Monday, May 26, 2008

Human resource management work 人力資源管理工作

招聘工作是行政主任最重要任務之一。身為人力資源專業管理人才,差不多全政府的招聘工作都是由行政主任負責;所以我覺得大家一定會對以下訪問吳榮奎的報導有興趣。

由來以久,政府招聘工作都很緩慢。我一向認為原因有二:一是和公務員敘用委員會週旋浪費的時間,二是公務員事務規例和各公務員事務局通告所定下的官僚程序。吳榮奎都認為委員會的程序繁複而要作出改善;不過除非委員會可以信任各政府部門而進化為一個審計和政策諮詢機構;一日委員會仍要行使權力在聘任前作出行政干預,浪費時間就在所難免。官僚程序原意是要保障公平原則,限制公務員的酌情權,但現時所有程序都會拖延聘任的時間。其實只要面試認定應徵者適合就可以即時聘任,其他程序可以之後再進行,因為如有足夠理由在試用期間仍可以隨時中止聘任。經驗所得,絕大部份的合格應徵者都可以通過各種檢查,而聘任最終胎死腹中的最大理由是因為等候太久而已找到另一份工作。

吳榮奎說現時招聘程序緩慢責任在部門,即是在行政主任身上。他說部門收到求職申請時應加快篩選,甚至增加面試人手。究竟行政主任一向以來在這方面做了什麼?他們是否一向很懶惰,篩選申請和面試做得很慢呢?我想這些說法有點不公平。熱門的職位隨時會收到成千上萬的申請,小心閱讀一次都已需時不少,而普通一些職位面試期都只是數天;大規模的招聘如二級行政主任就有幾個遴選委員會同時工作。我曾詢問在私營公司工作的朋友為何他們招聘用的時間這麼短。答案是他們不一定要考慮大量申請。招聘十多人看看數百份求職信已足夠;很多遲來的求職信根本不用看。政府請公務員不會採用這個做法,兩星期廣告期不能少,而每一份申請都要仔細研究。不過不要以為政府招聘人員時永遠都很公平,當招聘非公務員合約員工而不受公務員敘用委員會和公務員事務局約束時,行政主任可以非常有彈性和有靈活思考能力。

為了解公務員職位是否仍具吸引力,公務員敘用委員會與公務員事務局會進行公務員工作吸引力研究,以行政主任等職系為對象。我有點不明白為何行政主任職系會被研究;是否行政主任有招聘困難呢?似乎這兩年申請報考二級行政主任的人非常多,而大學剛畢業的學生亦視行政主任為非常吸引的職位,二萬多元的入職薪酬亦是極高水平。吳榮奎認為晉升機會不足會使某職系不具吸引力,但他又說公務員職位穩定性高是優點。不論這兩點誰比較重要,他卻說晉升機會不足可以多做培訓來補救。但究竟培訓如何補救晉升機會不足呢?是否有很多人因缺乏培訓而未能勝任較高職位,而引致較高職位有空缺都沒有適合的人晉升。又或者有培訓機會就可以填補員工對晉升的期望。我覺得這兩個理由都不成立。今年四月各職級編制對其高一級的比例是:高級行政主任 3.3 : 1, 一級行政主任 1.4 : 1, 二級行政主任 0.5 : 1,可以說是十分理想;至於其中經驗青黃不接的情況就需要時間消化。

大家覺得行政主任的人力招聘工作前景如何呢?

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[蘋果5月26日]
**政府聘人程序減四星期**
就業市場人才競爭激烈,連帶剛恢復招聘的港府亦面臨挑戰。公務員敘用委員會主席吳榮奎認為,加快招聘程序有助吸納人才,當局去年底已將招聘過程縮短一個月,委員會並已建議各部門日後請人時加快步伐,料招聘程序未來一年可進一步加快,追貼私人市場。委員會今年內將完成公務員工作吸引力研究,調查結果有助部門制訂吸納及挽留人才的方案。

