Young account person and manager’s choice
In the discussions regarding client management, many articles have focused on the interaction with clients; nevertheless, people who work in SME (small and medium enterprises), where do not have the same level of resource or specific departments as the International firms have, might have to be in charge both of their client and their own team in the same time, and which may generate a more complicate management issue for them. This article will take a look into a small company where the managers are trying to extend their business while encountering problem from young employees to handle their own account.
Peter Chung is the general manager of a small firm with around 40 employees, Trung Loi Ltd., and which provides technological security solution to companies and digital camera to retailers. He has experience in client management for more than 10 years. However, Chung has personally experienced the story which his young employees being as troublemakers instead of supports during interaction with clients. “Young people are energetic and creative in their personal life”, Chung said. “But they are just not ready yet, in many sense, to be part of our real world (business environment).” He pointed out that his company currently encounters a situation which they are trying to expend their business by training more personnel to meet more clients, but sometime people who they have hired were lack of ability to be reliable support in the team or to handle client management independently. Chung has listed down several critical reasons of this young employment issue in the following paragraph.
Issues of young employees in client management
First of all, he said the training is not efficient enough for young employees to meet their task. Although generally no one will expect a newcomer to be productive in a new environment within couple months, Chung have found that some of them had very limited improvement after months of training. He believes the reason is the young employee were not motivated nor had resources to conduct independent study after work. Moreover, some of them consider independent study as working overtime.
Second, there is a phenomenon which people are generally tend to learn some common skill during free time, such as English and sports. Indeed, these might be critical skills for personal achievement or fitting the globalized society; however, they are not always necessary nor practical to the performance in work, because different clients and different positions would require various specific knowledge or skill. Chung said priority of study should be seriously evaluated for individual’s career.
Third, some young employees have been asking the same unnecessary questions for many times after their supervisors had given them the answers repeatedly in the past. As the consequences, the supervisors were annoyed to answer any similar questions, and the young employees would feel being rejected by their supervisors, and therefore they were afraid to ask for further advice even if there were critical questions needed to be solved.
Forth, many young employees were lack of insight to know their client’s organizational structure and lack of critical judgement during communicating with clients. Chung said the insight of client’s organizational structure provide a logical pattern to organize work tasks with client, such as planning schedule and indicating successful methods to find out and meet their requirement. According Solomon (2008), that critical judgement is more important than the experience of working regular procedure to an account person, and “the deeper challenge is to do and say exactly the right thing in exactly the right way to exactly the right person at exactly the right time.” However, Chung said not many people catch this idea in client management, and many would just follow the orders from their supervisor literally by words and do not know how to react when some details are changed in the meeting with clients.
Due to these issues above, Chung had to spend additional time to conduct the performance of employees and assign task with extreme details in order to avoid any mistakes, which according to him, would likely to be happened if he let these young employee handle the account by themselves. Moreover, as his time was wasted on taking care of details for employees in each case, his productivity in managing the whole company was slowed down by a tight schedule every week. Nevertheless, though Chung has stated many personal opinion about the current issues of young employees in client management matter, he still believe most of them have potential to improve if they can be guided to a correct direction of attitude in work. As Borton & Ryder (2000) states “Vietnamese are quick to adapt, yet take a considered approach to fundamental change,” Chung also admires young employees’ capability to absorb new knowledge, and all they need now is a leader to direct them what is critical for their career with a vision of their future. However, the question is how can a manager become a leader?
Leadership in the reality of SME
According to Kotter (2008), a leader’s role is to set a “direction” instead of “planning and budgeting” within a organization, and the “direction” by his mean is the general “vision and strategies” to inspire people and gather them as a stable team for the long-term development. Nevertheless, Chung said although the idea of leadership sounds impressive, the reality is, as a manager of a small firm, he has to be practical in organizing the business, and it is hard to be inspiring while toughly asking his employees to do the right thing because there is not enough human resource and to spending money to hire a “leader” does not sound very productive nor necessary. Hence, instead of changing his attitude towards his employees, he believes that leadership can be built by the time he spend with his employees and showing them how and why he has been so dedicated to the company. Such plan have made me believe that the company will eventually reach its young employees’ loyalty within years as they will see the vision in the eyes of their current manager and future leader.
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Borton, L&Ryder, P 2000, ‘Working in a Vietnamese Voice’, in The Academy of Management Executive, Academy of Management, vol. 14, no. 4, pp.20-31.
Kotter, J.P. 2001, What Leaders Really Do, Harvard Business Review, Boston, pp. 85-96.
Solomon, R 2008, The Art of Client Service, Kaplan Publishing, New York, p. 89.