Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Differences between Local Companies And MNCs

I am writing on this based on my experience working in a large MNC and later in also large (in the country, that is) local institution within the same industry.

I am prompted to write on this as comparisons are always made among job seekers as well as among those who are already with local companies or MNCs and also due the fact that I am also always asked to make comparisons.

It’s a fact in Malaysia that people working in MNC are always proud of their companies as they are seen to be International while employees in large local companies always brag about their company in the presence of those from other local companies.

From my observation, there are stark differences between the two, local companies and MNCs. Here are the glaring ones;

1. Communication

Communication between management and employees in MNCs are regular, clear, concise. Policy or procedures changes are clearly explained and employees are briefed properly most of the time. In local companies, communication is inconsistent, not timely, usually not documented and irregular. Local companies are also not that transparent when it involves certain information as they are deemed confidential while in MNCs the same information are readily available either in the circulars or intranet.

2. Whiteboard

I found this amusing when I first started in a local company. In all my years in MNC, I never really found a need to use whiteboard to explain something to the meeting audience. We only use that to place some important information or updates. In local companies, whiteboards are everywhere including boardrooms and deemed as important tool to communicate to the audience.

My further observation revealed that it was all due to an individual’s inability to convey his messages clearly as well the audiences inability to comprehend what was being said by the other party, hence a whiteboard was necessary to highlight, for example workflow etc.

It can be very frustrating as the whiteboard is used again and again in the same meeting to prove a point or clarifiy the presenters position. In one meeting, there would be few people getting up and going to the whiteboard. If one look at the whiteboard at the end of the meeting, it would appear as if there has been a meeting concluded with plans to send man to Mars, or

In summary, it is a clear issue of communication rather than whiteboards being a magic tool.

3. Meetings

The other frustrating experience with the local companies are meetings. Meetings where I conducted in MNCs are generally short with important ones going up to 3 hours. However, In local companies, believe it, meeting can last 6 hours without break.

But then why?. Are locals more hardworking and willing to sit in meetings for to find solutions and communicate important matters, seek clarifications etc. Again, there are many reasons. I find most of the meetings I attended not productive at all.

Meetings are also scheduled in the evening, after office hours, which I find baffling.

Reasons are many
- participants are usually not prepared,
- did not bring the necessary that they were advised to bring,
- Vague agendas,
- participants coming in late,
- lack of focus - Participants talking among themselves when others are presenting and when prompted, they asked for repeat of what was being briefed. It’s also common that people answer phone calls during meetings
- Out of topic conversations takes place.
- Participants going out of the meeting rooms and coming in later asking to repeat what went on during his/her absence.
- Participants not giving straight answers, they beat around the bush instead.

There are many more but in summary, it’s the people’s attitude, behaviour and inefficiency that leads to long and unnecessary meetings.

4. Long Hours

It’s also a norm for locals to stay on in the office until late hours. One of the reason for this is due to meetings. Other than this is also due to staff don’t dare to go home before their bosses. MNCs discourage this and many wants their staff have a good work/life balance. And people who work long hours, no matter how unproductive they are, are seen to be hardworking employee.

5. Off Days & Leaves

People in Local companies are fond of those who return to work on their off days or on leave. Those who return are seen to be a committed staff, no matter that the same person did not pass on his work properly or did not delegate his task to other before they go on leave.

6. Lack of Focus & Direction

Local companies only plan, strategise and act when something happens. Planning for the year only starts in the same year.

7. Paper, Paper, Paper….

Lots of things are still paper based. Approvals still need to be signed on paper while MNCs have for long embarked on electronic signatures.

8. Analogies

I also observed that Malaysians in local companies also fond of telling some old stories or analogies to prove a point.

9. Not customer Oriented.

Local companies also practices ‘end justifies means’ concept and generally don’t really care about customer or service.

In summary, Malaysian companies have long way to go before they can claim to be world class. I echo Dr M’s statement that ‘Malaysians have have first class facility but third world mentality’ . A great deal of mindset and workplace culture change is required before we even think of becoming world class organization.

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