Monday, December 17, 2012

Task Based Time Management is for Stingy Losers

Every morning I commute to work by taxi. The fact that it costs nearly S$100,000 for a Certificate of Entitlement to merely purchase a car in Singapore has excluded me from the car ownership club. And the fact that it halves my commute time to travel by taxi rather than MRT, and that it takes one third of the time to travel by taxi rather than bus made my decision quite easy. Yet I am constantly met with criticism from people who do and don't own cars in Singapore, because it's just so expensive to travel by taxi in the morning.

At first that criticism stung, because I'm not good at taking criticism lightly. It also took me a little while to see the criticism as a cultural norm for Singaporeans rather than rudeness - money and how others spend it is open for conversation. Eventually I was able to meet that criticism with the reasoning that my partner doesn't usually get home until after 9pm, and for us to spend time together I prefer to stay up late with him instead of going to bed early to catch public transport. But now I'm just going to shut it down with this:

"Values Based Time Management is expensive."

After I walk away, people will look perplexed and then decide I'm a dick. But I don't care, because I doubt they could answer these questions, like where do we get this ridiculous premise that a life well lived means being stingy? That it means having the Best One at the Best Value? That it requires huge decision making and reasoning in order to be valid?

Louis CK nailed it in this stand up routine from his television show Louie, summed up best as: "when he describes the absurdly arduous job of the consumer to research his or her purchases by reading long reviews online from people crazy enough to, “murder-suicide their entire family,” after describing the “counter intuitiveness” of a Blu-Ray player remote." (I highly recommend listening to the routine, it is actually very funny.)

Personally, I think it comes from our traditional concept of Time Management as being about tasking and micro managing aspects of our life so we will have time later for more important things. It's that good old delayed gratification thinking, which Carrie from Sex and The City sums up so well: "But isn't delayed gratification the definition of maturity?"

No Carrie - it's all bullshit.

Those hours we are investing for later will never come. They will be used on other tasks or emergencies. The only time we've got the ability to spend is this very minute, as of right now. So effective time management for me looks like investing in my values of nurturing deep relationships with family, being a good friend, owning beautiful things I like and enjoy, staying open minded and being creative. Because when I die, those are the things I will have treasured - not a completed to-do list that would later allow time for those things.

So why doesn't everyone just do that? What's the point of this blog post? 

Ummm - because it's fucking expensive to live that way.

The minutes I'm spending on my values now actually cost money, rather than the future hours I am supposedly investing for that will only cost me at that time (which is never). 

This is what the monetary out lay looks like:


Penelope Trunk said it way better in her post titled 5 Time management tricks I learned from years of hating Tim Ferriss. Interesting title, but awesome take away. Effective time management ultimately comes down to what is the most important thing to value, and that is good relationships.

Task Based Time Management is for losers who believe the concept of delayed gratification actually applies to time. When we're smarter than that and aren't stingy, we pay those few extra dollars to enjoy the instant gratification of investing in our values. Straightaway our lives feel purposeful and centered, and in most books that's a pretty excellent return on investment.

And you know how I know? Because when I pay that big taxi fare in the morning, it actually makes me feel pretty good to put my money where my heart is - time with my loved ones.


Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.



This couldn't fit in the post, but I thought it's a great article about learning to let go of getting the Best One at the Best Value, so I wanted to share Wendy Harmer's piece of Too Much Choice is Bad For You. It can be the tough step in between being a task based time manager and starting to manage your time by values - that step of accepting things that are "good enough".

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Dear HR, Please Stop Giving Gifts at Christmas Time

I'm heading back to Australia for Christmas this year - it will be the first with my family after 2 Christmases in Singapore. And it's awesome, because my partner is Muslim, so we never fight over which family we're spending Christmas with! Every year it's Christmas with mine and Hari Raya with his (or whatever our bank balance can afford). Oh.my.God. do I love Christmas!

My favourite part of Christmas is the giving. Well duh - my personality type is "the giver" - so yeah, I am pretty kick ass at gift giving if I do say so myself. But this is what I think HR should do for every organisation that isn't Christian: Stop Giving Gifts at Christmas Time.

Give gifts because you appreciate someone, or something they've done. Give gifts because it's their birthday, or because they've had a baby. Give gifts because it will just make their day. But for the love of a dog, don't give gifts at one time of the year because it's a previously dominant religion's celebration.

You know what would be really cool? Just a random month not linked to any religious event, where the organisation appreciates its employees and tells them how important they are. And a token 'have a nice break' gift if the organisation is shutting down over the Christmas break.

