit (only) will be deducted from the monthly basic salary as the rental of the company accommodation” which they were very unwilling to accept because the average rental in Kuala Lumpur except in the center of the city would be much less RM 500 for a single room which was also the same offer provided by the company as a must option without other choices. For this issues, some of them had already have negotiations with the HR department but with no compromises from the company. Under such circumstances, they signed the contract with reluctance.


During the interview, some of the agents were still very emotional regarding the salary and accommodation that they received. As one of them complaint: “……at the very beginning we were told that the enforcement of the choice of company accommodation was used for the convenience of the management of the foreign staffs but at the same time when I signed up the contract I observed that two other African applications were offered two options to stay in the company accommodations or get the full RM 2500 basic salary without deduction under the name of accommodations. And later we find out that only for us, the choice of the option of company accommodation is a must which made us feel like a fool, the most thing that we still can’t accept today is that only for the Chinese agents this option is mandatory while agents in other teams such as Thailand or Vietnamese teams were also offered the second option which is unequal to us…….”. And when talking about the compensation system, all of the interviewed agents expressed the same fact that the only bonus that they had been promised was the cash bonus under a sale bonus scheme which will give out cash bonus to those who had achieved a certain amount of sale that the successfully push during the call on a quarter basis. The amount granted in general cases will be only about RM 40 to RM 100 but none of them had received such bonus though some of them did qualified for the bonus. So seemingly it is reasonable that most of the agents complaint that they had been cheated by the company.


Based on the analysis and the literature review we have earlier about equity theory, we can see that with similar input by the Chinese agents, they did received less output that they enjoyed with the enforcement of the company accommodation option and what’s more regardless of the accommodation issues, they also gained less than in their expectation because the company did not deliver its promise to give out the sale bonus.


6.2.2            Office environment and equipment related


For the majority of the time an agent will be sitting in the chairs answering calls and process the request and update records which are all computer based work, it is understandable that the complaints are mostly regarding the computer but it is not understandable that the company could provide so much a hardware condition to the agents. Many of the agents express the same view that their daily work were artificially made more difficulties than it should have been by using the extraordinary low end computers which could be as low as in term of 256 RAM running on a Window XP system together with a lot of monitoring software, necessary applications and work platforms. It is very difficult to perform a good job using such low end computers in contrast with the high call queue every day. Another problem that had been reported a lot is the over crowed office setting resulting in noisy and usual dirty office environment which aroused bad emotions and negative feelings among the agents.


6.2.3            Company policies


Regarding the company policies, the most concerned one is about the counseling system which works as in the way like this: clear breach of the company’s stated general policy and Standard Operational Processes (SOPs) with serious consequence or recurrent minor problems could lead to the issue of a Counseling Form (CF) together with a face to face counseling with the specialist from the human resource management department. Three major impacts come along with the issue of the Counseling Form to the employees. Firstly, this is a direct and short term impact which states that employees would not be eligible to apply for the promotion or new occupation within the company within 6 months after the issue of the CF; the second impact which is indirect and long term influence which means in detail that the issue of the CF will be recorded in the profile of the employees involved and could act as reference to be reviewed for the HR department upon the decision regarding the promotion; the third impact of the CF system is that the accumulation of the Counseling Forms could lead to final termination which is the most serious punishment. The most complains from the China team agents come regarding CF system come from their training session because they had been told that the second time failure of the test in the end of the training program could trigger the first CF and the more CF if the consequent retests also fail. This type of system actually did achieve the target of motivating people to learn and to perform according to the requirement but speaking from the nature, it is a type of negative motivation system that use coercion to drive people rather than motivators.


