Cliques existed among the employee ranks, with the local Chinese workers always leaving for and returning from lunch as a group. Similar cliques had formed within the Western ranks, most notably between the two male project managers and owners. Morale among non-managerial staff had been inconsistent since the office was opened in 1998, and average staff turnover was two employees per year, considered average by Hong Kong standards. The locals typically kept to their clique and, unless asked, rarely shared personal information with foreign staff.
The owners would dominate the conversation in the office and openly discuss the affairs of the business, client grievances and their personal social experiences across their pod. The owners had collegial relationship and played off each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Their loud, vocal displays and outbursts of energy and enthusiasm were in sharp contrast to the subdued work styles of the local staff, although it is presumed that much of this energy was driven by their roles as business developers.
The sales and marketing officer was prone to making bold comments about the managing director’s sex life, and would have similarly risqu exchanges with the company’s lead female designer. Outside the office he was known as a very charismatic representative of the company, but his interaction with office personnel was less effective. When employees were out of the office, he would make derogatory statements about the local workforce and their lack of commitment and trust, seemingly out of frustration.
Soon after the company hired the Canadian, the owners fired its senior designer, who had established a cohesive relationship with the design team and programmers. The dismissal was conducted after hours, when workers had left the premises. The individual received two week’s pay as notice and quickly shown the door. The following morning the owners assured employees that the designer dismissed due to performance, tardiness and inability to lead the design team. They emphasised his termination was unrelated to the new hire. Despite the explanation, several employees displayed their displeasure by being late for work, ignoring work requests, writing subversive comments about executive management into their programming code, and performing non-work activities, notably surfing on the web and checking personal email accounts. Morale among non-managerial employees began to plummet and tensions between the owners and local staff worsened.
Between January 2001 and May 2002, the company fired three employees while six others left the company for other jobs. Midway through the new project, the team lost its lead designer. Although she agreed to work freelance to complete several necessary design elements, her resignation affected project timelines and resulted in a shift of duties to the company’s Kuala Lumpur office and its less-experienced design team.
In an effort to address company morale, the owners took turns speaking with employees whose performance was deteriorating. Meetings were held in a small, glass-enclosed cubicle featuring meagre soundproofing. All meetings were observable from outside the cubicle, and a hushed silence would descend on the room whenever an employee was called in to speak with one of the owners. During this phase, the owners were taking steps to motivate and encourage staff by providing additional days off, additional training and positive feedback, but they were clearly frustrated by the response.
Midway through 2001, the collapse of the dot com industry was finally being felt. A downturn in business brought additional stress into the office environment, and the remaining members of the design team resigned, leaving the company at risk of losing the second design phase of the educational web site, a project worth over HKD$6 million. Although the company succeeded in luring back the primary designers of the prototype site for short-term employment contracts, the client later acknowledged that the initial absence of the original design team provided an opportunity for negotiating a better rate.
Since late 2001, staffing of the Hong Kong office has remained largely male. The organisation has also reduced its numbers in the Hong Kong office, relying on its Malaysia office to provide the majority of project design and programming, and a collection of freelance designers to assist on other projects requiring immediate turnaround. Faced with the potential loss of one its Hong Kong-based project managers, who indicated his desire to return to his native Thailand, the company established an office in Bangkok to maintain his employ.
After landing the PepsiCo account for China in late 2002, the company sent its one of its partners to Shanghai to open a fifth office in the region. The company continues to struggle with staffing issues and its ability to properly grow the business. ABOUT WGA Ltd. WGA Ltd. specialises in developing viral online marketing campaigns and providing backend IT solutions for multinationals including Time-Warner, Disney, Sony, Mercedes-Benz and PepsiCo. It has offices in Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, Shanghai and Bangkok, and staff number 30 plus across five countries. The company was founded in 1996.
The company relies on a diverse workforce culled from cultures across Asia-Pacific. Members of the production teams discuss projects with teams from the KL office, primarily of Malaysian origin. Appendix II: Financial Loss Calculations Appendix III: Appendix IV: Successful Corporate Diversity Strategies Qantas The airline won millions of dollars of catering contracts by capitalizing on their built-in diversity by using staff to help develop new menus and ways of preparing food targeted at different cultural diets.15
The Prestige Group anagement was able to save its manufacturing business from closing down in 1988 by implementing a range of strategies that capitalized on its diverse workforce which accounted for more than 12 languages. Management sought staff advice on marketing strategies for its countries of distribution, including a survey of cultural sensitivities of potential clients. As a result, export sales grew by 15 per cent in two years.
Corning Inc Corning Inc, an industry leader in glass, ceramics and telecommunications materials, successfully changed its corporate culture by adopting such techniques as workshops and seminars to reduce racial and sex discrimination. The company reported a 50% reduction in turnover for female and black employees. Prior to the initiative, the company had reported a good track record of hiring women and black managers, but was having difficulty training and their rate of attrition was ripple the rate for white men.