So, some ideas for a token 'have a nice break' gift ideas:


Corporate Gifts

Corporate Gifts by whippasnappahr on Polyvore

1: Designer desk wares - like an awesome calendar that doesn't have your healthcare provider's logo plastered all over it.
2: Starbucks or other coffeeshop gift card - coffee and corporate are just two cute peas in a pod. Are there any religions against soy mocha frappes?
3: An extra day off to be taken at their choosing - cos employee's religious events generally take more than one day of celebration (i.e. have you seen the food at Hari Raya?!)
4: Awesome headphones - save some employee hearing from those crap cheap things they blast on their commute, or maybe give them some comfort with noise cancellers if they travel far.
5: Grocery vouchers - basket full of junk food on the boss? Cheers mate!
6: Magazine subscription - for some reading on a topic that's not to do with their profession. Might make for better reading than the crap sitting on the lunch table in the staff room - out-of-date supplier advertisement filled mags anyone?

Hopefully some good alternatives to giving alcohol and ham to your diverse and multicultural workforce. And now, I'm off to think of all the ways I'm going to over consume alcohol and ham this December 25th.

Have a wonderful holiday break, whatever way you choose to spend it!


Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

When HR Gives A Shit But Doesn't Take It - A War Cry for some Soft HR

Recently, a Gallup poll found that Singapore is the most emotionless society in the world. No wonder, when politician's wages are linked to the GDP that productivity is the focus of government, rather than the happiness (or even emotion capability) of citizens.

What's this got to do with HR?

Well I reckon if an organisation was a nation, finance would be the people calculating the GDP and aiding in strategies to maximise it. HR would be the people calculating and strategising on Gross National Happiness (GNH).

Just like HR, the GNH has its fair share of detractors. In fact, a lot of the time HR doesn't get the recognition it should, and is in the same struggle for credibility that the GNH is in. HR looks into matters finance can't represent with numbers, and it's equally important despite being on the warm and fuzzies instead of the cold and foldables. Both finance and HR are strategic, both are aiming to make it a more productive organisation. 

All this talk of HR being business minded, getting a seat at the table, thinking strategically, and proving itself in the bottom line - it makes us look like we think we are lacking as professionals. But we are equally as kick ass! Looking into the emotional side of things doesn't make HR a counsellor, or the creepy soft voiced person who likes to rub your arm while you're talking to them.

When HR gives a shit it's looking at things like healthcare, working hours, commutes, community, facilities, safety, diversity,  and everything else that isn't in a P&L. And when HR doesn't take shit, it fights the good fight of consistency, fairness, discipline, and accountability.

Happiness is not smiles, and rainbows, and good mates as colleagues, and a fun work environment. That's cool and all, but most people would be so much happier at work if their job was secure, they were treated with respect, issues were resolved quickly, and they didn't need to break their personal moral code to get the job done. I think adults never really lose some things that make us happy as children, you know, like boundaries and people expecting the best of us.

HR is the champion of this and that is pretty badass.

I'll see you in the office tomorrow wearing your biker jacket - you badass you.

Now, if only we could get rid of the stereotype that a woman that cares is motherly and a man that cares is an exceptional leader.


Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Guilt Trip Calculator - For the Self Motivator in All of Us

Ok, this is totally lame, but I put massive guilt trips on myself for not achieving what I think I need to be achieving. If I was in an interview, I guess I would say I'm a self-motivator. So, when I came down with something recently that absolutely took the stuffing out of me, the time out was mostly spent feeling crap about myself. You know that feeling of guilt for calling in sick, and then feeling even guiltier for not doing a single thing the whole day? Not even a load of washing! It's not very useful thinking for getting better.

Apparently people should write what you want to read, and right then I just really wanted to read something telling me I wasn't lazy - I was sick!

So, on the other side of it all, with far more energy and less guilt - I have written the Guilt Trip Calculator.

From being totally at blame, to no blame at all, I chose four states of inaction.

Lazy: "the quality of being unwilling to work or use energy"
Demotivated: "less eager to work or study"
Run-down: "tired and somewhat unwell, especially through overwork"
Fatigued: "extreme tiredness, typically resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness"

And made a flow chart out of it - because that's what process crazy gals like me do for fun when they get home from a big night that included far too much red bull (no joke, this is a product from 4am).


(click to enlarge)

It's all a bit of silliness - but underneath there is something that all of us self motivators need to remind ourselves to do. Maybe it's just me? Ok, I'll talk to myself then: Guilt is a really crap way to get better.

Be kind to yourself, and eat some green veggies. Your mum would have wanted it that way.


Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

My 100% Assured System of Training People to Engage on Social Media

Update: Thank you to Michael (@MJCarty) for offering me the opportunity to have this post hosted on the wonderful blog XpertHR. You can see my guest post here. How much fun is this blogging thing?!

This would be my imaginary task:
1 day of training to get a group of HR people to engage on social media.

