By Gunther Wong
When I read that article “MOM to send middle managers for communication training”, two thoughts crossed my mind.
The first thought was the phrase “Liddat also can meh (?)”, alluding not to the fact that sending Singapore’s civil servants is a big deal, but that the Straits Times would actually publish such a story.
The second thought was the phrase “hurry up, you’re wasting my time”. This phrase wasn’t about the Straits Times article but about an experience I had on holiday in a certain third world country, where immigration officers wielded much discretionary power over your customs clearance. I saw a Chinese national fumbled in his pouch for his passport for just a while longer than others, and the impatient immigration officer raised his voice, practically shouting “hurry up, man, hurry up. You’re wasting my time!”
I’m not going to name the country because not all of its immigration officers were that rude. But I will say that the country had a struggling economy that relied very much on tourist dollars and that particular immigration officer probably didn’t realise that his remarks weren’t going to help anyone.
But I guess most employees, both in the public and private sectors, don’t think about what they’re saying, or how they’re saying it. Hence, communication training is key – it brings us back to basics, and gets us to understand that how we communicate what we do is as critical as how we do what we do, or when we do it.
MOM has taken a step in the right direction, and I don’t think this is an isolated case. I have a friend who worked in the Ministry of Finance, and she was perpetually “on course”. By that civil service lingo, she meant “I am attending a course”.
She had to clock 40 hours of training every year. That’s 5 days a year. On the other hand, my experience in the government-linked and privately owned companies showed that few employers made it a policy for staff to attend 5 days of training a year, and even fewer employers actually enforced that policy.
But in this day and age, when discerning Singaporeans and foreigners expect more but receive less, training in communications, service delivery, quality and productivity would not just help the employer survive, but would help the employee cope too.
I do hope that more employers will take training seriously, and set aside a budget for courses for their staff.