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List of figures and charts
Figure 1.0 Brand and products provide in Chinese market……………………………4
Figure 2.0 Stress and performance curve………………………………………………7
Chart 1.0 Inflation rate changes in China (source: Tradingeconomics.com 2011)…..14
List of figures and charts………………………………………………………………………………….. 1
1. Company profile……………………………………………………………………………………….. 3
2. Issues description………………………………………………………………………………………. 4
3. Influence on corporate goals……………………………………………………………………….. 5
3.1 Stress and performance curve…………………………………………………………….. 5
3.2 Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) and corporate strategies……………. 7
4. Case analysis…………………………………………………………………………………………….. 8
4.1 Stressors analysis……………………………………………………………………………… 9
4.1.1 Work factors…………………………………………………………………………… 9
4.1.2 Personal factors…………………………………………………………………….. 11
4.1.3 External factors…………………………………………………………………….. 12
4.2 Current health and safety issues……………………………………………………….. 14
4.3 Current solutions adopted and HR practices……………………………………… 15
4.4 Conclusions…………………………………………………………………………………… 17
4.5 Recommendations………………………………………………………………………….. 18
4.5.1 Stress management program…………………………………………………… 18
4.5.2 Encourage the use of public transportations……………………………… 18
4.5.3 Establish an internal club in the sale department……………………….. 19
Stress Management and Occupational Health and Safety in Sale Department
—-A study on Wrigley China (Tianjin Branch)
1. Company profile
As a widely recognized leader in the confections industry with business involved in more than 180 countries by providing a wide range of products such as chewing gum, candies, chocolate, Lollipops and mints, Wrigley has speeded up its strategic expanding in a worldwide scale after its becoming a subsidiary of Mars Incorporated, another world leading giant in the industry with wider product coverage, through an acquisition in the middle of 2008 (Wrigley.com 2008). And Wrigley China is obviously one of the most important markets admit its strategic advancement. The most well known brands operated by Wrigley in the Chinese market include Wrigley’s Spearmint®, Juicy Fruit®, and Altoids® as shown in the figure below. And when the company strives to achieve its strategic goal to be more influential in the raising Chinese market in term of market share and brand awareness, the sale department has been absolutely playing the most critical role and the management of staffs in the marketing department is obvious a core task in the business strategies.
Figure 1.0 Brand and products provided in Chinese market by Wrigley
2. Issues description
With three out of five people visit the doctor attributed to stress-related problems (Middleton 2010, p192), stress in the work place which could be defined as the various forces that create discomfort or strain (Cunningham 2000, p8) has become a major issue disturbing the work and personal life of many employees. Stress, usually referred as pressure, could come from every part employees’ life including work, personal life and social life. Symptoms of stress include feeling nervous, anxious, tense coming together with even physical reactions (Stone 2011, p657) and when people exhibit such symptom they are actually sending out a message that they are under stress and need assistant which is helpful to the final resolve of the issue. But some people may not feel that they are under stress but stress may already be doing physical damage to them inside resulting in later biological symptoms (Natelson 2008, p122) in term of insomnia and high blood pressure for example. In some extreme case high level in long period may lead to suicide which is not new in China when the stress level had exceeded the threshold that people could take. So it is necessary and critical to manage the stress in term of controlling the stress in appropriate manner. In the case of Wrigley China, stress seems to be unavoidable as the key words like “work under high press, performance oriented” is common among the descriptions in the position offer by the company particularly those in the marketing department.
Another issue that will be discussed and analyzed in this study which has close link with the stress management is the occupational health and safety (OHS) which concerned with the provision of a safe and healthy environment in the work place (Stone 2011, p632). Though occupational health and safety issues would most probably remind people of the infectious disease, physical injuries, death and workplace violence, and obviously such issues is not very possible to happen in the marketing department of Wrigley China which does not directly get involved with the manufacturing process, still occupational health and safety issues such as workplace bullying, smoking and sexual harassment should also attract enough of attention from the company side because of its potential great effect to the employees, organizations and the whole society at large (Grammeno 2009). On the other hand the workplace stress issue which has been discussed above is also part of the content that occupational health and safety (OHS) effort need to deal. What is more, there is an increasing popular view of point that occupational health and safety (OHS) has become a necessary part of the integral business process suggesting a strategic position of the issue which will be elaborated in the following part.