This is how I would do it:

  1. Aim solely for them to engage on Twitter - Facebook can be learnt later, but Twitter is the easiest and best way to jump into the fun of social media.
  2. Set up Twitter accounts for each of the participants and set them up to follow a good list of people and each other. Feel free to look at my list of who I follow on twitter @whippasnappahr  - I really like my feed and think it's a good group to kick off from.
  3. Meet the group at 9:00am for the training to start and line up to jump on a bus with good, fast wifi enabled, and a smart phone in each participant's hand.
  4. At the bus door I'd hand out their log-on information, the 140 character limit rule, a #HRtwitute hashtag, and a twitter themed scavenger hunt list.
  5. We would drive from 9:30am to lunch time, and arrive at our destination of a great pub with good food and drink. Lunch would be real world networking time to complement the twitter networking done before and after. Then we would drive home.
  6. In that driving time, we would have a twitter themed scavenger hunt including:
  • Write your profile information
  • Follow 10 people who are in your industry
  • Follow 10 people who are in your geographic location
  • Follow 10 people who are in your hobby
  • Tweet a photograph
  • Use at least three different hashtags
  • Favourite 5 tweets
  • Link to 5 articles
  • Reply to 10 people's tweets
  • Write 10 original tweets
And when we arrive back at the end of the day, everyone would be a twitter aficionado with a few friends they have enjoyed engaging with over the day. If they really, really didn't want to try it out, I suppose they could just nap on the bus and have a good lunch - napping on the bus is way more comfortable that on a training room chair anyway. So everyone's a winner in Sarah Miller's training haha!


Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How Western Business Can Bring Prosperity to Asia - Elites Block New Technologies

Foreign Policy wrote an interesting article on 10 Reasons Countries Fall Apart, and I am writing parallel posts about Western businesses in Asia. I believe they have the opportunity to bring prosperity to Asia, and are missing that opportunity in some ways.

Obviously, I am no expert on what I want to write about -  I am just a simple person with some observations and personal experiences. My introduction to this series of posts will explain this all better.

5. Elites Block New Technologies - Corporations Disregard Workplace Health & Safety

Foreign Policy cites an example of countries that chose to adopt railway technology, and those that blocked its introduction. In "1840s, tiny Britain was undergoing a railway mania in which more than 6,000 miles of track were built, while only one railway ran in vast continental Russia - it ran 17 miles from St. Petersburg to the tsar's imperial residence." Austria also chose not to adopt rail technology, and "as Britain and the United States grew rapidly - Austria and Russia failed to do so." As FP states, new technologies "redistribute not just income and wealth but also political power."

Just a huge unmarked steel trip risk on an unlit bar floor...
Obviously, Workplace Health & Safety isn't a technology in particular, but it involves various technologies and new mindsets that have not become common practice in Asia. I acknowledge a safety mindset isn't particularly prolific in a society where dad holds the new born baby in one arm and steers the scooter with the other - and it's totally acceptable. So yes, I can see how this translates into an employee's complacency - but it shouldn't translate into an employer's complacency. Nevertheless, construction workers will jackhammer without hearing protection, or work on drains during torrential rain in bare-feet. And office workers will become unemployable if they can't work 12 hour and above days, due to bad backs or repetitive strain injury. And women with injured ankles must wear high heels as part of their sales uniform. And people working outdoors at theme parks may not wear hats or sunglasses, even though they are spending at least 5 hours in the sun each day. These are real life examples of people I know, or have observed, who work in Western corporations in Asia, run by local management.

I believe a society advances most when members aren't seen as disposable. To me, this means not turning a blind eye to how all operations are run down to the lowest employee. Western business would bring prosperity to Asia by ensuring local management runs operations according to ethical safety standards - not just issuing direction to the higher levels and then turning a blind eye to the rest. A safety mentality brings prosperity just simply because of the lower levels of injuries and acquired disabilities. But also, a safety mentality redistributes political power in an organisation, limiting the possibility of unethical employers treating employees as disposable resources . If Western businesses operated in this safety-paradigm in Asia, and showed it's not only possible but profitable, it sets the path for other employees to demand it of their employers. This is already a clear trend with flexible work practices in Western businesses that quickly become preferred employers in Asia - and I could see a strong case for this happening with Western businesses enforcing strict workplace health and safety standards too.


Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Monday, November 5, 2012

How Western Business Can Bring Prosperity to Asia - Greedy Big Men


Foreign Policy wrote an interesting article on 10 Reasons Countries Fall Apart, and I am writing parallel posts about Western businesses in Asia. I believe they have the opportunity to bring prosperity to Asia, and are missing that opportunity in some ways.

Obviously, I am no expert on what I want to write about -  I am just a simple person with some observations and personal experiences. My introduction to this series of posts will explain this all better.

4. The Big Men Get Greedy - The Little People Get Stuck

Foreign Policy uses Egypt as an example where a powerful family looked after close mates, namely Hosni Mubarak, and the "whales" who "received not only protection from the state but also government contracts and large back loans without needing to put up collateral." As FP explains "their stranglehold on the economy created fabulous profits for regime insiders, but blocked opportunities for the vast mass of Egyptians to move out of poverty."