6.2.4            Work schedule


The work scheduling system refers to the computerized system of the company that arranges the working shifts, off days and break time on a monthly basis and to be strictly carried out by the agents to keep the number of agents stable during every minute of the office hour when the hotline is open. Several traits of the work scheduling system arouse complaints from the agents. Firstly, the scheduling system is automatic process and the formation of the schedule could not be changed in advance which means that if an agent would never know what is his or her schedule until it is closing to the end of the month. This creates difficulties to those who want to plan their work and personal life in a long term basis. Some of the agents even complaint that the company should have consulted them regarding their wishes and preference about the arrangement which reduces the needs to exchange the shift between them later after the release of the schedule. Secondly, the break time set by the system is not enough and is also no possible to be carried out strictly by the agents and sometimes the lunch time is also very inconvenient to the agents as well. Regarding the break time, which is the only time beside the fixed lunch that the agents could use to go to the washing rooms, have a coffee and deal with other personal needs, but the break time given to the agents is only 30 minutes per day and what is more only the usage of the 30 minutes would be divided by the system into two slots, 15 minutes each for morning and afternoon and the time is also fixed. According to the agents, this is very inhuman because they could control the time of having a coffee but not the time they need to go to the washing room to settle their natural needs. Similar cases happen to the lunch time setting. The operation hour of the hotline for the China team is 8 am to 10 pm, if an agent’s shift is 8 am to 5 pm, then the lunch time probably would be at 12 or 12:30 which is acceptable to most people, but when it come to 11 am to 9 pm, then the lunch which would usually be 3 pm or 4 pm which could not be acceptable to most agents because no one want to have lunch at such time.




6.2.5            Management and subordinate relationship


Other than the 28 agents, there were one assistant manager (line manager) and four backup managers, the later ones actually are seniors who are not managers but they are assigned to help with the work of the assistant manager. It is fair to say that the relationship between the management and the subordinates within the China team had never been very harmony and some time it is even very bad. Two major reasons caused this bad relationship to happen. Firstly, the assistant manager and the four backup managers were all local Chinese and the Chinese agents who are from mainland of China felt that they were too some extent suppressed by the local managers; secondly the backup managers were quite free at most of their time and reading books, magazines and playing with their hand phone were very usual and this made the agents who were always busy with the answering calls very unhappy.


7.        Concluding remarks


With the theoretical support and the case analysis we have above, some conclusions are self-evident in correspondence with the study questions that we have set at the beginning of the study which again reconfirm the conclusion that those who are concerned with the lower needs such as health, safety and personal security will be unmotivated toward filling tasks unrelated to these deficiency needs (Hickson, Stacks & Padgett-Greely 1998, p132). As for the case, we can see that most of the China team agents are motivated still by the safety and security needs while the higher needs show a lack of obvious existence as powerful motivators to drive the agents to perform. Two major kinds of factors have contributed to the failure of the motivation applied in the China team in term of underperformance of the agents. On one hand the low level security and safety needs had not been satisfied appropriately and on the other hand which arouses much negative emotions among the agents to keep them away from being willing to contributing their effort and performing to their potential is the unequal treatment that they received from the company in term of enforced accommodation option for instance. The solution to the current dilemma is simple and it is up to the company’s decision to adopt or not. The current issues as mentioned above like the top issues that the agents concerned have clear solutions such as remove the enforced accommodation as a must-accept option, provide a clean and more spacious less crowded office environment and relieve the strict company policy. Most solutions would incurred much cost which is also the consideration of the company to keep the current status unchanged, so in this point, suggestion is not needed. But still, if these basic needs and hygiene factors are satisfied, to improve the effectiveness of the motivation system the next step would be to increase the motivators in the work place and recommendations will be given below in the final part of the study to provide suggestions to Scicom (MSC) Berhad on how to increase the motivators in the workplace by job changes and job enrichments based on the analysis and conclusions of the motivation system of the Air Asia project above.


8.        Recommendations on job enrichment and job changes


With the conclusion that most customer care officials (CCOs) or agents in the China team in the Air Asia project are still focusing on the hygiene factors in term of motivated by the lower level needs as shown in the need analysis we have above using Maslow (1943)’s Hierarchy of needs theory, the initiative of the suggestion of performing the job enrichment and job changes by organizational restructuring is to provide greater chance of work achievement, recognition, responsibility advancement and psychological growth in the work environment for the employees so as to provide internal motivations by changing the job content relative factors rather than external rewards which is considered in Frederick Herzberg (1969)’s the theory of motivation-hygiene as not reliable especially during the crisis as mentioned above. In term of the application to job enrichment, a mixed model Herzberg’s exclusive concern with motivation through the job has earned the label “Orthodox Job Enrichment” which by definition involves only the introduction of motivators into a job, not hygiene factors (Miner 2007, p49) and could be viewed as a natural outgrowth of Frederick Herzberg (1969)’s the theory of motivation-hygiene (Sharan 2000, p108). Based on the process of Orthodox Job enrichment and a number factors that were identified by Herzberge (1976) in term of job enrichment and though not limited to the Orthodox Job enrichment, the below approach and techniques are recommended in the case to improve employee motivation in the work place.


