Experts say communication is the most important factor in good relations between employers and employees
Some employees of Thai Airways International recently went on strike, disrupting passenger services at Suvarnabhumi Airport and delaying some of the airline’s flights.
The protesters demanded a 7.5 per cent pay hike, compared to 4.5 per cent offered by THAI’s management. In addition, they sought a more generous bonus payment.
A few days later, employees of Bangkok Bank wore black to protest the bank’s bonus policy, which they said fell behind the bank’s dividend payout policy.
Dr Jiraporn Pruksarnukul, director of Indigo Consulting Group, says: “One of the most important issues in labour relations is effective communications. In addition, transparency in decision-making is very important in the eyes of employees.
Dr Atchara Juicharern, managing director of AcComm & Image International Co, says: “Employees’ expectation is another important issue, especially in terms of bonus payment and salary adjustment.
“Generally, people want fair treatment, job security, protection of rights, and they do not wish to be degraded, so it’s important to manage all these employee expectations. I believe both organisations [Thai Airways International and Bangkok Bank] did a good job on internal communications but the problem could have been the communications gap in delivering the key message.”
Luis Danai Kristhanin of Aon Hewitt Consulting (Thailand) says: “Around 70 per cent of all the root problems in managing organisations stem from miscommunication. In other words, many employees do not get crucial information firsthand from management, but often from the mass media.
“In the case of Thai Airways, there are many departments such as catering, technical services, in-flight services and so on. Sometimes the key messages from top management do not reach the rank and file, effectively resulting in misintepretations and misunderstandings.
“Even though there are email and other high-tech communication tools these days, as well as social media such as Twitter and Facebook, it’s still maybe necessary to manage by walking around so that top managers can talk to employees directly in person to close any communication gap.”
On compensation, Dr Jiraporn says the 2013 trend is still in favour of the automotive, oil and gas and energy sectors, in which annual salary adjustments are around 6-7 per cent, while the past year’s bonus payment was the equivalent of 6-8 monthly salaries.
“Banking, retail and other sectors got less compensation, but the lowest was for those in garments, ceramic and other labour-intensive sectors, which have been hit hard by the minimum wage hike to Bt300 per day.”
Dr Jiraporn says: “Productivity has to rise to match the higher wage, so workers need to develop multiple skills.
“For example, people who do manual work in a factory may need the skill to drive forklifts so they can do additional tasks after normal work, since the minimum wage has risen from say Bt220 to Bt300 per day over the past year.
“Or those who are welders or masons may need to further extend their skills to related tasks.
On the Asean Economic Community’s freer flow of skilled labour in 2015, Dr Jiraporn says: “If Thai workers want to work in other Asean countries, they will have to develop language and other skills. For example, English is a prerequisite for working overseas. In addition, Mandarin Chinese is an asset, or you need to understand some local dialects in Asean such as those used in Malaysia or Indonesia. Secondly, you need cross-cultural skills.”
Dr Atchara says: “One survey shows that successful managers in running cross-border operations in Asean countries need to have some crucial qualities, namely, reasonable IQ, EQ, cultural intelligence, moral intelligence, business and global intelligence.
“Global intelligence means, as managers, you need to adapt your organisation’s policies to local needs. In short, one size does not fit all.”