*加快篩選增面試人手*
吳榮奎接受訪問時形容公務員招聘程序「幾繁複」,一般需要4至6個月時間,私人市場則只需3至4個月。委員會去年底已實施一連串簡化招聘程序措施,令招聘程序縮短至少4個星期,但若要進一步加快招聘步伐,責任便在部門身上,委員會已建議部門收到求職申請時加快篩選,甚至增加面試人手,料這些措施今年內落實。他說,為了解公務員職位是否仍具吸引力,委員會與公務員事務局會進行公務員工作吸引力研究,研究以政務主任、行政主任等八個職系為對象,調查結果將有助政府為公務員招聘工作訂立方向,「假設調查發現某職系晉升機會不足,部門可以諗其他補救,例如做多培訓。」他承認,公務員晉升機會可能較私人市場少,但優點是穩定性高。

吳榮奎又關注公務員署任安排。最新一期公務員用委員會年報指,一名人員署理高一級職位長達七年之後,突然遭建議終止署任。他說,若公務員經過兩至三年署任後仍未獲升職,部門有責任作出解釋。吳榮奎曾表示,若引入毫無政府運作經驗的副局長及政治助理,可能會加重公務員工作量。政府日前正式公佈副局長及政治助理名單,吳認為公務員與問責官員需一段時間磨合,委員會日後會研究問責制發展對公務員的影響。
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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Mendelssohn and earthquake victims 孟德爾遜和地震死難者

孟德爾遜和地震死難者其實是沒有關係的。昨晚 (5月23日) 聽香港管弦樂團音樂會,是一心想聽孟德爾遜的小提琴協奏曲 Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor。當音樂會開始時,由原籍四川的小提琴手程立宣佈,當晚的音樂獻給四川地震死難者,然後在正式曲目前,先奏一首慢板弦樂。一曲既罷,全場靜默,沒有掌聲,大家都默哀了一會。

不知是否巧合,或是早有預兆,這晚的曲目包括莫扎特的共濟會葬禮音樂 Mozart's Masonic Funeral Music,正值這個星期的全國哀悼期;而音樂會的節目是一年前已經安排好。莫扎特原來亦是共濟會會員 Freemason,為共濟會典禮寫過合唱曲,再將之改編為在兩位高級會員葬禮上使用的管弦樂曲。雖然這曲氣氛憂鬱深沉,但不失莫札特的風格,旋律優美,有恭送升天的感覺而不太悲哀。

音樂會主菜是由祖絲科域茲 Leila Josefowicz 演奏孟德爾遜的小提琴協奏曲。這首愉快的樂曲和今晚的氣氛有點不太配合,但有誰能預料到。我覺得她有點熱身不足,之前的哀悼氣氛不知對她是否有影響,第一樂章有點不足,未能全情投入音樂中。第二樂章有改善,可能困難的樂句使她更集中精神。第三個樂章就拉得非常好,快速的運弓使樂章充滿活力。她用的一把 Guarneri 古董小提琴,約有三百年歷史,音量雖然不是太雄亮,但音色很美麗。

當晚的曲目還有海頓的第43交響曲 Haydn's Symphony No.43 Mercury,和莫扎特的第38交響曲 Mozart's Symphony No.38 Prague,是一場收獲豐富的音樂會。

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Gaia

I wrote on James Lovelock's Gaia Theory in 2005. It is a very interesting theory which states that the whole earth is an organism, Gaia, which could regulate itself. Now, when interviewed by CNN in April 2008, he said that we had done sufficient damage to upset the balance of the present world. Although Gaia could live on, she would be due for another drastic change, one that human might be excluded from the equation. The climate crisis would put the human race to the test, that the world population could shrink to 500 million and would congregate only in small areas which were still inhabitable. I append below an extract of the article, or you may wish to read the full CNN report.

His view strengthens the point made by the 100 scientists in their joint letter to the Secretary-General of UN and copied to many heads of states regarding the mistake made by IPCC. The point is that we cannot fight climate change, but need to adapt to it. The adaptation needs world effort as quickly as possible, and we may be losing time on the wrong path.

If the prediction of James Lovelock is correct, then the human race may be facing the threat of extinction in this century, if not in the next few hundred years. What we should do now is to prepare the best chance of sustainability for those survived. We are facing the danger of losing arable land, potable water and clean air. It all comes down to a sustainable clean energy which could help build habitable havens with synthetic food, water and air. It is sci-fi material and we need a lot of creativity, innovation and will power.