3. Influence on corporate goals
3.1 Stress and performance curve
Below analysis will be focused on the influences that stress management and occupational health and safety issue have on the achievement of the corporate goals. On one hand stress has severe influence over the fulfillment of the strategic business goal via its close relationship with employee performance and obviously high quality performance is essential to the fulfillment of the corporate goals in the competitive business environment. Such relationship is displayed in the figure below. The so call “Yerkes-Dodson Stress and Performance Curve” was developed by two famous two psychologists, Yerkes and Dodson (1908) proposing that there is an inverse-U shaped relationship between arousal and performance in which performance grows with the increase of arousal and when the volume exceed the optimal level which is in the middle of the curve as demonstrated in the figure below.
Figure 2.0 Stress and performance curve (source: Contrada & Baum 2011)
So there are three phrases divided according to different stress levels in the curves. In the first phrase, stress is necessary to motivate employees to achieve better performance. This phrase is also very important and has strategic important as most people would easily acknowledge the negative side of stress such as causing mental illness to people but the positive side of the stress is usually forgot. As we know work is different from life and many tasks might even be very professional and need to be finished with time bound and such characters of tasks require the employees to be very serious and focused while they are dealing with the tasks and to achieve this, relative employees need to be under pressure and stress which keep them focusing on the tasks in careful manner. In this phrase, sufficient stress is helpful to achieve better performing in the work. But one thing that needs to be taken note is that it is necessary to differentiate the stressors that caused the stress to happen as some stressors will only have negative impact over the work performance of the employees. For example, terrorism could be an external stressor that would only disorders and mental suffering in term of causing fears the work environment in most cases resulting in the decreases of employee motivation and performance. With this view of point stressors could be divided into two major kinds: positive ones and negative ones. And within the stress and performance curve, the stressors refer to the positive ones.
When the stress level has reached to the status of sufficiency, the curve comes to the second stage which is the most desired stage named as optimal zone in which enough of positive stress help the employees to focus on tasks resulting in creativity, problem solving and work progress as mentioned in the curve. One thing that needs to be taken into consideration is that different individuals may have different threshold for stress and when stress level is closing to the threshold employees are highly motivated to achieve the performance, in other words, the goals of the company. Such thresholds may differ by races, corporate cultures, personal backgrounds, work experiences and other various. And to distinguish the second stage from the previous stage and the next stage that will be elaborated later, it is important to keep a closing eye on the changes of performance of the employees because both increase and decrease of the stress level based on the optimal level will result in the decreases of the actual performance.
And in the next stage marked by a descending limb as just mention, the growth of the positive stress will in return cause ineffectiveness and lower quality of work. At this stage when the stress level characterized by anxiety and even fear (Pont 2003, p84) has exceeded the quantity that employees could sustain due to both work relative and non-work relative stressors, higher the stress level is the lower the performance will be suggesting that the stress has become an obstacle on the way to success. So the main task in this stage will be to reduce the stress level and provide assistance to the employees involved.
3.2 Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) and corporate strategies
Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) exerts its influences on the corporate strategies via three ways. Firstly, like stress, Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) issues also has severe effect over the employment performance. It is reasonable that employees could be focus on their job and contribute to the quality work if they are working in a poor OHS environment. Secondly, OHS also influences the corporate strategies by affecting the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) which could be defined as “A mechanism for entities to voluntarily integrate social and environmental concerns into their operations and their interaction with their stakeholders, which are over and above the entity’s legal responsibilities (Standards Australia 2003, p4). A company will have to focus on the stakeholder view and protect the stakeholders’ interest and obviously employee is one of the most important internal stakeholders for the company. And if the company could not show good management of OHS, it is reluctant to persuade other stakeholders such as the communities to believe that the company has performed well in the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) with a good public image. Thirdly, Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) is a critical factor when talents evaluate the positions offered by the company and what’s more besides the loss of productivity and morale, poor OHS conditions could also increase the labour turnover (p6). And when these happen, the company would find it hard to employ enough of qualified talents to perform the job resulting in poor task execution which would certainly have the impacts over the achievement of the strategic business goals (Grammeno, 2009). Fourthly, there is trend nowadays that Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) programs are included in the quality management especially in the large Multinational Corporations (MNCs) and a critical part of the culture of the enterprises (Stellman 1984).