I observe similarities to this with multinational corporations with exceedingly large budgets and prestigious brands in Asia. CEOs of these corporations stand to earn fabulous sums of money, the corporations also stand to earn fabulous profits, all benefiting from the low taxes and the cheap labour. The entry level employees, and the support staff, in the corporations generally earn very small wages and have little recourse to negotiating higher benefits. What is considered a 'benefit' in Asia is company outings to theme parks, or paid weekend vacations to overseas hotels. With CEOs of corporations tending to be great chums with government officials or hopeful future government officials (and in Singapore, the interesting concept of tripartism and prohibition of industrial action), wages are kept at the lowest point possible. And I don't mean the lowest point possible of an ethical decision of what is affordable for a person to live off - I mean where supply meets demand, where as long as there aren't enough jobs a person will be desperate enough to work for $5 an hour. (For context, a Starbucks coffee costs $5, so 1 hour of work equals 1 cup of 'luxury' coffee.)

An advertisement board for a local restaurant where the most you can earn is $12/hr (between midnight-4am), and a set meal costs $15/hr (it's for basic Thai food)
I believe a society that is the most successful has the least distance between the rich and the poor. I believe strangleholds on working conditions means entire societies struggle for their own survival while a few benefit in disgusting disproportion. Western business would bring prosperity to Asia by disregarding Asian custom of 'benefits' and working towards paying fair wages for real lives. If an employee wants to spend their wage on a holiday rather than their only opportunity being the company excursion - power to them. But they could also choose to spend their higher wages on education for themselves or their children, they could afford higher health care insurance premiums for better coverage, they could make retirement savings, they could afford free range eggs(?). I just think that it's so much fairer to pay wages that are commensurate to the costs of living (not survival) and that gives employees power over their own lives. Of course that means less money in the pockets of the CEO or the corporation - but that doesn't mean an unattractive profit overall. It just means letting the little people have a go too.

Of course, this is all written from my simple observation and personal experience. So what do I really know? I am definitely no authoritative expert on this subject - I look forward to your take on it all. Please, do comment below.


Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Friday, October 19, 2012

How Western Business Can Bring Prosperity to Asia - Endemic Racism


Foreign Policy wrote an interesting article on 10 Reasons Countries Fall Apart, and I am writing parallel posts about Western businesses in Asia. I believe they have the opportunity to bring prosperity to Asia, and are missing that opportunity in some ways.

Obviously, I am no expert on what I want to write about -  I am just a simple person with some observations and personal experiences. My introduction to this series of posts will explain this all better.


3. A Tilted Playing Field - Endemic Racism


Foreign Policy looks at South Africa for an example of extreme racism, especially one which stipulates what kind of work someone may do based on their race. It meant that black South Africans "were condemned to work as unskilled laborers" and meant that South Africa "failed to improve the living standards of 80 percent of its population for almost a century. For 15 years before the collapse of apartheid, the South African economy contracted." 

In Asia, there is not such an overt display of racism that a colour bar is placed, but there is a startling amount of racism not immediately evident to a newcomer. Skin whitening products overflow the cosmetic aisles, and fairness is almost universally accepted as the beauty standard. Beyond shades of skin, races within Asia have tense relations with one another, something that was demonstrated by a recent debacle in Singapore. Although it is emphasised in the media as a one-off overt racist remark, which it is, Asia is in a covert racism epidemic.

This is especially reinforced in business by who gets hired for what, and who is making that hiring decision. In my own observations, the human resources departments of Singapore are mostly populated by one gender, in one age bracket, of one race. It means they tend all tend to hold a certain bias. This is a really difficult subject for me to write on as a foreigner in a country that actively enforces censorship - I'm not quite sure what I can say. However, I will say that my partner is Malay/Indonesian heritage, and from our very own first hand experience, we have felt the heartache of systematic racism in Asia. It affects not only your self esteem and your mood, but it affects your life plans, your economic position, your financial stability, your whole family's outlook and attitude. It perverts and distorts your view of opportunity, and makes a group of able-bodied intelligent people become riddled with a doubt and perception of themselves which comes entirely from someone else's repulsive projection.

I believe a society that is the most successful  is the most inclusive. I do not believe that meritocracy means inclusivity. I believe inclusivity means making a concerted effort to incorporate those who have been disadvantaged in some way, and that means acknowledging the disadvantage and not just saying 'everyone is seen based on their merit'. Western business would bring prosperity to Asia by enforcing inclusive hiring practices, including supervising people who make the final judgement on candidates for their own bias. Human Resources departments should be just as diverse as the society it is trying to hire and manage. Just these two simple acts would change so much of the employment landscape in Asia - it would start individual's careers, change their lives and their family's lives as their income increases, it would expand the local talent pool for future ventures, and it would change the employment landscape as opportunities become evident for future generations. 

Of course, this is all written from my simple observation and personal experience - and perhaps on this topic in particular, I am a little over passionate and muddled for objective writing. So what do I really know? I am definitely no authoritative expert on this subject - I look forward to your take on it all. Please, do comment below.


Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How Western Business Can Bring Prosperity to Asia - Cheap Labour


Foreign Policy wrote an interesting article on 10 Reasons Countries Fall Apart, and I am writing parallel posts about Western businesses in Asia. I believe they have the opportunity to bring prosperity to Asia, and are missing that opportunity in some ways.

Obviously, I am no expert on what I want to write about -  I am just a simple person with some observations and personal experiences. My introduction to this series of posts will explain this all better.

2. Forced Labour - Cheap Labour


Foreign Policy talks about the fact that most economies were based on the concept of forced labour, and yet "forced labour is also responsible for the lack of innovation and technological progress in most of these societies". Now, forced labour isn't really an option any more, but cheap labour sure as hell is! Isn't that the reason for most Western businesses to venture into Asia? The lure of the cheap labour costs, right?

It's a wonderful prospect when the cost of labour is so low that it doesn't really matter how many labourers are required, or how long they are required to work for, in order to get the job done. It must seem like a utopia to Western businesses. And with that knowledge, one or two or five employees without a lot of work to do isn't that bad. The labour economics just get completely out of whack.

And with this excessive amount of labour, there is no need to bring in technology or push for smarter decision making from managers. Just put in more cheap labourers to make it happen! The labourers however, have next to no skills apart from sheer brute force. They are not offered real training opportunities, since they are dime a dozen. The labourers are forever kept at the lowest possible wage, with the minimum amount of skills required. Even the managers are stripped of development opportunities, with little need or incentive to implement efficiencies.

I believe a society advances most when the poorest of society is not exploited just because it is vulnerable. Western business would bring prosperity to Asia by advancing technology and working towards efficiencies in their labour. To be honest, it's tricky to know if it's better to provide a tiny amount of income to multiple families, than a reasonable income to a few families. But I do 100% believe it is better for the whole of society if business is run efficiently with better technology, because it especially means lesser impact on the environment. 

Of course, this is all written from my simple observation and personal experience. So what do I really know? I am definitely no authoritative expert on this subject - I look forward to your take on it all. Please, do comment below.



Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Monday, October 15, 2012

How Western Business Can Bring Prosperity to Asia - Decision Making Authority

Foreign Policy wrote an interesting article on 10 Reasons Countries Fall Apart, looking at some of the reasons economies and governments fail. "Most countries that fall apart, however, do so not with a bang but with a whimper. They fail not in an explosion of war and violence but by being utterly unable to take advantage of their society's huge potential for growth, condemning their citizens to a lifetime of poverty." It made me think about the ways Western businesses, not with a bang but with a whimper, keep Asian employees in poverty despite injecting huge amounts of money and opportunity into the economy.

Obviously, I am no expert on what I want to write about -  I am just a simple person with some observations and personal experiences. I've lived and worked in Singapore for 2 years (some would argue, it's Asia for dummies) and have a wonderful Singaporean partner and family in law. So, please take this all as a bit of an essay - in the truest sense of the word, which came from the French word 'essayer' which means to try. I'm just trying out a few viewpoints to see what I come up with.

Asia is developing, but still has living standards far below those of the West. Western businesses are a great way to bring money and job opportunities to a new market. It's a place ripe for profit making, with cheap labour and emerging middle classes. However, there are Western businesses that come in and make a quick buck, and there are Western businesses that transform the working landscape of the country for the better. 

1. Lack of Property Rights - Lack of Decision Making Authority 

Foreign Policy writes that "North Korea's economic institutions make it almost impossible for people to own property; the state owns everything, including nearly all land and capital." As a consequence, this "destroys their incentive to succeed."

A parallel I have observed with Western businesses in Asia, is operations that place all decision making power with the home country operation - or only allow home country expatriate employees in Asia to make the decisions. This strips the decision making authority from local employees who may have the competency, and even the position in the organisation, to make these decisions. Their skill and expertise, no matter how excellent, eventuates to reporting and recommendations. The opportunity to become a decision maker is simply not available, and it's completely demotivating.

Just as "in 1998, [when] a U.N. mission found that many of the country's tractors, trucks, and other farm machinery were simply unused or not maintained," in these kinds of organisations, I often find disempowered employees simply don't use their higher skills or choose not to maintain them. When there is no opportunity to be promoted for using these skills, what is the point?

Now of course, unlike the unfortunate North Korean population that is unable to move, employees are able to change employers. But positions with no decision making power tend to become résumé deadwood. The employee comes out of the organisation in a daze. Their decision making muscles have not been flexed, they have not learnt and developed from their own mistakes. They are not able to go into that interview and wow future employers with their professional growth. In order to change employers, they are generally required to make a sideways move, rather than an advancement.

I believe a society advances most when positions of power are held by the people of that society. Colonialism sucked - its modern descendent of Western businesses in Asia sucks too. Western business would bring prosperity to Asia by entrusting decision making authority to Asian employees. This act would develop individual's careers, change their lives and their family's lives as their income increases, it would expand the local talent pool for future ventures, and it would change the employment landscape as opportunities become evident for future generations. The transfer of skills, so that the transfer of power can be made, results in a great transfer of prosperity.

