Friday, November 20, 2009

Healthy company

The working world is very dynamic. It is very rare to see a company without any staff turnover. Depending on the type of business, the turnover rate may easily reach above 50%, e.g. hotel and service industry. Part of the issue is the long hours in those industry which does not tend to translate into adequate pay for the employees. Despite whatever turnover rate existing, I believe the spread of employee service duration can be used to describe the effectiveness of the company.

I would split the service duration in a company to short (0-5 years), medium (5 to 10 years) and long term (above 10 years). I believe that an effective company the spread of service duration should follow a kind of normal distribution where most of the employees should be in medium service durations.

Young employees of 20s to mid 30s are known to job hop and change job regularly to (1) find a job that suit themselves better; (2) negotiate better working condition. However, some of those 'lucky' youngsters will land in their dream job from day one or near day one. These are the people that would stay in medium to long term. People in medium term would be expected to have master their work and be in good productive part of their life while not being paid excessively. Thus, they are the ones which would be upholding the effectiveness and productivity of the company. Employees serving less than 5 years would be expected to still learn the rope and still climbing in productivity. Unless the company attempt to keep more of this people, the company will experience high turnover for the young employees.

Employees who have served the company for more than 10 years are known to be loyal and die hard fans of the company. They are the stalwart employees. However, their salary is often rather high compared to what they do. After all, you would have few people in the top management (normally people who has served for a long time). The rest would be low or medium level employees. Hence, their work would normally considered of lower value add but yet due to their long service, they are paid quite well.

Therefore, I believe an effective and productive company would be those with employee in medium service duration followed by a short service duration. A company that experiences a hollow medium service duration employee , i.e. lots more oldies and youngsters, may not function as effectively as they should be since the employees are either still (i) learning the rope or (ii) paid overly high compared to their value.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Technology marketplace - a potentially better set up?

I just visited A*STAR's website on a whim and I found an interesting link:

Looks like they are heading to a correct direction. They are offering technologies for licensing openly in the market. I wish there are more things listed there though. But then again, Singapore's R&D scene is still in the growing stage. The list there may even be considered impressive for the beginners.

However, I feel that more should be done for those patented technologies. They should be actively offered to targeted businesses or industries. A team of people whose job scope comprises of listing and finding potential companies who may find those technologies useful will serve any R&D institute well. Not many companies embrace the idea of searching technologies to buy online so to wait for one to stumble upon the webpage seems complacent. Active searching of buyers should still be the main activity.

The webpage set up could be improved as well by allowing companies to search based on their need, e.g. searching based on the type of the company, the type of technology and trying to categorize the technologies in wider manner. A technology would normally fall under several categories so they should be listed under those categories at the same time.

Another issue that can be taken up is to reduce patent applications. Patenting findings seem to be a pastime of Singapore's researchers. Unfortunately, not many of those patents really worth patenting. I think this is a credible explanation to the lack of commercialization. In fact, patent application may serve as the end point of the research without afterthought put into what will happen after that. Money spent for patenting nearly useless research findings could be well spent into bettering the technology or even channeling them to better use. Before a patent is applied, potential for commercialization should actually be assessed first. I would think that having 100% commercialization success of 100 patents are better than having 10,000 patent with 10 commercialization success.

Good idea for mall management

I went to West Mall today and I must confess that I am impressed with whoever has the idea for the escalator arrangement. The Mall is roughly a rectangle and runs two stacks of escalator at the opposite long side. It used to be set such that one stack is for going up while the other stack is for going down. In this set up, the shoppers simply walk along a side to reach the escalator for continuing their trips up or down.

Today I saw the escalator being set in a crisscrossing manner. The escalator on the next level is running to the opposite direction of the previous level. In short, the shoppers has to circle one short side and one long side of the Mall to reach the escalator to the next level. Hence, the shoppers are required to pass through 50% of the shop in one level just to get to another level regardless of whether they are going up or going down! It is a simple but really good idea, for the retailers of course.

As for the shoppers, they have to travel far longer than they are used to. In fact, more than twice the previous distance, as previously one only need to go through one of the short side.

Who wins here? I guess both as the shoppers who need to reach the level would normally know where they want to go and they shouldn't really mind the extra trips while the shop owners are also happier (especially shop owners at the long side of the Mall) since more shoppers pass their way (although most will not go into their shops, at least higher chance of having shoppers). The definite winner is clear, the Mall management, for satisfying the shop owners while not terribly turning away the shoppers.

Customer satisfaction

Recently, there has been quite a hot discussion the results of customer satisfaction survey in Singapore. The key issue is the finding that Singapore's customer satisfaction index has declined! It means that customer is less satisfied with the service this year compared to last year. In response to that, the so called Singapore Retailers Association (SRA) blames the customer! It is said that the frontline service personnel has been given training and they have improved. The customer is now to be blamed because they have increase their expectation.

How far can the retailers be from the current denial? Are really customers to be blamed for desiring more? Who are the customers? I thought customers are what the retailers want to gain. The world is dynamic and so are customers. It is inherent that people desire better situations, better products, better service and so on. The key point of winning customers is to fulfill their expectations or even winning them. So, customer satisfaction is a moving target. To say that the service improve while not managing to satisfy customers or clients are like saying that one is prepared to catch a 1 tonne fish with a makeshift wooden fishing rod (forgive my analogy, I can't find better example than this :-P). The inability of the retailers to understand what the customer wants or expects should not be turned around to the extent that customers are asked to lower their expectation. Who are to be served here at the first place? Service should not stagnate and should aim higher and higher to fulfill and exceed customer satisfactions. Efforts should be put forward to really understand customer's needs, e.g. maybe better ambient, better store set up, wider product line up or simply staff that speaks the language. Instead of complaining, the energy should be better spent on interviewing and seeking feedback to formulate real actions.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Ineffective advertisement

Advertisements on "encounter of the nice kind" aka "closer" (if I remember the title correctly) that are normally put up in the MRT station have quite good stories. It talks about friendship of people from different background. However, I don't think it is effective. I would love to take a poll of how many people actually know which advertisement I am talking about. I bet there are not many people who are aware of that.

The only appealing thing (or repealing) on the advertisements are the huge number of words they use. I don't count but a simple glance can tell anyone it's far too many. Not surprising that people will not remember the advertisement or know what it talks about. MRT station is where people pass through and it's rare to see people stopping. It'll be difficult to expect people to stop, stand still and takes half a minute to read! In fact, people may actually remember "oh yeah, wordy advertisement with weird fonts and random highlights" but does this constitute effective advertisement? I don't think so. Effective advertisement is one where people know what the advertisement is about, remember clearly what it looks like or hears like and it's best if people involuntarily recall the advertisement. The advertisement on "encounter of the nice kind" (or maybe some other title... if you get what I mean here) does not seem to fulfill any of those requirements.