Samsung ending rigid work culture

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Samsung ending rigid work culture

Samsung Electronics, the largest tech company in Korea, took a major step in restructuring its hierarchical corporate structure to a more horizontal and liberal one, concluding that the current top-down way of communication hinders the company’s efficiency and creativity.

The recent overhaul at Samsung Electronics is seen as a plan laid out by Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, who has been aggressively restructuring the group’s affiliates to raise their global competitiveness in recent years.

The IT behemoth announced Monday its change in the company’s personnel system, which included downsizing the current seven-title system, which largely depends on age and length of service years, into a system based on four titles that will rely more on the employee’s career expertise.

The new system will go into effect in March.

The new four-title system will be based on a “career level,” which evaluates the employee’s job competencies instead of just relying on their length of service.

And instead of job titles that allude to the employee’s work experience such as manager or deputy manager, the newly implemented system will be simplified to rebranded names ranging from CL1 to CL4.

Depending on how well they handle the given workload, employees will be assigned with a new level from one to four, with four meaning more professional.

How the new titles will be distributed to employees has not yet been decided, but a Samsung Electronics spokesperson said current statuses won’t necessarily translate to new ones.

In a move that abandons a practice in Korean companies of showing respect to elders and more experienced workers, employees will start calling each other “nim,” which is the Korean equivalent of “sir” in English to emphasize the horizontal relationship the employees have.

“Nim” can be substituted for “pro,” a title used at Samsung affiliate Cheil Industries, or an English name.

The new system will not apply to those at the director level.

Meanwhile, Samsung Electronics will further promote a more liberal and efficient working environment.

The company plans to urge team leaders to hold meetings only with necessary members and to end meetings within one hour.

The company said it will also adjust its culture, which requires employees to stay at work if their supervisor are still in the office. The hours of new employees were cited as one of the customs that needed to be examined for a healthier corporate culture.

The dress code was also adjusted. Starting in the latter half of this year, employees will be able to wear shorts to work, which has not been allowed until now.

Horizontal networks are frequently used by younger companies and start-ups to promote creativity and an environment that encourages competitive ideas. Kakao, known as one of the most successful IT start-ups in Korea, also uses English names with no hierarchical titles among colleagues.


BY JIN EUN-SOO [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]

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