8.1.1            Direct feedback of performance


Though personal performance data will be reviewed to the individual employee when the employees were requested to go through the scheduled CET process which was the agents’ routine work or by group meetings held by the Assistant Manager (AM) irregularly while considered as necessary the AM, there was still a lack of regular and direct feedback of the performance carried out by the agents during a period of time which should be in a nonevaluative manner and usually not through a superior as recommended by Herzberge (1976). In a practical scenario, the company could utilize the current corporate email system to release the team performance data which include the individual performance date to all the team members, such regular release of the performance date as a direct feedback in an objective perspective could act as a recognition efforts to those who have performance well and contribute to the overall team performance. The example of such performance report could be referred to appendix 4. And such performance reports could be released daily which means that agents everyday would know the yesterday’s whole team and their respective and their colleagues’’ performance. This method could also encourage the underperforming agents to work harder by clearly showing their ranking positions by various key performance index (KPIs) and what’s more this technique would only involved some human power to analyze the data and form the reports and thus incurs very little costs. So this method is cost beneficial and is recommended to be adopted in the work place according to the analysis of the case and the theoretical review that we have above to increase the motivators in the work environments.


8.1.2            Regular announcement of the customer satisfaction survey


When employees are only involved in part of the production process, such as the assemblers who are in the assembling lines who are only in charge of the a part of the production effort, they may not be sharing the joy of final results in term the final products and services due to the lack of understanding and lack of control of the whole production circle. And the direct outcome of the customer service provided by the customer care officials (CCOs) or agents is the customer delight which is also marked out in the logo of Scicom (MSC) Berhad which has been shown in the beginning of the thesis. To communicate the customer satisfaction to the agents, the regular review of the customer satisfaction surveys could be helpful to let the agents to know the outcome of their daily efforts. This kind of customer satisfaction surveys could be done using the current call center system by adding a customer survey function into the system and requires the customer care officials (CCOs) or agents to invite the customers to participate the surveys in the end of each calls after which the computer system will take care of the rest work and report of the date could also be an automatic and in a well prepared effort without too much extra efforts. Beside this method, the operation manger of the project of Air Asia in Scicom (MSC) Berhad could communicate with the Air Asia project client to obtain the statistics regarding the customer satisfaction level and to review to the agents. The announcement of the results of the customer satisfaction surveys done by the Scicom (MSC) Berhad and the client could both add on to the recognition, feeling of achievement in the work place as perceived by the employees.




8.1.3            More flexible and simplified work shift system


The current work schedule adopted companywide is a computerized and automatically generated work shift which allows little changes under strict procedure with approvals. For example, when an agent needs an off day in a particular day, he or she has to wait for the work schedule to come out and if the status of that day on the schedule is working, then he or she needs to find another agent who is off on that day and exchange the shift with the agent under approvals from the both line managers of the two involved agents. Employees under this working shift forming system would in most time feel that their work is under strict arrangement from the management rather than individual considerations. Similar cases happened to the work break; though it was not strictly followed the policy for the daily break time (30 minutes per day) was still very inhuman by setting the break time in two fixed period of time within the work time which means that employees could not use the break time as they wish and such control made agents feel that they are under strict control in term of scheduling their work and showed the distrust from the company though such arrangements may be necessary when there is a high call queue and need to maintain a number of available agents to reduce the waiting call numbers. Here is one solution that may both meets the needs of a more flexible work shift system and resolves the dilemma of high call queue which is the fundamental reasons why the managers need to frozen the usage of the break time of the agents though this attract the dissatisfaction and even complains of the employees. The solution is that the operational manager could set a threshold for the number of the call answered, those who have reached the target could go home earlier as they wish. But another issue may appear which is that if there may not be enough of agents to be available to answer calls especially in the end of the day while many of the agents are qualify to go home earlier before the end of their schedule. Two arrangements could be helpful to solve this expected possible difficulty, the first tactic is to encourage those who have already answered the required number of calls to work overtime and provide overtime compensations to their extra effort; the second solution to this effort is to apply the flexible work policy to the majority of the employees but randomly assigned keep a small number of employees on duty to perform the normal shift. For example, if there are 20 agents working at the same day, then the manager could arrange the 6 of them who are supposed to work the latest shift till the end of the office hour of the hotline to perform a normal shift and the rest are encouraged to work with efficiency and are allowed to leave earlier or get cash bonus for the overtime work and also they will be allow to use their break time as they like. But one major principle there is that everyone should has equal opportunity to perform the latest shift to maintain the equality among the agents to avoid unnecessary dissatisfaction as stated in the equity theory that has been discussed above in the theoretical review part.