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Gaia straits: Planetary doctor says condition terminal
By Paul Willis For CNN 18 April 2008
(Extract)

James Lovelock is philosophical about the climate crisis. The 88-year-old scientist and originator of Gaia theory, has reached a bleak prognosis: the world as we know it is ceasing to exist. The impact of humanity has set in train processes that, according to Lovelock, are irreversible. Pollution, overpopulation and carbon emissions have already pushed the earth's delicate regulatory systems beyond the point of no return, he says, and steps to address the climate crisis can do no more than slow down the inevitable. "What we did was to pull the trigger in all of those things and set in course a motion, a change in the Earth, which is to all intents and purposes unstoppable," he tells CNN.

The legacy for future generations is a world where droughts and extreme weather are commonplace, large portions of the planet are turned to uninhabitable desert and billions of people destined to die off. He has predicted that by 2040 the Sahara will be encroaching on Europe, and by 2100 there will be only 500 million of us surviving close to the poles. It is a grim account of what's in store, and at odds with a large portion of scientific opinion that contends that if we take action now to cut carbon emissions, we can at least mitigate some of the worst effects of climate change.

The British scientist's seemingly fanciful assessments of our world have proved right in the past. In the 1960s he came up with a revolutionary understanding of how the world works. All living things, he theorized, have a regulatory effect on the Earth's environment, working together as one complete "superorganism" to sustain life. In other words, life itself creates the conditions for life. He named this holistic view of the planet: Gaia, after the Greek goddess of the Earth. At first embraced by the New Age and environmental movement, the essential truth of the Gaia hypothesis - that the Earth regulates itself - has since been adopted by the scientific mainstream.

According to Lovelock, the top down view of the planet as a whole system is why his predictions on climate change are more extreme, but also more accurate than those of leading scientific bodies like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which he claims is limited in its assessment because it is made up of specialists whose focus is too narrow. "The IPCC is made up largely of atmospheric physicists who are good at predicting the weather, but I'm not so sure that they are very good at predicting the future of the Earth. Likewise, the biologists who should be working with them are working separately and have produced the Millennium Ecosystem Assessments Commission's report and that's quite different from the IPCC and it's mostly concerned with biodiversity and things like that."

Oddly however, he insists that he is himself an optimist by nature. He's philosophical about the extinction of the human race, viewing it as just another stage in the Earth's life cycle. "Humans always think of these things in grand and big terms, rather than as part of the natural course of events. There are all sorts of organisms that have evolved on the earth in its long, long four billion years of history. For example, organisms like the photo-synthesizers appeared and, ultimately turned the atmosphere into one with lots of oxygen in it ... all sorts of dreadful things must have happened when that change took place. "What we're doing is small beer compared with what has happened in the past, and that's why the earth is so robust and strong and will cope with it."

As an environmentalist, he is also surprisingly upbeat about humanity in spite of the apparent mess we've made of the planet. Without realizing it, he says, humans set into motion a train of events we didn't realize we were in no position to control. "We're a wonderfully valuable species to our planet," he says. "You see the great system has existed all those years and for the first time ever it's had people talking about it, and we're part of it. So it's beginning to understand its position in the universe." Humans may face an uncertain future but Gaia, it seems, will live on.
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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Aliens are my brother

Pursuant to NOMA which is the effort of a scientist to defuse the debate between science and religion by playing ostrich, there is also effort by the Vatican to unite science and religion. I just read the article below in BBC published on 13 May. Vatican says aliens could exist. While I always thought aliens could exist because the almighty god cannot be bound by anything and that he would or would not create aliens, the notion which came from the Vatican has different meanings. Although it may be a gesture to dilute the confrontation with science in the face of religious myths being broken by science discoveries, the gesture has fundamental contradiction to the religious doctrines.

Are human (besides the Jews) the chosen people? What is the status of the aliens who may or may not be more intelligent than us, then what about other creatures?

Are aliens gods? If they are more advanced than us, then they may be able to perform miracles, govern us by supernatural power, reward and punish, and provide justice, perhaps even raise the dead.

If they have no original sin, then they may still be living in Eden. There is then no sacrifice of Jesus for them, and no basis of Christianity. Will they go to heaven after death?

Seems the Vatican is also prepared to celebrate Charles Darwin whose evolution theory is not accepted by those who believe in intelligent design and the creation.