Of course, this is all written from my simple observation and personal experience. So what do I really know? I am definitely no authoritative expert on this subject - I look forward to your take on it all. Please, do comment below.


Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Your Ambition as a Young Professional Does Not Make You the 20-Something Villain of the Business World


We're inexperienced, energetic, and keen to prove our worth. The perfect mix of optimism and professional aspiration to make poor judgements that go in favour of our employer. We often find ourselves acting as the gear stick of the business - happy to do the grunt work by making things happen inside the machine, but completely manipulated by a higher power actually operating the machine. 

So of course it's us doing the hands on work when shit goes down, and we get portrayed as the villain for it.

The 20-Something Villain rears its evil head when:
  • They are a new supervisor brought in to 'shake things up' - often according to higher power's vision; or
  • They are a sales executive for some harmful product - often under the direction of someone who made the decision to sell the faulty product: or
  • They are in a position to make decisions with complete authority - often given by someone who has complete authority over the entire section.

Are you getting the picture of the evil, ruthless 20-something professional, with no experience, expertise or morals guiding their path of destruction?

Cool.

Now picture them again as a puppet with long strings going all the way up to the person who put them in that place.

Because what I see in most of the stories I read, is managerial laziness hand-balling responsibility to a 20-something employee - eager to please, desperate to keep their job and with little bargaining power other than to follow directions. It's a win-win situation for the manager, and a win-lose situation for the young employee.

We are the perfect scapegoat for crappy tasks, and determined enough to weather the disgruntlement from more experienced employees' who wouldn't touch the task with a 10 foot pole. It's great that we're getting experience - it sucks that we're getting it in such a compromising way.

But we are not the true villain if we are under direction. The villain makes the evil plan, the side kick helps them carry it out. And side kicks aren't really any age, they're generally just assholes with a weird secret crush on their villainous master. So unless you are choosing to participate in the evil plan with full knowledge, don't buy into the evil 20-something plot.

Your ambition, enthusiasm and eagerness will mean you are taken advantage of at times. But it does not make you the bad person in this whole murky world of business.


Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Crushing Guilt of Being an Expat


It will happen if you choose to be overseas because you want to be with someone, rather than being sent there by a company. Or if you were sent by a company, and choose to stay on with other companies. Whatever the path to getting there is, as soon as the adventure is over and people at home don't know when you'll be back because you now live overseas - the guilt will be a crushing force. 

  • People will die and you won't be there. 
  • Your family-at-home's everyday practicalities will melt from your awareness. 
  • You won't be able to look after unwell/grieving parents properly. 
  • Babies will grow up and you'll miss big chunks of their journey. 
  • Sisters and brothers will have emergencies requiring wine, long chats and a backyard deck - but a text message is the best you can do. 
  • Budgets for daily life will minimise budgets for flights back home. 
  • Days of annual leave will be spent exploring your new locale, not on holidays back home. 


Shit will change, and you will feel like a terrible daughter/son/sister/brother/aunty/uncle/friend because you chose it to be that way. 

If you get the opportunity to work overseas, it can be pretty awesome, so don't hold back. But when you choose to live overseas, expect it all to be a little different to a high flying career. Yes, there is a distinction between working overseas and living overseas. Because living overseas is a new way of life that people will see as shiny and exciting and wonderful (which it can be) but will never really understand the exquisite pains that accompany it. 


Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Movers, Shakers & Monday Game Changers - Leong Lau, 70s Funk & Multiculturalism

Monday is about remembering the movers, shakers and game changers, of things that look incredibly trivial now, but challenged many on arrival.


Scaremongers like to write a lot about the insane changes the next generation will bring. Here's some changes already brought, against all odds and discouragement, and it all turned out alright.


Some perspective for your back-pocket, to think about when the times are getting tough as a change maker.


On a late night wander around the interwebs, I was having a whale of a time discovering old Australian funk groups. And then I stumbled upon Leong Lau, an Indonesian man who speaks with the most ocker accent you could possibly expect of a man from the Aussie outback, and has some incredibly tasty tunes.



Unfortunately, like most of this old music, there isn't much information about this man available. Google it, and you'll see one fantastic DJ's effort to document Australian funk, and that's about it. If you root around, you'll be able to download the album in the Youtube video above. (I wouldn't feel guilty about the download, since the only other way you can hear the music is by buying a $300 vinyl that is available very rarely.)

So why does this guy get to be my Monday mover, shaker and game changer?

Because he obviously was outside the square to the enth degree. He made music that is ageless - it could be played when he made it in the 70s, it could be played on Gilles Peterson's show today. It's great stuff. It's also out there. He doesn't really sing - he tunefully talks, I don't think you could even call it rap. I don't know. It's awesome and oh.so.ocker. Which is even cooler, seeing as he is an Indonesian man.