8.1.4            Empower agents to offer limited waiver on their own


With the analysis that we have above about some of the classic theories of motivation, we can see that intrinsic and internal influence are critical in enhancing the employee motivations though hygiene factors are also important. Such intrinsic motivations take the form of work achievement, recognition, responsibility advancement, psychological growth and even self actualization which is at the top need in Maslow (1943)’s Hierarchy of needs model. To achieve the various intrinsic motivations in the work place, empowerment approaches to management is frequently used which usually involves broader distribution of power, participative decision-making and greater staff responsibility and autonomy (Hardina, Middleton, Montana & Simpson 2007, p231). The practices of empowerment management allow employees to achieve an empowered psychological state stimulating motivation and better orientation toward work (Spreitzer, McCall & Mahoney, 1997) by changing the existing organizational structure through the introduction of a more flattened management employee relationship, delegating authority and responsibility to the outcome.


Figure 6 The theoretical relationship between empowerment and employee motivation

Source: (Adapted from Petter, Byrnes, Choi, Fegan & Miller 2002)


Petter, Byrnes, Choi, Fegan & Miller (2002) postulated a theoretical model that reviewed the relationship between empowerment and employee motivation as stated in the figure above. Petter et al. (2002)’s model suggested that by changing the organizational characteristics and setting managers could achieve various form of employee empowerment resulting in increased employee motivation which is connected to the improvement of the organizational performance.


With the theoretical support we have above, the empowerment management as a job enrichment tactic could be a good method to increase the employee motivation. And speaking in the case of Scicom (MSC) Berhad, in order to provide a better customer experience and also increase the motivators in the work place of the agents, with the approval from the Air Asia client, the company could empower the agents limited authorization to offer some limited waiver to the customers in some difficult cases by their own decisions as exceptional handlings (EHs). The reason why this arrangement is regarding the offer of waiver rather than cash compensation is to help the client to control the outflow of the income of the client because cost control is obviously one of the major sources of core competitiveness of Air Asia. For example, suppose that the client agree to authorize the individual call center agents to offer the customer with one-time waiver up to RM 100 for each call they answer; then if the a customer care official (CCO) or agent receives a complaint call regarding a system faulty that lead to the direct and indirect great loss to the customer then if the CCO considers that regular handling under the standard operational procedures (SOPs) would only lead to the loss of the customer to the client according to their professional knowledge and experience in answering similar complaint calls, the agent is empowered and also encouraged to utilize their authorization to provide this RM 100 waiver to the customer either to waive the penalty incurred or to use the waiver as coupon to encourage the customer to purchase a new air ticket in order to salvage the customer and at least avoid the spreading of bad mouth from the furious customer. Though this kind of empowerment may be very limited and the salvage of some difficult customers may need higher empowerment from the line manager or even operational manager, it does help the agents to handle many usual and small cases on their end. By achieving this result, it is expected that this empowerment policy will help achieve both customer satisfaction and employee motivation in the work place. And this policy also has successful application in another project, SingTel, which is also operated by Scicom (MSC) Berhad though not without problems such as some customers will keep demanding for waiver even in case of small problems, in general this technique worth a try by the company in the Air Asia project provided that the waiver amount is acceptable to and deemed by the client as appropriate.


