Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Najib's Call For A National Work Culture. Asking For The Impossible?

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has called for the creation of a National Work Culture based on employee competencies and setting standards of best practices. He said these best practices would be the catalyst of the country's human resources development. They would also contribute to the country becoming a benchmark to other nations, especially developing nations.

Najib said the best practices in the civil service must be systematically transferred to the private sector and the best practices of the private sector to the public service.

Firstly there has to be a proper definition of 'national work culture' and a comprehensive description of what constitutes 'best practice' before embarking on what may at best be termed an optimistic exercise. In the civil service, taking a long tea-break, knitting and chatting will be at the top of any description of work culture if you were to ask the average Malaysian. And no one can deny this simplistic view.

The private sector is somewhat different as each workplace has its own set of rules and practices, which are more often than not strictly adhered to, if not actively enforced. The bottom-line there is solely profit and to achieve it, the services provided have to be first-rate and ultra-efficient. The alternative is loss and bankruptcy.

The civil service however is under no such burden or deadline. There is no motivation to make profit nor is there any uniformly strict enforcement of 'good practices' with every office depending upon the immediate superior to set the tone. The year-end bonus is not a sufficient enough inducement or incentive. Above all there is security of tenure in the public service and this is probably the biggest impediment to the evolution of a truly excellent work culture and ethics.

In short, it would not be wrong to state that the term 'national work culture' is a fallacy and there is no one-size-fits-all solution, but we will see in time what Najib has in mind. Until then though I feel that he is asking for the impossible.


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