And from his name, I surmise he is a Chinese Indonesian, which in the 70s would have been a pretty rough deal under Suharto's 'Basic Policy for the Solution of the Chinese Problem' - yeah ouch.

Yet his album is intertwined with Indonesian references. It's named 'That Rongeng (sic) Sound', ronggeng being a type of dance and music. A track is called Naga Rock Music, naga being dragon in Indonesian.  It's made in Australia, in English, but is so obviously Indonesian influenced. It's the perfect example of multiculturalism.

And Australia wasn't all sunny fields of multiculturalism in the 70s either. The 'White Australia Policy' was only legally ended as of 1973 or thereabouts. What an intensely racist hotbed to go from and come into.

But he made this album to reflect him, and it's the truest act of artistry, because you really feel a sense of this man through his music. This ain't no cookie cutter album.

He really inspires me to be true to myself, all the cultures I come from, have joined through my partner, and live in - and to express myself to reflect that and me. And if it comes out as cool and funky as his work, I'd be damn happy with that!

Do you have multiple cultures in your life that you would like to enjoy and express more?


Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Friday, October 5, 2012

What's It All About Al-friday - Charles Van Doren & the 1950s Game Show Scandal




You know - what's it all about Alfie?

Why do we do what we do? Why do we go to work? Why do we practice HR?

Lots of important questions to answer on Fridays, as a reminder at the end of the traditional work week of why we are working, and what our life is really all about, before entering the weekend.


All the Answers is a wonderful article written by Charles Van Doren, the famous cheater on a 1950s gameshow "Twenty-One". It's really stuck with me since reading it, because it embodies that human spirit I wrote about last week of survival and rebuilding.

Obviously I wasn't around when the scandal went down, so I never felt the betrayal of a loyal follower who was emotionally invested in the spectacle. I could understand the bitter disillusion when your favourite television personality has lied to you the whole time. What an innocent age it was in the 50s when a nation was shocked by TV execs doing dodgy things... what a cynical age we're in now, where it's just expected.

Anyway, here is a man who made a terrible mistake in his early life (and for that, I take pity on him). He lost his job. He faced public humiliation and popular opinion of anger.

And yet, he continued to live life. He had a family. He was in love with his wife. He worked hard at what he was good at.

He survived, kept his head down, and rebuilt.

His eloquent writing makes it an enjoyable read, but really, this is happening to people all around us. Perhaps it's happening to you. Perhaps it has already happened to you. 

Whatever, however, whenever - have a good weekend with the people you love.


Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Interview Tip: Tuck Away the Family Jewels


"Mmm shiny things - I want! Lucky bitch! I hate you!" 
The thoughts going through my mind as I try to listen to someone talking about themselves while a huge sparkly diamond winks at me from their finger.

My rings are a safety blanket, so taking them off before an interview would unnerve me. So no, my tip isn't to take off your big shinies.



My tip: twist around the ring, so the jewels are tucked into your palm and the plain (or plainer band in the case of those lucky gals with a diamond encrusted band) is shown to the interviewer. The interviewer might notice it, but probably not if you're hands are kept still.

Interviews are about likability. Don't make the HR lady who couldn't get a proposal from her long time partner if she paid him (ahem) to stare at your beautiful jewelry - you got an interview with your written word, now wow her with your spoken word!



Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Male Managers Learn Gender Equality From Their Wives - Not a HR Policy

Society really likes a scapegoat don't it? I have noticed that when most things go wrong, it's either blamed on the government or businesses. As a collective group of people, capable of really great actions, society has a hopelessly pathetic external locus of control! One of the latest issues that's pissing me off, is this gender-equality-in-the-workplace debate, and the tendency to blame it on businesses.

Apparently it is up to a business to teach employees about gender equality, to monitor and police it, and to identify it as a unique cultural component of that business alone. I see it being just like schools that are required to teach children behaviour, respect and manners. Yes, there is an element of this in business and schools, but the real groundwork and reinforcement comes from the employee and child's home.

As a woman, my responsibility is to teach my partner about us having a real partnership today - not some outdated 1950s model. These are tangible tools for him to use as a supervisor and employer, and it's far more effective than some HR chick whining at him about meeting diversity quotas.

The best male bosses I've ever had are devoted to their wives. They appreciate her role in the family, are grateful for her sacrifices for his career, and are supportive of her endeavours, even if they impact on his career. He understands the path in front of me as a young woman, and works to make it better. He is sympathetic because he has real experience of being an equal partner to a human being who happens to have different genitalia to him. He gets what a whole life requires, and not just a life of work and having the other 50% maintained by someone else.

Equality starts at home when:

  • both partners parent - they aren't a mother and a babysitter
  • both partners cook, clean, wash, iron, shop, and pick up
  • both partners are responsible for sick family members
  • both partners manage the family diary, and equally negotiate engagements
  • both partners understand the input to run the house and to finance the lifestyle
  • both partners buy presents and write cards
  • both partners support each other's pursuits outside of home life

Equality starts at home, and very quickly transfers into an attitude at work.