8.1.5            Encourage cross-departmental communications


Here is another type of empowerment that could help increase the employee motivation in the work place which is to unblock the difficulties of cross-departmental communications probably resulted from the hierarchic constraints determined by the corporate culture and organizational settings. The tactic of cross-departmental communications in detail involves encouraging the employees to get the job done even when the resolve of the case need the assistance from the other departments and they are encouraged to go ahead without approval to finish the job in an appropriate and efficient way when necessary. The cross-departmental communications require the development of the employees’ self-organization, and empirical studies have shown that self-organization requires the managers to empower the employees to perform the cross-departmental activities to solve the problems or propose decisions (Vink, Koningsveld & Dhondt 1998, p185). And the goal of the promotion of self-organization will be to create a high motivation among the employees and achieve the cross-departmental teamwork. In the case of Scicom (MSC) Berhad regarding the Air Asia project, agents are prohibited to communicate with the other departments such as the financial department, refund team and preflight[13] team. If there is a need to communicate with the other departments regarding any request of confirmation, clarifications and other assistance, the agents will have to escalate the case and rely on their line manager to send email or make phone calls with the other departments. In this way, even simple case involved with other departments could become complex case and time consuming. The suggestion for this regard would be recommending the senior management to allow cross-departmental communications through empowerment. The cross-departmental communications could be achieved by setting internal hotlines that connect all the departments and agents from different departments could contact each other by calling a direct number to the other team or even the particular agents.


8.1.6            Maintaining individual accountability for results


As discussed above, motivators include work achievement, nature of work, recognition, responsibility, advancement and psychological growth and all of which could stimulate satisfaction for employees (Folsom & Boulware 2004, p463). Here in this part, we will focus on the how enhancing the individual responsibility leads to better employee motivation and job performance. As Peter F. Drucker (1986) put it beyond the classical concept of need satisfaction in the field of employee motivation, “Responsibility-not satisfaction-is the only thing that will serve. One can satisfied with what somebody else is doing, but to perform one has to take responsibility for one’s own actions and their impact. To perform, one has, in fact, to be dissatisfied, to want to do better.” So it could be seen that increasing individual accountability for results could be helpful to enhance the employee motivation and job performance. As in the case of Scicom (MSC) Berhad, during the operation of the project of Air Asia, agents are authorized with limited power to handle cases that they will be facing daily and if there are scenarios in which the customer care officials (CCOs) or agents could not handle within their very limited authorization, then they have to refer to or just simply escalate the cases to the backup managers or assistant managers which means that the agents are protected with limited accountability which at the same time reduce the motivators in work. Another reason resulting in this limited accountability is because of the company’s policy applied in the Air Asia project to strictly control over making the outbound call except in particular cases with Assistant Manager’s approval such as that the agents provide wrong information during answering the call and even when the case is urgent and regarding the great interest of the customers but provided that it is not the agent’s must to call back the Assistant Manager would not approve making the outbound call under the name of controlling the cost. So that one solution that could increase the accountability to the agents of the outcome of the calls they answer would be to relieve the restriction of making outbound call for the agents to follow the case till it reach a result satisfied by the agents and customers. Some mentioned tactics such as allowing cross-departmental communications and provide waiver could also help with the effort of increasing the accountability as perceived by the agents in the work place.



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Appendix 1.0 Scicom (MSC) Berhad’s Global Support Network



Supportive Languages: English (Aus & UK), Bahasa Malayu, Bahasa Indonesia, Mandarin (Chinese), Cantonese (Southeast Asia), Tamil, Arabic, Tagalog, Korean, Japanese, French, Farsi, Thai, Vietnamese, Urdu, Khmer, Zulu, Swahili, Portuguese, Spanish, Telegu, Sindhi, Kanada, Bengali, Marathi, Purijabi, Guajarati, Hindi, Afrikaans, Yoruba, Hausa and Lgbo (Scicom Annual Report 2008)



Appendix 2.0 Agent employment status during 2010[14]


Total number of exits = 11

Total number of exits (local employees) = 6

Average number of employees = (Number of agents in January + Number of agents in December) /2= (25+17)/2= 21

Average number of employees (local) = (Number of local agents in January + Number of local agents in December) /2= (+)/2= (12 + 6)/2 = 9

Employee total turnover rate= (Total number of exits / Average number of employees)*100= 52.38%

Local employee total turnover rate= (Total number of exits of local employees / Average number of employees (local))/2= 66.67%


Appendix 3.0 China Team performance data in 2010

Performance elements and KPI targets
QUIZ/CM S. hours IB[15] call Call/Hours AHT[16] OCC% Util%
> 80% 8.0 Hrs 75 10.5 6 >= 100% >50%
ACW[17] AUX 1[18] AUX 2[19] AUX 3[20] AUX 4[21] AUX 9[22] TTL AUX
< 1 MIN < 30 MIN < 10 MIN 0 < 25 MIN With approval <=10

Team member performance summary Jan 2010 to Dec 2010


China Team performance in 2010


QUIZ/CM S. hours IB call Call/Hours AHT OCC% Util%
0 8.06 Hrs 37.66 4.67 7.97 101% 45%
2.17 MIN 26.4 MIN 9.6 MIN 0 13.8 MIN 10.8 MIN 13%



Appendix 4.0 Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs analysis survey sample


Question 1: The office environment is not satisfactory; there is not enough space between agents resulting in too much noisy in the working environment and work environment in term of cleanness and tidiness is also a worrying problem among us.


