Sunday, May 21, 2006

Korean Soft Management

I'm often quizzed on stressful working conditions in the Korean corporate workplace--long hours often cited as taxing. I respond that "change" is taking place in Korea. Authoritarian management style is yielding to softer tactics.

This Korea Times article highlights changing norms in Korea.

Soft Management

Organizing documents, handling business calls and preparing sharp presentations for bosses and clients before a deadline can stress any employee engaged in office work from nine to five.

After-hours, people find themselves tired in mind and body, and search for an escape from their working reality.

But in the end, they end up back on the sofa at home watching the nightly news on TV before dozing off awaiting other tasks at work. [sounds like America].

This is where corporate executives and managers come in to save their employees from burning out by supervising and caring for them in a different and creative way.

Corporate Korea today is adopting a so-called soft management approach.

This is a new managerial system aimed at boosting not only the employees' work efficiency but also their morale by providing an oasis in the competitive world other then incentives and benefits.

POSCO [Korea's top steel producer] follows this soft approach by offering musical concerts and other cultural events every month for its employees, their families and friends.

The company encourages the workers to participate in outside activities such as hiking and educational field trips with their families and managers, said Park Seung-hyun of POSCO.

In addition, we invite foreign experts from various sectors such as finance to hold seminars for the workers to boost their knowledge in related fields. This is a nice way to promote their livelihoods that can positively affect their work, producing a welcome outcome.

Korea'?s steel giant manufacturer also invites engineers' family members on a regular basis for a tour of its steel mills and welfare centers, giving them an in-depth look at the company.

By doing this, the company hopes to boost trust and friendship between workers and families.

A company and a family, as one, can prosper together, said Park Jin-kook, a POSCO engineer. I don't believe one can exist without the other.

LG Electronics has also jumped on the bandwagon of soft management to improve its workers' well-being. [ this comes as no surprise since LG's motto is Great Company; Great People]

The company plans to set up childcare facilities for women employees who account for almost 20 percent of its personnel.

This is to comfort the working mothers, at the office, who have to bear the burden of taking care of their children while they are away from their home, said Jo Chang-hyun of LG Electronics. We plan to establish childcare centers at the company in Kasandong for our female staff.

Kim Ssang-soo, CEO of LG Electronics, expressed his desire to develop and expand the company's family-friendly management programs for his employees to enhance their quality of life in line with the company's vision of a healthy workforce.

Home is the most fundamental community in life,? said Kim on his personal homepage. This means that home is the basis of whatever we do. Thus, if our home is filled with harmony, it will help us remain emotionally stable and enable us to lead a viable, confident social life.

Accommodating workers with a variety of creative programs and a pleasant environment is in line with corporate Korea's efforts to strengthen employees'? physical and mental health that directly leads to improved work production.

An example of soft management: Kim Soon-taek, CEO of Samsung SDI, personally gave roses and teddy bears to each of his employees and their families, reminding them that they are the main drivers and hope of the company's growth.


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