Seek 'healthy' ambition gap between biz goals, performance

Singapore firms still confident about business environment but should seek balance between setting ambitious goals and working to achieve them, says analyst.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Business sentiments in city-state remain positive where SMBs show the most optimism, according to a new study, which reveals that their bigger expectations mean a wider "ambition gap" between business goals and actual performance.

An industry analyst urged the need for a balanced gap where a company with high expectations should work toward achieving them to maintain high satisfaction.

This was expressed by Venu Reddy, Asia-Pacific vice president of AMI-Partners, who presented key findings from Canon's second annual Ambition Gap Survey during a media briefing here Wednesday. Commissioned by Canon, the study was conducted by the research firm in September and October this year with approximately 200 companies in Singapore, ranging between 50 and 999 employees.

Despite economic disquiet in Europe and the United States, overall business sentiments among Singapore companies remained positive with 44 percent of respondents here indicating their business sentiments were positive, while 43 percent were neutral, Reddy said.

Furthermore, 39 percent said business conditions would improve within the next three to six months, compared to 27 percent who said conditions would stay the same.

SMBs, defined as companies with fewer than 200 employees, were found to be most optimistic because they were more reliant on the local and regional economies for growth, Reddy told ZDNet Asia on the event sidelines. They had the "luxury of being ambitious", he said, but noted that the higher expectations also meant "more [work] to do". This resulted in lower business performance satisfaction and, therefore, a wider ambition gap--ranging from 26 percent to 27 percent, he said.

Larger organizations, due to their greater exposure to the global economy, shared a more conservative outlook. Hence, these companies--with between 200 and 999 employees--registered the highest level of satisfaction, thanks to the lower expectations, he added. The ambition gap for them was found between 21 percent and 24 percent, Reddy noted.

Elaborating on the need to find a right balance, the AMI-Partners analyst explained: "If the ambition gap gets beyond, say, 30 percent, that's bad. It means there's lots you want to do but can't. And the other extreme is when there is no gap, because there is no ambition. So you'd want a careful balance."

Ideally, a company should be ambitious and continuously push toward achieving performance satisfaction, he said, describing this state as a "healthy gap".

Ambition gaps of employee, company to be aligned
According to the survey, the individual ambition gap, at 29.2 percent, was greater than company ambition gap at 24.5 percent.

Reddy attributed this to staff increasingly being pressured to perform according to the terms of their company, making them feel the organization was "not doing enough [for them]".

Individuals want to add value to the company they work for, but that entails their employer investing in tools and technologies that enable staff to be more productive and in sync with their companies' ambitions, the analyst stressed.

He said one way to narrow the disparity as well as align both individual and corporate ambitions is to improve business processes. "It is what most companies spend most of their resources on and acts as their core differentiator," he explained.

Referring to print technologies, Reddy said providing the right print resources can help staff productivity. For instance, companies that need to print daily have various different types of documents, from internal drafts to glossy, customer-facing collaterals. "If everybody prints on the same printer, you're drive cost down. But, the salesperson who wants to increase the speed of printing quality documents to pass to clients, will feel dissatisfied because he can't perform well on the job that he's supposed to do."

Lim Kok Hin, Canon's South and Southeast Asia vice president of business imaging solutions and business solutions group, held similar sentiments, adding that people must add value to their job tasks if they want a meaningful career.

Lim, who also presented at the event, urged companies to enhance productivity and efficiency "in a manner that focuses on people".

"Employees in Singapore want their personal ambition achieved, not just their companies' ambition. A lot of organizations reach their corporate goals, but not the personal ones [of their employees]." he noted. "This is important because with positivity in both corporate and personal goals, staff are refreshed and ready to [continuously] do their job well."

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