Do you think we idolise the 1950s family archetype to our society's detriment? Is it the fault of businesses we suck at gender equality in the workplace?


Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Movers, Shakers & Monday Game Changers - Marvin Gaye, Angry Bosses, and Serious Funk


Monday is about remembering the movers, shakers and game changers, of things that look incredibly trivial now, but challenged many on arrival.


Scaremongers like to write a lot about the insane changes the next generation will bring. Here's some changes already brought, against all odds and discouragement, and it all turned out alright.


Some perspective for your back-pocket, to think about when the times are getting tough as a change maker.


I repeated Marvin Gaye's album What's Going On five times when I first heard it. I love the music, I love the funk, I love the lyrics - I love the feel of it all.

And you guessed it right... the record company hated it.





Gaye was determined to shatter Motown's pop formula and address pressing social issues. Motown founder Berry Gordy was not pleased. He claimed that "What's Going On" was the worst song he had ever heard. As for "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)," Gordy asserted that he didn't even know what the word "ecology" meant. Gaye responded that he would never record for Motown again unless "What's Going On" was released as a single.


Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/500-greatest-albums-of-all-time-20120531/marvin-gaye-whats-going-on-19691231#ixzz27qPKNE6D


Thank the Music Gods that it got released, because now we have this incredible album for our own enjoyment. An album ranked as 6th Greatest Album of All Tome by Rolling Stone magazine. Not a bad result for someone having a crack at breaking the mould.

What's a convention in your industry that you dreaming of breaking? What's stopping you? 


Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Friday, September 28, 2012

What's It All About Al-friday - Rebuilding the World Trade Centre, Politics, and Surrendering



You know - what's it all about Alfie?

Why do we do what we do? Why do we go to work? Why do we practice HR?

Lots of important questions to answer on Fridays, as a reminder at the end of the traditional work week of why we are working, and what our life is really all about, before entering the weekend.


Have you read this article "The Truth About the World Trade Centre"?

It reads like a thriller of just how disgusting money, power, greed, politics and unethical behaviour can be. It shows the destructive force it brings upon the common good. It is like reading a real life version of "Wallstreet Money Never Sleeps", but instead it's about the rebuilding of the World Trade Centre.

Mike Pinelli and Marc Becker have been here from the start, supervising the Freedom Tower's construction. The politics mean nothing to them, nothing worth saying.

"I know it's gonna happen," Marc Becker said in 2005, standing at rock bottom of the empty pit, where construction had stopped dead before it ever really got started. "I just don't know when. It's very personal to me — I saw what the poor souls looked like after they jumped out of the buildings. What they pulled out of the debris, I saw it. It's personal. We're ready to go. We're ready to build."


And at the end of the article, you see what it's all about really.

Humans are survivors, and rebuilders. We all live with this political crap in our workplaces every day, but we persevere to get that pay cheque or see that task complete. We may be below the political noise, but we rise above it in our pursuit of real accomplishment.

Here's to you and your week. Whatever your political play has been, I hope it gets left at your workplace's door and you enjoy a wonderful weekend experiencing the real joys of life. Because power isn't joy, joy is love, and love doesn't keep record of wrongs - love is total surrender, release and freedom.


Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Has University Replaced Unions?

An article from Australia recently listed that "in August 1992, 43 per cent of male workers and 35 per cent of females were union members in their main jobs. The figure [in May 2012] is now 18 per cent for both male and female workers." That's a marked drop in union membership numbers, and it's clear that the new generation of workers have even less interest in joining a union. Do we think our university qualifications have replaced the need for union representation?

Personally, I've just never known what the benefit was. I've worked in places where individual employment contracts were used, rather than a collective bargaining process. I have always perceived unions to be redundant for employees who hold degrees and aren't public servants. I never knew what the benefit was.

Until I moved to Singapore.

Then it became very clear what the power of unions are. Because when they are effectively muted (i.e. Singapore's 'National Trades Union Congress' is very good at running a supermarket chain, not so great at getting minimum wages for Singaporeans), workers are individualised and isolated completely. And it's not like all the Singaporeans holding degrees are entering a better job market because of their qualifications. The absence of a minimum wage means the starting rate for a degree holder is bargain basement low.

Yes, there are very low participation rates in Australian unions. But they still hold power, and can create a voice that applies to employees who aren't even in the union. No, I don't agree that all union action is positive - I prefer people in jobs over meeting every principle of good employer/employee dynamics. But yes, I do attribute a lot of Australia's workplace culture and rights to the work of unions.

A large number of qualified individuals may be effective at their jobs, but pretty useless at bargaining on a national level about their expectations of work life in general, unless they speak as an organised group. So although we may think we are powerful through our skill set, it's clear to me that university most certainly hasn't replaced the role of unions

Here's to the minimum wage - it's a bloody nice thing to have.

Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.
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