Unfair staff administration hits productivity

Article exclusively contributed
by the ICAC

Peter worked as a supervisor in the sales department of an investment company and his team needed to recruit a new member. The company assigned him to handle the recruitment.

Hundreds of applications were received. Peter's brother-in-law, Paul, was one of the applicants. He asked Peter to "look after" him.

Although Paul was barely qualified for the job, Peter put him on the short list for interview. Paul's performance at the interview paled in comparison with the other candidates. Yet Peter recommended him as the best candidate to his manager. Peter did not bother to disclose his relationship with Paul, as the company had no such requirement. Peter's recommendation was finally approved and Paul got the job.

After a few months, it was time to appraise staff performance. Peter rated Paul's performance as "outstanding" while in fact his performance was inferior to other team members. Based on the overrated assessment, Paul received handsome pay rises and bonuses. Other team members felt very frustrated and tried to air their concerns to Peter. But their views were found to have fallen on deaf ears. Upset by the unfair treatment, they gradually lost their motivation and enthusiasm in work. Not before long, the team found its overall productivity lagging behind.

The low morale and diminishing productivity of the team caught the attention of the senior management. After understanding the situation, they suspected that Peter might have accepted advantages from Paul for hiring him, and giving him favorable appraisal, which earned him huge pay rises. They decided to make a report to the ICAC.

What went wrong?

The ICAC investigation revealed that Peter and Paul were relatives. The senior management of the company was annoyed about Peter deliberately concealing his relationship with Paul. They also found loopholes in the recruitment and performance appraisal systems, which prevented the company from choosing the right candidates and awarding staff with really good performance. The management also realized the harm done to staff morale and the company's productivity because of unfair staff administration.

After the investigation was concluded, the senior management approached the Advisory Services Group of the ICAC's Corruption Prevention Department for advice. As staff are the key asset of a company, the Advisory Services Group suggested the company implement measures to ensure fair staff administration, to motivate staff to achieve superior results.

Tips for the management
As effective managers of the company, you should:

Code of conduct
- Adopt a staff Code of Conduct to ensure all staff are aware of the company's expectations on the standard of their behavior.?

Declaration of conflict of interest
- Require staff to avoid and declare conflict of interest; and in case there is a conflict, decide whether the task should be assigned to another staff member.
- Give examples of conflict of interest, such as the story about Peter and Paul, in the Code of Conduct.

Staff administration guidelines
- Lay down clear guidelines covering staff recruitment, performance appraisal, promotion, pay adjustment, handling of staff attendance and overtime records, allocation of overtime and shift duties, and disciplinary procedures.

Staff recruitment
- Assign a staff member independent of the section looking for new recruits to review all job applications for short-listing of applicants.
- Set up a recruitment panel with at least two members, preferably including a representative independent of the section recruiting staff.
- Lay down a set of pre-determined criteria for assessment and prepare separate marking sheets for use by individual panel members.

Performance appraisal
- Define clearly the responsibilities of officers tasked with the job of reporting, counter-signing and overall review of appraisal reports.
- Make known the performance standards and appraisal comments to all staff concerned.

Staff rotation
- Rotate staff regularly as far as practicable to obtain more objectivestaff appraisals as well as to maintain business continuity in caseof staff turnover.

Staff communication/complaint channel
- Establish communication/complaint channel and encourage staff to identify and report corrupt or dishonest conduct.

Corruption prevention training
- Provide corruption prevention awareness training for newly appointed and serving staff to reinforce their commitment to integrity and ethical practices.

Tips for job applicants and employees

All job applicants and employees should understand and observe relevant legal provisions, including the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance.

For job applicants
- Be honest. Demonstrate your strengths and commitment to striving for excellence in your job assignments. Never use improper or illegal means to get a job - it will sooner or later be discovered.

For all staff
- Comply with your company's Code of Conduct.

For recruitment staff
- Declare any conflict of interest when you come across an applicant with whom you have a close personal relationship.

For supervisory staff
- Be fair to all subordinates and avoid having unnecessarily close relationship with particular subordinates to avert possible allegations of favoritism.

For enquiries about this article or corruption prevention advice to private sector companies, please contact the Advisory Services Group of the ICAC's Corruption Prevention Department at (tel) 2526 6363, (fax) 2522 0505 or (e-mail address) Our service is free and confidential. To report corruption, call the ICAC 24-hour Hotline at 2526 6366.

Taken from Career Times 30 August 2002

(Last review date: 23 August 2013)

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the contributor.

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