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Embracing new technologies to reshape lives of foreign workers

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"The team at S11 subscribes to the belief that a well-rested and happy worker will be more productive at work and will therefore contribute to alert and improved safety at worksites." Mr Lee (above)

THINK about foreign worker dormitories, and depressing scenarios of cramped, dirty spaces probably come to mind.

But local accommodations solutions provider S11 Capital Investments seeks to turn this around, taking a holistic approach in designing solutions to improve the quality of life of its residents.

And we are not just talking about run-of-the-mill, purely functional buildings here. Lawrence Lee, business development director of S11 Capital Investments, says that the company is embracing new technologies to reshape the way workers live.

He explains: "Innovative solutions are developed and integrated within the design, planning and construction of its accommodation solutions to achieve the epitome of work-life balance."

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This approach seems to be working for S11 - it once again features in the Enterprise 50's prestigious list of award winners in 2016.

The company has built and is currently operating two workers dormitories under the Building Construction Authority, namely Changi Lodge 2 which opened in 2011, and PPT Lodge 1B which opened in 2015.

FOCUS ON QUALITY

Singapore's slowing economy has been felt acutely by local enterprises, including the construction sector which S11 is in.

Says Mr Lee: "The less-predictable economic cycles, rising costs of doing business and changing socio-political landscape in Singapore present a lot of challenges for our industry."

To survive and compete in a rapidly evolving landscape, he notes that the company is constantly innovating and tweaking its business model. He points out that there has been increased demand in quality workers' dormitories that provide a suite of amenities and services within easy access for residents, as well as more clients increasingly placing greater emphasis on their workers' welfare and safety.

Mr Lee says the company is constantly in contact with stakeholders to gather information and feedback to maintain and improve operations.

For example, S11 works with the human resource departments of their client companies to know their manpower schedules and plans in order to provide them with the timely accommodation when it is required.

Solutions also come in the form of flexible tenancies for S11's long-term clients during their manpower ramp-up or "down cycle" stages at their work sites.

Even the premises were designed to cater to peak-period stress on all infrastructure, from access controls to traffic flow.

No detail is too small. For example, sheltered bus bays were designed for efficient traffic flow during peak periods, so that workers can go to work comfortably on rainy days - just one example of the various ways in which S11 seeks to ensure that all parties' needs are met. Mr Lee adds: "The team at S11 subscribes to the belief that a well-rested and happy worker will be more productive at work and will therefore contribute to alert and improved safety at worksites."

CONSTANT IMPROVEMENTS

Encouraged by the progress of Changi Lodge 2 and after the company successfully realised its investment, S11 embarked on their second dormitory, PPT Lodge 1B, last year.

During the course of construction, the company made inputs and changes to the architectural design to better provide for the residents by creating a more conducive living space and providing more facilities and amenities.

Together with 24/7 security operations, the company also tapped on technology to implement a biometric system for access control to ensure safety. This includes taking efforts to outfit the gym, as well as to build and adequately equip the games room, TV rooms and outdoor areas, as well as introducing a dormitory-wide Wi-Fi service.

Amenities such as a medical centre, laundry services and cooking facilities all ensure that residents have their needs covered.

S11 also worked with Golden Village for a commercial cinema housed in the facility, as well as Moneygram for its remittance services to be provided within the dormitory.

Other strategic anchor tenants include a supermarket, a food court and a barber shop.

Says Mr Lee: "This is an important benefit as these on-premise amenities reduce time spent commuting to various places to buy these services, especially on the weekends where queues can be very long and time-consuming."

Aside from amenities, S11 also organises regular events and activities for residents to relax and have fun, such as sport friendlies and tournaments such as badminton, football and cricket.

But more than that, Mr Lee says that the company takes pains to assimilate residents with their surroundings. One way the company does that is through engaging the neighbouring Citizen Consultative Committee to help manage the relationship and understanding between the neighbourhood and the foreign worker residents.

TRAINING STAFF

To ensure dormitories are run effectively and clients are kept happy, S11 invests in its staff through training and technology to improve productivity. This entails nurturing its team of employees so that they are ready to move forward and embark on new projects when the need arises by ensuring that skill sets and experiences are kept up to date, relevant and applicable.

When it comes to appraisals for the team, the company ranks work contribution as a top priority rather than seniority. Explains Mr Lee: "The system allows for newer staff to be appraised on a more level playing field when compared to staff who have been with the company for a longer period of time."

He notes that this has allowed for better productivity and a more innovative attitude among the teams.

The company also strongly encourages the culture of internal promotion, rather than simply hiring from the market. It believes that this gives the staff the encouragement to motivate themselves to perform better.

Says Mr Lee: "We subscribe to the belief that decisions are best made with the team's support. Leaders are only as effective as the summation of their team - we'd rather be moving with our people's support than without."

He points out that while the accommodation business is experiencing changes in demand and standards, it is through constant improvements through feedback and innovation that the company is able to be a forerunner in this industry. He concludes: "By doing so, we constantly stay ahead of our competitors. By having a dynamic team, we take advantage of the changing market to position ourselves better."

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