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Vatican says aliens could exist
By David Willey
BBC News, Rome, 13 May 2008

The Pope's chief astronomer says that life on Mars cannot be ruled out. Writing in the Vatican newspaper, the astronomer, Father Gabriel Funes, said intelligent beings created by God could exist in outer space. Father Funes, director of the Vatican Observatory near Rome, is a respected scientist who collaborates with universities around the world. The search for forms of extraterrestrial life, he says, does not contradict belief in God. The official Vatican newspaper headlines his article 'Aliens Are My Brother'.

'Free from sin' Just as there are multiple forms of life on earth, so there could exist intelligent beings in outer space created by God. And some aliens could even be free from original sin, he speculates. Asked about the Catholic Church's condemnation four centuries ago of the Italian astronomer and physicist, Galileo, Father Funes diplomatically says mistakes were made, but it is time to turn the page and look towards the future. Science and religion need each other, and many astronomers believe in God, he assures readers. To strengthen its scientific credentials, the Vatican is organising a conference next year to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of the author of the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin.
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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Climate Business

Harvard Business Review invited me to participate in a survey on green business, thinking I was still a senior manager of the government. In return, I was given a free copy of her Forethought Special Report: Climate Business. It is an useful report comprising twelve articles by renowned academics, covering various topics on the impact of climate change to the business environment. The articles are not very long, and are meant for fast reading. The entire report is only 16 pages long. Targeting the business community, the articles are not about the craze of environmental protection, nor the myth that it is the humankind who is destroying the planet earth.

One of the articles is co-authored by Michael Porter and Forest Reinhardt on a strategic approach to climate. Knowing Michael Porter, you would expect that he writes again on the competitive environment. The main theme of his article is the business strategies required to deal with the present competitive environment affected by climate change. On the outset, Porter states that company policy on climate change is no longer a corporate social responsibility issue; it is a business problem and should be looked at from the strategist angle rather than the philanthropist angle. Climate change creates both threats and opportunities for a business, and is a major element affecting the forces of competition. The obvious candidate is the cost of carbon emission which affects operation costs and supplier bargaining power in the form of government regulation. Besides, every firm needs to evaluate its vulnerability to climate-related effects such as regional shifts in the availability of energy and water, the reliability of infrastructures and supply chains, and the prevalence of infectious diseases. On the other hand, there are also opportunities to enhance or extend their competitive positioning by creating products, such as hybrid cars, that exploit climate-induced demand, by restructuring their industries to address climate issues, or by innovating in activities affected by climate change to produce a genuine competitive advantage. There have been many major forces in the past which dramatically reshaped the business world, such as globalization and the IT revolution. Porter considers that climate change, in its complexity and potential impact, may rival them both.

There is an article forecasting how will a warmer world look in this century. This is a pragmatic approach. The present rivalries between countries on restricting carbon emission are just political shows. Even if the targets set by the international community are met, which is unlikely, they still cannot reduce carbon emission to the level of reducing global warming. The urgent tasks at hand are actually actions required to mitigate the effect of a warmer world. The forecast presents various possible scenarios which the business sector should take into account in devising strategies.

Another target area is risk management and how to invest in global security. An article advises companies to anticipate the ways that climate change may directly affect their businesses, including supply chain breakdowns, employee migrations, and increases in diseases. In addition, they need to evaluate their risks more broadly, identifying whether the environments they operate in are susceptible to catastrophic, cascading climate-related disruption such as floods, droughts and storms. The most vulnerable will be places where the state has limited capacity to respond, the local ecosystem is fragile, urbanization is accelerating with few social services, and water supply is stretched. Companies can help these places plan for climate change and reduce their own risks by making proactive investment in tougher local air and water quality standards, and prepare themselves to help with urgent relief efforts.

In going green, one article raises a warning of backfiring on the purchase of REC (Renewable Energy Certificate). In the past two years, some companies declared going green by purchasing such certificates. Such products have been popularly marketed as carbon offset, and also promoted to the consumer market of the individuals. Some energy plants producing renewable energy in the form of wind farming and solar panels, and some forestry companies owning plantations which absorb carbon dioxide are selling certificates of such clean initiatives to fire-power companies and others. By doing so, the buyers claim that the cost they paid offset the pollution they created. Such claims are now being questioned as such certificates are considered to be merely pieces of paper documenting the generation of clean power by others. They don't cause clean electricity to be made and they are an after-thought printed up to bring in additional revenue. As such, most don't actually offset the buyer's carbon emission or reduce the amount of carbon put into the air.

If you are interested in the report, you can ask me for a copy.