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“Don’t Order, but Communicate”

Posted April. 15, 2008 03:08,   


Cheong Wa Dae replaced the walls of the secretariat rooms with semitransparent glass walls last month to improve communication between employees. The measure came after Cheong Wa Dae studied Hyundai Card, which replaced the walls of its executives’ offices with glass walls in 2004. As a matter of fact, Cheong Wa Dae officials visited Hyundai Card to take a look at the glass walls of executives’ rooms right before the remodeling of the secretarial office started.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government announced in March that it will create a labor pool made up of public servants of grade six or lower in order to help its departments and offices hire the employees of their choices. The labor pool concept is also similar to that of Hyundai Card’s “career market,” which was launched last July. Some 60 Seoul city officials also paid their visits to Hyundai Card headquarters in February before publicizing the measure.

Cheong Wa Dae and the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s attempts to benchmark the management skills of Hyundai Card, which are in line with the Lee Myung-bak administration’s pragmatic policy, have attracted a great deal of media attention.

Hyundai Card CEO Chung Tae-young was also invited to Cheong Wa Dae to give a lecture to some 40 officials, including chief presidential secretaries, in March, shortly after the new administration took office. He underlined the importance of close internal communication between departments and offices.

“Communication is like blood to the human body. Public officials have a lot to learn from an organizational culture that puts emphasis on it,” said a Hyundai Card official.

A recruitment notice, which was posted on Monday on the career market bulletin board of Hyundai Card, reads, “The auto-plan sales team of Hyundai Capital is looking for an employee to be in charge of new auto financing products.” The job description reads, “Three-year experience in Hyundai Card or more. Less than one-year experience at the managerial level. Experience in a branch office preferred. Required to have skills in data analysis and extraction.”

The sales team plans to receive applications from Hyundai Card employees and select a qualified person through interviews. About a dozen of such job ads are being posted everyday. The career market follows the company’s philosophy that “the best welfare for employees is helping them to do what they want.”

Over the last nine months, some 130 of 1,100 employees at Hyundai Card (which includes Hyundai Capital) have transferred to other departments via the career market. The competition rate for some positions has been as high as 10 to 1.

Sohn Jang-ik, a senior official of Hyundai Card, said that internal politics, which used to play an important role in moving to a preferred department, has disappeared and once bossy senior officers are now trying to improve communication with their subordinates in order to prevent a brain drain in their offices.

The system allows employees to work for their preferred positions. Hence it makes them feel more responsible for their given duties and blame less on the company even if things go wrong.

Strong communication is the first priority even in the “focus meeting,” an executive meeting. The meeting involves more than executives’ briefings and the CEO’s nods. General matters are briefed on electronic documents and, in the actual meeting, participants carry out an intense discussion on a couple of issues that may not be directly linked to their day-to-day affairs. One or two executives leave the company every year because they find it difficult to adjust to the focus meeting.

The company has also broken the precept that it is a virtue to avoid saying what other people do not want to hear in its evaluation process. Executives receive a thick report from personnel experts who had in-depth interviews with seven people, including the assessed person’s subordinates and supervisors. The report also contains the weaknesses that the evaluated person should overcome to be promoted.

“The competitiveness of a financial firm depends on human resources. The evaluation report is a proposal to maximize each employee’s potential,“ said Lee Yoon-seok, a senior public relations officer at Hyundai Card.