4. Case analysis
There are various positions of different levels and rankings with different functions including sales budgeting and control, customer business development, sales support, sale operation, account management, market evaluation and information analysis, trade marketing and sale development. Due to the limitation of the access to the management in the higher ranking, the analysis below will be focused on the three rankings of positions in the sale department of Wrigley China (Tianjin Branch): executive, assistant manager and manager. What’s more the stressors analysis will be unfold by different sources of stress, i.e. work factors, external factors and personal factors to examine how the stress is formed to pave the way for the later discussion and recommendation offering.
4.1 Stressors analysis
4.1.1 Work factors
Not only in Wrigley China (Tianjin Branch) but also in many large and medium companies, work overload is very common in most positions in the sale department in term of work overtime and high pressure for more efficient work. And the some features of jobs in the sale department determinate that employees would face high work overload in the workplace. Firstly, there are boom season and off-season in the packaged food industry resulting that in some months during year sale would be very busy but in some other months there might be much less sale as customers are less willing to do the shopping of the special food products. What is more in China, such differences between boom season and off-season would be more obvious because people would be a lot more shopping during some big holidays particularly in the spring festival. And during the boom season and special holidays, promotion activities would also be held more than in the off-season. Secondly, in most cases there will be a higher target in term of sale goal for example set for individual or teams to achieve in their daily job, such higher goal setting is to keep the employees motivated but also will means more work and information to handle.
In order to achieve the goals set by the company and achieve performance required, individual employee has to compete hard even within the colleagues and teams, this will result in tensions among the relationship between employees. For example, sale staffs and their line managers may compete severely to be assigned or to be transferred to be in charge of shopping malls or centers in the most populous areas which would means easier to achieve the same sale level and performance which in return would mean more performance based bonus to them. So this would increase the erosions between the colleges in the same levels. On the other hand, since the targets are implemented from top down, managers who under high pressure to finish the tasks are actually carrying larger responsibilities than staffs in the executive level. And higher pressure could result in higher demand on the executive employees from the managers and thus the relationship between management and employees could be damaged and this bad interpersonal relationship in return will provide stronger stressor to the executive employees.
The current remuneration method widely applicable in the sale department of Wrigley China (Tianjin Branch) is the mixture of a position based basic salary and a performance based bonus to motivate the people to push for more sale through various marketing efforts. As mentioned earlier in the first assignment, the pay-for-performance links the final salary for individuals with the performance of the employees. And as just discussed, there is off-season and boom season during the year which would mean that the final amount payable to the employees on a monthly basis would means uncertainties in the salary issues because employees could not control all the variables affecting the remuneration process. And it could be very stressful to employees if they are working in a setting where they have limited control of the surroundings (McCullough 2007, p9).
Organizational climate is the internal environment that every employees is working in which usually has profound impact on the way employees deal with their work. After its merger into Mars, Wrigley China also shares the some of the major corporate settings such as corporate culture. And in term of corporate culture, Wrigley China shares the core five principles of Mars: quality, responsibility, mutuality, efficiency and freedom (Mars.com 2011). And in order to adhere these principles, there is a lot of stress and pressure for employees to be performing in a more careful and excellent manner. For example, it is part of the corporate culture to work overtime in the daily work in Wrigley China. And a new employee has to accept the corporate culture in order to part of the company as culture is defined as the particular knowledge and beliefs that members have which enable them to operate in a manner acceptable to the group and in any role that the group finds acceptable (Kaschula & Antoniseen 1995, p28).
4.1.2 Personal factors
The Chinese society is a complicated society with close tie between the family members which means that a common individual will need to make a lot of considerations regarding the social network when big decisions are about to be made. That is also the reason why Quanxi (relationships in Chinese) has become one of the most populous topics when probing into the modern Chinese society. And thus family life could also be a major source of stress. For example, it is a moral request for young people to raise their parents when they are old and can not take care of themselves. But when those born in the 1980s when the one-child policy began to be implemented in a national wide scale come to their age of marriage, a typical young couple would find their position very difficult if both of them do not have any brothers and sisters. According to a recent survey done by Social Survey Center of China Youth Daily on more than 1,600 young people, more than 40 of them are the only child in their respective family and 74% of the surveyed respondents actually expressed concerns and worries that they might not be able to take care of their parents with the busy work (Chinadaily.com.cn 2010). And obviously it is more difficult for a young couple who are both the only child in their respective family to take care of four old parents. What is more another issue that create more pressure to the young people is that due to the fact that young people are flooding into the big and medium cities to chase for fortunes, their parents are still in the home towns. Whether or not to have the parents living with the young child has become a dilemma for many young people. And no matter yes or not the answer to this question might be, it is absolutely that financial and moral pressure will be raised.
