Monday, August 30, 2004

General duties - career

A colleague had a good idea on the career prospect of general duties clerks and secretaries.

"There is the recent 'management-initiated' development proposed by GGO, i.e., the centrifugal absorption of clerks/secretaries to the EO grade. If I were a clerk/PS, I would have been contented.

If we look for an approach to determine appointments by merits, I think the natural course will be for all directorate posts to be recruited through open appointments; similarly, EO II posts be open to clerks or whatever general grade colleagues."

I fully agree with the idea. We should surely let clerks and secretaries advance to EOs. But only for those capable. The CRE is a fair test to identify the deserving ones.

We are venturing to the area where all promotion posts should also be filled by appointment and fair selection. It would incur more work for the HR managers, but it would be fair. I understand in the Hospital Authority, upward or lateral movements are determined by selection, i.e. people have to apply for senior posts or same posts in another hospital and to compete through selection interviews.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

General duties executive assistants

I understand that SFAA employs a lot of NCSC staff. I recruited some assistants three years ago who were previously working in SFAA as temporary staff vetting applications from students. Also, I met an EA seconded from SFAA to EMB in 2002. If departmental secretaries (i.e. all-purpose general multi-skill clerks and secretaries cum junior office managers) require a degree, that means junior managers (EOIIs) could be performing new-style clerical, secretarial and managerial duties. Nowadays, with the help of IT, many managers do their daily chores like drafting, typing, scheduling, electronic filing at their desktops. Email have replaced much paper correspondence.

We need to look at this new layer and consider our position in longitudinal integration. We can downward integrate with clerks and secretaries, or we can professionalize and upward integrate with policy making, leaving general support duties to be performed by a new generation of multi-skill executive assistants. One option is to hive off EOII and combine it with clerks and secretaries to form a new degree grade for general office management. They can have advancement opportunities to the EO grade, starting at EOI level, and with raised entry requirements, e.g. 4 years working experience.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

General duties - multi-skilling

This is the view of the private sector on the future of the secretaries and clerks. The terms are a bit different. Departmental secretaries are general clerks and manager secretaries are PSs. We are aware of the trend and have introduced multi-skilling for the clerical grades, but not as drastic as the private sector. There are still many manager secretaries.

The article mentioned the role of managers, that some of them are still computer-illiterate and must rely on PS, but these managers soon be displaced. However, I note that there is also a phonemenon in government that PS is a status symbol, irrespective there is work for them.

The proposed way-out for secretaries and clerks is self-improvement and thus advancement. The trend is that all office chore will be performed by executive assistants who are multi-skill clerks and secretaries and also junior managers. The entry requirements are degree plus language and communication ability and also computer knowledge. The pay is $8-9K. Sound familiar? They are actually EOs doing all kinds of general grade duties. Does this point to the merging of the EO/CO/PS grades? Or can we present it just as the abolishing of the CO and PS grades? I think this makes the issue of really professionalizing the EO grade more pressing.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Complaint Case on data privacy

Privacy Commissioner's Office - Complaint Case Notes

Complaint regarding data access request

The complainant was a former civil servant. He had served in a government department for more than 10 years and was then transferred to another department on a different post on probation terms for two years. However his performance during the probation period was considered unsatisfactory and his service was subsequently terminated. He made a data access request to the department seeking access to his personnel file held by the department. In complying with the request, the department provided over 400 pages of documents to the complainant with certain information edited out from the copies of the documents on grounds that the edited data were matters of departmental policy that should not amount to personal data of the complainant.

Section 20(2)(b) of the PD(P)O provides that a data user may, in complying with a data access request, edit out data of third party individuals from the requested data either by the omission of names or other identifying particulars. However, on closer examination of the documents provided to the complainant, it was ascertained that they were 'file minutes' relating to discussions regarding the complainant's eligibility for pension benefits. These discussions were specific matters of policy applicable to the complainant's case, i.e. termination of service. In these circumstances, the contents of the "file minutes" contained personal data of the complainant and should have been disclosed to the complainant in complying with his data access request.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

General Duties

【明報專訊】在電腦仍未普及的年代,辦公室高層人員都依賴秘書處理文書、預約及安排會議等,但時至今日,資訊科技大大簡化了文書處理和溝通的程序,加上近年商業機構的資源大都較前緊絀,對於工作重要性大不如前的秘書員工,公司會採取什麼態度和處理方法,以便更有效分配人力資源﹖

中原人力資源顧問有限公司董事總經理周綺萍認為,秘書職位在職場縮減是無可避免的趨勢。她分析稱,在高度電腦化的辦公室環境下,文書工作本已大幅減少,加上大部分經理都懂得使用電腦處理日常工作,對秘書的需求自然較以往低。除了辦公室環境改變外,經濟環境亦減低職場對秘書的需求。

