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Hay director shares clues to success

HAY GROUP director Satien Thedthong recalls the days when he first joined Osotspa as its new human-resources executive and submitted to the firm's board of directors a plan to turn the 122-year-old consumer-goods giant into a "high-performance organisation".

"That's good,' Khun Ratch said, 'but I don't want to make our Thai organisation become like a Jack Welch company,'" said Satien, referring to how his former boss at Osotspa, Ratch Osathanugrah, responded to his proposal.

That moment made Satien realise that it is the corporate culture that really determines success or failure of an organisation. Thai firms, he said, cannot merely copy a blueprint of successful Western companies, even the one that was championed by Jack Welch, the legendary chief executive of General Electric who has been well recognised globally.

"For Thai family-owned organisations to archive sustainable success, they have to blend their Eastern ways with modern management practices such as good governance and performance-driven systems - where they are deemed necessary," the Hay Group director explained.

Just as people in different cultures have different likes and tastes in food - for example, it is impossible to force a Thai to have hamburger every day - corporate culture is not universally applicable. In the particular case of Osotspa, Satien said it could thrive with a fine blending of Thai, Chinese, Japanese and Western cultures.

"Honesty and loyalty are still the values of the organisation that came from its roots more than 100 years ago. While Osotspa has a lot of joint ventures with the Japanese, especially since the tenure of Khun Surat [Osathanugrah], it has assimilated to such Japanese ways as meticulousness and trust-based and long-lasting relationships.

"But when it reaches a global scale and the AEC [Asean Economic Community] coming in, we can't be competitive without blending in the Western culture," Satien said.

Despite the importance of corporate culture, Hay Group has not so many clients consulting it on the matter because few Thai firms are aware of and understand the impacts of culture on an organisation's effectiveness. Meanwhile, Satien said research had shown that organisational climate or culture has a direct impact on productivity, which in addition to other factors is influenced by the leaders of the organisation.

Unfortunately, chief executives of many Thai companies often assign everyone but themselves to take part in leadership development programmes. "At Hay, we will insist that [leadership development] has to begin from the top," he said.

Hay Group uses its "Formula One racing car" model to encourage its clients to implement a project to develop talent or leadership.

"If you watch Formula One, most racing cars are similar. What make one stand out from the rest is the driver. It's people who will take the car to victory.

"An organisation has to find its own Michael Schumacher. It must be able to describe what profiles and competencies it needs in its people."

Seeking changes

Satien said it was not an exaggeration to say that now every Thai organisation has a strong desire to instil some changes in its staff, such as making them more alert to change, and becoming more assertive.

Moreover, after recent adjustments of national wages, Thai corporations are "overpaying" their staff at all levels, when compared with the competencies and productivity of their workers, while they are also finding that new-generation workforces are not competent in their jobs and not willing to work hard. Satien said Hay Group was preparing to introduce executive coaching as a new service to its clients in Thailand, through building up a network of experienced corporate executives who will be certified by Hay as executive coaches.

After spending his initial career life in information technology, Satien has shifted to the human-resource field, including a stint with Hay Group in the late 1990s, Unilever Thai Holdings, True Corporation, Wheeler Strobel consulting, and before rejoining Hay Group at the start of this year, Osotspa, where he his last title was corporate HR director.


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