“If you want to create clarity and be more empathetic, engage in a conversation.” This was exactly what I did yesterday in a Clubhouse conversation concerning the recent issue embroiling the L&D fraternity. Thank you Johan Irwan Kamarozaman, Bavani Periasamy, Jegatheeswaran Manoharan, Capt Shan Moorthi, Datuk Vicks dan Rajesh Shivanand Wadhwani (those that I know) that were there sharing authentically their POV.
As I listen to the other speakers and myself share, it suddenly dawned on me that our identity dictates our action and how others respond to us. If we are not clear of our identity or the identity of the person we are engaging with, this is where the breakdown happens. On the surface, the breakdown seems to be the result of actions taken. However, I see the breakdown happens so much earlier because the actions that are taken and the reactions resulting from those actions are just a manifestation of an earlier breakdown; unaware or refusal or confusion of identity.
Let’s take the recent ruckus of HRDF charging a service fee of 4%. The unhappiness came from two fronts; the charging itself and the ‘haste’ or unilateral decision HRDF made in implementing it. Now to some, this is unfair. How can they charge us 4%? Are they not thinking about us? So unfair. Why do they need 4% anyway, etc, etc,etc? The actions of HRDF is incomprehensible to some because their actions are contradicting their identity and anytime this happens, even in our natural life, confusion happens, emotions go haywire.
Let’s take a step back and examine what identity are they operating from such that they ‘sampai hati’ took the actions and decisions. If their identity is that of a Government agency, then I would say YES, their actions and decision are not aligned to a Government agency that is meant to ‘jaga rakyat’, develop the eco-system in a manner that is collaborative and empathetic. However, this is not the case. This has been highlighted by the COO of HRDF himself, within their ‘akta’ and last night was again pointed out by ex-HRDF CEO Datuk Vicks. This is nothing new. It has been there all the while.
HRDF is a company limited by guarantee. They are to operate like any company. The main differences are that they can’t make a ‘profit’ and their shareholder is the government. The salary and operations of HRDF are not paid by the Government. Their staff are not Government Servants therefore not the Rakyat’s employee. Within this identity, they have every right to do what they did. Imagine your company, own by you, decides to increase your rates or charge a fee for a certain service. Isn’t it within your right to do so without the need to consult others? Of course. Now, is that prudent and good practice? I would say no. But that is beside the point. The point is, it is the right of a company to do so.
The confusion of this identity stems from the fact that HRDF as a company, have decided to engage the training providers in their conversations. This is nothing new. This has been done even during the time of Datuk Amiruddin. His time being the CE was my entry point dealing with HRDF. Therefore, that is my earliest reference. This practice has continued over the years with other CE such as Datuk Vicks and the current CEO, Datuk Shahul. This is where we as L&D practitioners ‘kena sedar diri’. This practice is not a must. It is a courtesy they have decided to support the eco-system. We the L&D practitioners have to realise we are what is called secondary stakeholders. This is another breakdown in identity on our part. I have heard personally from HRDF years ago and from then on have repeated it many a time to others that HRDF priority is to the employer who is their main stakeholders not to us the trainers. Their loyalty lies with the employers; they take care of the interest of the employers. Again this is understandable given their identity as a company. Again is this prudent practice? And again this is not the issue. “What is a right? “and “What is the best practice?” are mutually exclusive. This is just like “What is legal?” and “What is ethical?” are two different things.
Now, why is the clarity of their identity and our identity is important? Well, it is important because this clarity allows us to respond accordingly. We can now respond to HRDF as we respond to any company. Let’s be clear and treat them like a company. If we feel they are not transparent, treat them as a company. If we think what they are doing is not legal, treat them as a company. Can we dialogue with them as a company, of course, we can but don’t expect the same result of having a dialogue with the government. A case in point. It is my practice that when a government agency makes a request for training or a speaking engagement, I will lower my fee or even give it for free because the nation-building agenda is heavy with them. Now since HRDF is a company, I shall charge my corporate rate. I will not budge. Why must I? It is within my right to do so. If they disagree, well, they have every right to look for another trainer or speaker.
The same principle should be applied TO HRDF just like when we are dealing with companies out there. If I feel McDonald’s is not giving me what I want, I can complain or make a request for a dialogue with them but I am clear that the outcome is not the same as me having a dialogue with the government or my employees. If I am not bothered to do so, I stop going to McDonald and go to Burger King instead. This is our right to respond to another company. It is that simple.
Imagine I am not happy with my paper supplier because he hiked his price, I can complain and request for the old price, knowing full well that my supplier has every right to not grant my request. If that is so, I can now decide to stay with that company or choose another one. It is my supplier’s right to not reduce his price and it is my right to look elsewhere for a better deal. Is it prudent of my supplier to do so? I say no because eventually, he will lose a lot of credibility and business. However, if my supplier is the only supplier of paper, he will not care and I need to live with it and be creative to deal with the hike in price that he decided to do.
So in that case, what can I do? A few things I can suggest:
- Don’t use paper; go paperless
- Use less paper
- Complain to the power-that-be that this needs to be looked at
- Find an alternative to paper so that I can continue doing what. I am doing as effective as not having paper. Meaning the absence of paper doesn’t disrupt me
- Be a paper supplier
My parting words are, as we are clear of each other’s identity, empathy comes in and our response moving forward is also clear. No more being a victim of the situation. What a relief.