周綺萍說﹕「若商業機構財政狀?緊張以致要縮減人手,必先縮減support staff(支援人員),才會考慮縮減frontline staff(前線人員)。而在support staff當中,秘書必會首當其衝成為縮減目標,因秘書予人的印象是上司的附屬,沒有明顯功能,很容易被取代。」

公司裁員秘書首當其衝

在一家資訊科技公司兼任董事及總經理的李潤權(Derek)指出,過往辦公室秘書大多分為兩大類,一類是部門秘書(departmental secretaries),負責協助某部門所有同事處理日常運作﹔另一類是經理秘書(manager secretaries),以「單對單」形式專責協助特定經理處理事務。「但如今經理秘書已寥寥無幾,剩下來的多數是部門秘書,一人協助多人工作。」

他工作的機構早於3、4年前,已縮減了約一半經理秘書的人手。「公司負擔不起那麼多秘書的薪金,不容許太多額外人手助職員處理事務,故要求各人盡用每天8個工作小時去做好自己的事。」

他相信秘書人手的縮減,不會增加其他職員的工作量﹕「過往秘書的工作大多是安排時間表、聯絡等,但現在差不多人人都有palm(電子手帳),又可透過電郵聯絡其他人,幾乎事事都paperless(無紙傳輸信息),秘書不用做filing(文件歸檔),自然對其他同事影響不會很大。」

但他認為,「秘書的沒落」對經理影響有多大,則視乎經理本身的工作習慣而定。「對於不懂操作電腦的傳統經理來說,失去秘書的協助,可能會感到恐慌,需要一段時間學習和適應,否則很容易被淘汰﹔對於新一代的經理則影響不大。像我這樣,我做powerpoint(簡報表)比秘書做得更好,打字又比她打得快,與其等她幫我,不如我自己做來得還要快。」

主責費時的「妹仔工作」

因此,雖然Derek接任現職時,公司為他安排了一名秘書,專責助他處理個人事務,但他「一上任就告訴她,自己沒什麼事可給她做,要她改為負責協助整個部門的同事工作。因此她名義上是我的秘書,實際上卻是部門秘書」。他坦言如今他公司的秘書,主要負責一些既費時又不能用電腦做的「妹仔工作」,如大量影印、核對帳單等。

【明報專訊】秘書職位遭淘汰彷彿是大勢所趨,但並非所有公司都採取縮減人手等消極做法,反而積極協助任職秘書的員工轉型,令他們有能力繼續為公司服務。

香港永安旅遊有限公司副總經理陳淑芳說,該公司過去幾年致力提升秘書的能力,令他們可接受不同的工作性質,改任行政助理職位。

「近幾年公司持秘書職銜的人確是下降了,但持行政助理職銜的人卻增加了,因此公司實際上並沒怎樣縮減秘書人手。」陳淑芳表示,永安旅遊有見在現今電腦普及化的環境下,傳統秘書工作量下降,故公司選擇讓他們兼任更多工作,在本來的文書工作外,讓他們執行更多直接幫助公司運作的任務。

擴闊工作提高生產力

「例如公司其中一名行政助理,除了文書工作外,每天亦負責收集所有旅遊部經理的產品內容及價目,將資料整理妥當並傳真至旅遊業議會,領取該會認可。這類工作以往就不會由秘書負責。」

陳淑芳相信,這種做法不僅可擴闊他們的工作性質,更提高他們的生產力,「他們不但增值了,在職場的生存空間亦大了」。要成功協助秘書轉型,公司的培訓不可或缺。永安旅遊就透過培訓,提高這些秘書的能力,幫助他們學習產品知識、旅遊業議會條例、航空公司特色等。她建議秘書在接受公司培訓之餘,自己亦要努力增強能力,如多了解行業動態、提升語文能力及資訊科技的技術等。

永安旅遊不僅提高了對秘書工作能力的要求,同時亦提高了入職要求。陳淑芳說﹕「以往我們聘請秘書,只要求對方中五畢業及持秘書課程證書。但如今聘請行政助理,要求求職者持大學學位、語文及溝通能力良好、懂得操作電腦,新入行者可得約8000至9000元月薪。」

可考慮從事顧客服務

中原人力資源顧問有限公司董事總經理周綺萍亦呼籲現職秘書及早考慮轉型﹕「可考慮於在職的公司及部門找一份職級相近的工作,亦可考慮轉行擔任一些跟秘書無關的工作,如保險及基金等,因此類工種往往需要很多新入職者,尤其一些人際網絡廣的人。如在擔任秘書時累積了相當統籌的經過,而性格又外向,可考慮顧客服務工作。」不過要轉型並非易事,周指出若秘書欲轉型,「一定要從學歷著手,選定有興趣的發展範疇後,最少要考取相關文憑,但最好還是考取相關學位」,否則,在現今這個重視學歷的職場很難競爭。