4.1.3 External factors
Higher living cost
One of the most critical external factors that could have impressive influence over the most employees in the fast growing China is the increasing living cost that mostly caused by the dramatically increasing real estate price and prices of other living necessities such as food. The growing of the living cost for employees could be seen from the chart below showing the trend of inflation rate in the recent years.
Chart 1.0 Inflation rate changes in China (source: Tradingeconomics.com 2011)
Another factor that drives up the living cost is the slow increase of the salary especially those in the base executive positions such as the sale people whom we have been focusing on in this study. According to a salary survey done in Beijing in the middle of last, the status of the income for the majority of line workers had been marked as “slow growth, long term low” as 12.8 percent of the participants agreed that wages had not raised for the past five years and in 2009 actually 23.6% of the workers were facing a declined salary status (China-daily.org 2010). So though at the same period the CPI had been undergoing a dramatic growth trend as mentioned just now the increase of the salary had been lagged behind resulting in a higher living cost and thus a sense of pressure, in other words, the stress in the personal life of the employees, particularly for those who are about to purchase a house in the major cities in China which had been well known as overcrowded. And for Wrigley China (Tianjin Branch), the staffs in the marketing department will face the same dilemma also though their salary growth in average is better than common workers but still cannot catch up with the growth of the CPI and GDP. And this is how pressure and stress is generated as it is getting hard for employees to make the ends meet in a bigger environment.
Another obvious external factor that causes the outside stress to the employees is the overcrowded city status resulting in a lot of bad consequences that directly add-up the pressure that anyone in the city might perceived. One of the most significant and populous issue is the traffic jam during the buy hours when people are on the way to their workplace or back to their homes. And it is reported that Beijing, the capital of China has been crowned as the most jam city in the world which anyone who has been Beijing would not doubt about. What make this issue even worse is that due to the higher living cost people suffer many migrant employees are moving to live in the far outskirt of the city to enjoy a cheaper rental resulting in two major consequences. On one living in the far outskirt of the city would need to spend more time in the transportation and the other consequence is that people would easily get irritated and unrest if there is a heavy traffic jam in the cities. And not only Beijing, other cities such as Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenzhen also face with this social issue.
4.2 Current health and safety issues
As mentioned above the provision of a safe and healthy work environment requires more than reducing the number of job-related accidents and injuries (Stone 2011, p641). And obviously companies need balance the need of the organization in term of making profits for example and the individual need for healthy and safe working environment of the in the perspective of the employees. Below the analysis will be focused on some health and safety issues surrounding Wrigley China (Tianjin Branch) currently.
Smoking and alcohol abuse
It is not necessary to argue the pitfalls of smoking as it is widely accepted by most people and verified by countless medical experiments it is not healthy to smoke. But still smoking is an issue that not only affects the smokers’ health but also has bad impact to the non-smokers in the workplace making it one of the most usual health and safety issues for many companies. There is an increasing evidence in the company showing that more and more employees are accounting on heavy smoking and drinking alcohol to ease the pressure and stress that they are facing. What’s more heavy drinking could lead to workplace violence especially when employees are encountering with anger or aggression in the workplace. And as in the company, there is also rumors that some employees had been involved in some violent cases in the clubs or restaurants after drinking, though so far there is none such violence in the workplace in the company, it is also not desirable to see any abuse of smoking or alcohol happen.
Provided that family life is influential and important to the Chinese employees due to the strong relationship tie in the modern society as discussed above, it is reasonable to see that the work-family conflicts could affect the performance and productivity in the work place in China. In many cases, employees will find themselves in the work-family conflicts in which they have to make decisions to balance work and life. For example, women who are re-entering the workforce after giving birth will be impacted by their roles in the families as housewives; they have to take care of children and thus could not work overtime. What’s more there will be cases in which they have to take emergency leave when the children are sick and need to be taken good care of.
4.3 Current solutions adopted and HR practices
In order to solve the issues we have discussed above, Wrigley China (Tianjin Branch) has already issued some relative policies and strategies in order to relieve them though some of the problems still need more effort to be done before they could be better solved.