Question 2: I used to have good relationships with my colleagues, backup managers and the assistant manager and I like to talk to them regarding the work content and personal life topics.


Question 3: I think it is important to have good relationships with others in the work place.


Question 4: I really enjoy my time at work which has close relationship with the nice colleagues and managers around me and the support I gained from them is critical to my work.


Question 5: By performing a good job I could feel a sense of recognition among the agents and from the management.


Question 6: I always attend the outgoing activities held by the colleagues and social activities participated by the agents and managers are important to me.


Question 7: I will be motivated and if I could get more cash bonus,


Question 8: I always think that is my responsible to help solve the customers’ difficulties once the cases come to my hand.


Question 9: I am in most time self oriented and want to master new skills in the work place and become more capable and competitive to do a better job.


Question 10: I will try my best to be the best agent to obtain the promotion opportunity.


Question 11: I would not do this job if there is another offer that provide with me more salary and cash compensations.


Question 12: I want to be respected by other agents and by the backup and assistant managers.


Question 13: As a part of the China team under the Air Asia project, I felt like I had contributed to the good job performed by our team.


Question 14: The backup managers and assistant manager are always helpful and willing to assist us to resolve the difficulties that faced by us.


Question 15: The company policies are strict and always push us to perform or else we will be punished with undesired and significant consequences.


Question 16: I like being the focus and cared among our team members.


Question 17: More than performing some routine jobs, I used to probe into the nature of our work as customer care officials and if there are opportunities I will be eager to learn and study.


Question 18: Compliments and recognition from our manager and colleagues are very appreciated and enjoyable by me.


Question 19: The teamwork contributed by my colleagues had played important role in my work success.


Question 20: I do believe that my personal value could be achieved through my effort in this ECS (Executive Customer Service) position.


Question 21: During that time, I was always willing to provide my assistance to my colleagues who were in difficulties if I knew how to solve the problems.


Question 22: We should always upgrade our knowledge to the new skills and product knowledge that are vital to provide the good customer care service.


Question 23: The work schedule was not human enough and it did have influences over our personal health


Question 24: Our manager was very active in helping us and she did care about us especially when assistant from her was mostly needed.


Question 25: If you will have to select five key topics that you are most concerning when you are working under Air Asia project, what will be your chooses and provide brief explanations. (Please notice that this is an open question, you are eligible to choose any topics that you were caring about)


Appendix 5.0 Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs analysis survey sample (continued)


* Suggestion: Group your answers to each level of need into sets (draw a large circle around the area into which most of your answers fall)

* Interpretation: If most of your answer in any area fall left of the center, your needs in that particular area are comparably weak. If they fall right of center, then they are relatively strong.


Question 25 Answer sheet (Please notice that this is an open question; you are eligible to choose any topics that you are care about):

Appendix 6.0 Authorization letter


Authorization Letter




[1] MSC stands for Multimedia Super Corridor, which is an ISO certified title with industrial recognition with specific accreditation with Service and Support Professional Association (SSPA).

[2] Every financial year ends on 30th June

[3] Non-executive and non-independent director

[4] The China team agents were previously promised to answer only mandarin and Cantonese calls as stated in the job description though not clearly stated in the employment contract.

[5] IB = Inbound Call

[6] AHT= Average Handling Time

[7] ACW= After Call Work

[8] AUX1= Break Time

[9] AUX2= Call Back Time

[10] AUX3= Backup Team Manager

[11] AUX 4= Training and Coaching Time

[12] AUX9= Other Authorized Activities

[13] A department responsible for the change of the flight schedules

[14] Shadowed agents are Malaysian local agents

[15] IB = Inbound Call

[16] AHT= Average Handling Time

[17] ACW= After Call Work

[18] AUX1= Break Time

[19] AUX2= Call Back Time

[20] AUX3= Backup Team Manager

[21] AUX 4= Training and Coaching Time

[22] AUX9= Other Authorized Activities