Almost every worker clamours for higher salary without giving much thought to the need to increase productivity; a situation not helped by the current wage system that ensures fixed annual increment, as stipulated in a collective agreement. Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr Fong Chan Onn and his deputy Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad think this attitude must change to ensure our very own survival. CHELSEA L.Y. NG writes
IT IS that time of the year again when everyone tries hard not to make mistakes in their work. Kamal did the same so as not to jeopardise his chances for a good increment or, better still, a promotion.
So, when his merit increment came, he was overjoyed.
Later, when his boss told him that he deserved it because he had performed extremely well, Kamal was all fired up to perform better.
He promised his boss, just as he had himself, to work even harder as his efforts had been appreciated.
Some people are sceptical of such a productivity-related scenario.
Those who don't believe are usually the ones who have only known a single system all their working life, that is, a wage system that allows salary increments that are not necessarily related to work performance.
However, the trend seems to be changing now.
Several days ago at the National Human Resources summit, Datuk Dr Fong Chan Onn urged employers to reward employees who performed well and base incentives and promotions on performance rather than seniority and length of service.
He said the move was vital to improve productivity.
His deputy Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad had, in a recent public symposium, warned that if salary increments were not matched with increases in productivity, the country's competitive position would fall.
“Soon, we will be faced with unemployment and lower living standards,” he said.
These statements by Dr Fong and his deputy should prod us to change our work culture.
“If we do not maintain industrial discipline and keep on producing better goods and services at lower costs, we will simply lose out to our competitors who are both aggressive and innovative and are prepared to make the sacrifices needed to advance,” said Dr Abdul Latiff.
There is a need to urgently introduce a “productivity-linked remuneration system” before the country priced itself out.
All is not lost though. The Human Resources ministry might already have an answer for this.
At the very same summit, Dr Fong said his ministry was promoting a scheme based on an employee reward system, which emphasised productivity.
“It’s a system which has been agreed upon by the unions and the Malaysian Employers Federation, whereby employees are given productivity-based remuneration as well as ample training and retraining.
“While not sacrificing existing rights like security of tenure, we hope the scheme can be one way to make our workers more competitive especially with globalisation setting in,” said Dr Fong.
He added that this was in tandem with good and effective human capital management - an essential factor in realising the country’s aspirations to achieve developed nation status.
A productivity-based scheme, however, did not mean that employers should be flogging their workers to work harder.
While employees instil discipline in themselves, employers too must come up with new measures, equipment and machinery to help enhance productivity.
Dr Latiff stressed the need to have a paradigm shift in the way employees were treated and disputes were resolved.
He suggested that one should not just look at alternative methods of dispute resolution but rather into the reasons for the large increase in individual labour disputes over the years.
“The Industrial Relations Department, which is charged with the responsibility of ensuring a healthy industrial relations climate in the country, is bogged down with cases relating to labour disputes between individuals and employers.
“With the kind of statistics on labour disputes that are being generated each year, any foreign investor will get the wrong impression concerning the industrial relations situation in the country,'' he added.
He said there was a need to categorise the causes of the labour disputes, which he suspected were caused by lack of knowledge and training among managers and supervisors not attached to the human resources department of the organisation.
He said the lack of current knowledge of labour laws and their application often gave rise to hasty or wrong actions which resulted in the filing of wrongful dismissal claims by affected employees.
Dr Latiff said employers should not exploit workers and should instead reward the diligent ones with higher bonuses, merit increments, promotions or opportunities for training.
“If this is not done, workers will not be motivated to give their best. The appraisal system must be transparent and employers must give their employees an opportunity to provide feedback in an objective and fair manner.
In the case of Kamal, his boss had done something positive for the company because now he has a worker who is a believer in the productivity-based wage system.
All the country needs is to get more management staff to be like Kamal's superior.
It may not be easy but given the lofty aim behind the productivity-related scheme, it is worth a try.
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