To solve financial uncertainties
As mentioned above fluctuation in salaries caused by the performance based remuneration method could attract a sense of unsafe especially in case of emergent need of cash, to dealt with this problem a widely used policy that is also adopted by Wrigley China (Tianjin Branch) is the policy of advanced salary offer. According to the current corporate policy, contractual staffs are all eligible to apply for the advanced salary paid up to the same amount as two months’ salary provided that they could clear up the debt within the contract period. Usually the company would allow only two month’s pay-back period exceeding which would allow both the direct responsible manager and HR department’s approval.
To relieve work-family conflicts
Many convenient services and corporate policies have been adopted to help relieve the work-family conflicts that have been observed. For example, an infant care center had been set up to take care of the infants and small children in a center that is closing to the workplace allowing the parents to come to see their babies in a short time. This will help the employees to focus on the job and do not need to worry about their babies as they will be informed if anything happened.
To help reducing smoking and alcohol abuse
Several tactics and policies has been enacted and implemented to control the smoking and alcohol abuses for the sake of building a healthier and safer workplace environment. Firstly, it is the company’s rule that must be followed by all employees or else relative penalties will be applicable that any alcohol usage is banned during day work time except there is a reasonable need such as having dinner with clients due to the heavily reliance of “table business” in China. Secondly, strictly no smoking is allowed in the office or washing rooms in the company to improve the quality of the air condition in the workplace. This policy applies to managers as well as executive staffs. Thirdly regular seminars with the health relative topics would be held to provide knowledge to help educate a healthier life. And obviously such kinds of seminars are not mandatory and are open to all employees who are interested.
To solve the traffic jam for the employees
As mentioned above long time spend on the transportation tools is a serious problem surrounding the majority of the employees especially the migrant workers resulting in stress in the workplace. One major step that Wrigley China (Tianjin Branch) has taken is to provide accommodation to the employees with a much lower rental prices than the market price. Though the location of the staff accommodation is not closed to the workplace due to the consideration of saving cost, but one major reason that the company chose the location is because less and mild traffic jam is observed on the route connecting the accommodation center and the company location. What is more the company also provides free shuttle bus operating on a frequency of 30 minus though many of the employees still prefer to drive themselves rather than waiting for a bus.
With the analysis we have above regarding the two topics: stress management and workplace health and safety, some conclusions could be made to help further improve the performance of the company in the future based on the evaluation of the situational factors and current methods adopted. Depending on the effectiveness of the methods and policies, there are three kinds of issues. The first kind of issues has been resolve in a large extent with expected results as perceived by the employees. Such kinds of issues include financial uncertainties due to the performance based remuneration, smoking and alcohol abuse. The second kind of issues has been provided with solutions though they are not well controlled such as work-family conflicts. The remained issues are those that have not been resolved with promising results in the near future such as the traffic jam, increasing living cost and stress from the family life because these issues are more social issues that could not be fundamentally resolved by any single company. The recommendations below will be focusing on providing advises on the last kind of issues.
4.5.1 Stress management program
A stress management program is to attain individual health and organizational well-being through applications from medicine, psychology, organizational development and public administration (Dale 1993, p100). As for Wrigley China (Tianjin Branch), I will advise more psychological training effort and encourage communications within the sale department and with employees from other departments. And the most difficulty seems to be that some employees may find out that they are too busy to join such program, so mandatory participation could be helpful to ensure the effectiveness of the program.
4.5.2 Encourage the use of public transportations
As mentioned above the company has provide accommodation and connecting service to employees to relieve the traffic jam, but still some more further steps could be done to help relieve the heavy transportation burden not only to the employees but to the society in large. The company could increase the frequency of the shuttle bus to 15 minutes during the busy hours making the bus more convenient and useful in a practical usage. What’s more the company could encourage the use of public transportation rather than driving themselves which is contributing to the relieve effort of the traffic jam of the city.
4.5.3 Establish an internal club in the sale department
Stressors from the family life and caused by a higher living cost could not basically changed or reduced by the effort from the company as the company also need to maintain its competitiveness in term of keeping low cost which means that raising salary in a large scale is not possible strategically. But since stress is more a physiological issue than a financial issue and it is shared similarly within the sale department because the staffs in this department tend to share similar experiences and dilemma, it is recommended that the company could establish an internal club in the sale department to encourage internal communication and it is believe that communication is the first and the most critical step on the way to resolve the mental issues.
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