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Good HR practices, training programmes crucial to support SMEs' growth

With manpower constraints, it's vital to maximise the potential of staff.

The Lo & Behold Group's Mr Ing interacting with staff. The aim is to help senior management better understand work at the ground level, to help them make better decisions.

Wong Fong set up a training subsidiary, Wong Fong Academy, in 2011, which looks specifically into the training needs of both its employees and the Singapore workforce.

STAFF at The White Rabbit, a European-themed restaurant housed in a former chapel in Dempsey; Odette, a fine dining restaurant at National Gallery Singapore; Tanjong Beach Club, a coastal restaurant and bar concept at Sentosa; and OverEasy, an all-American diner, are not surprised when they see Andrew Ing, chief operating officer of The Lo & Behold Group, work alongside them.

This was instituted as part of "Walk The Talk" day, an initiative that was introduced to achieve better integration among employees in the headquarters and restaurant. The idea is to help senior management gain a better understanding of the daily work at the ground level, which would in turn, help them make better decisions when it comes to staff matters.

Says Mr Ing: "A lot of people just think of HR as a payroll function. We believe that happy people make happy guests. That's why nurturing our people, both personally and professionally, has always been our top priority. After all, it is a battle for talent."

In the battle for talent, Mr Ing's winning strategy is for The Lo & Behold Group to adopt a systematic approach to fostering talent. The company worked with SPRING Singapore to introduce the HR Diagnostic Tool, which provided the framework for he and his team to identify gaps and redesign human resource practices for a more employee-centric culture.

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In addition, a robust feedback and ideas contribution system was implemented across the group. By tapping the potential of its staff, attrition rate is now significantly lower than the industry average, signalling a more engaged workforce.

Indeed, talent attraction and retention are perennial problems that are not unique to the food services industry. More enlightened small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) such as The Lo & Behold Group are needed, especially since they employ some 70 per cent of the workforce in Singapore, making them critical contributors to economic progress and development, as well as providers of jobs for our Singaporean core. To create and maintain an SME landscape that supports sustainable growth, it is imperative that companies focus on continual innovation, capability upgrading and investment in human capital development within the organisation.

There is also a need for people with the right skillsets to support the companies' processes. Wong Fong Industries Ltd is one such company that has invested in developing people with the right skillsets.

To facilitate its expansion, transport engineering company, Wong Fong has invested in training its workforce under the Generic Manufacturing Skills Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) framework, to build know-how in using basic hand tools and equipment as well as operate machinery such as forklifts and lorry cranes in their course of work.

In addition, the company also set up a training subsidiary, Wong Fong Academy, in 2011, an approved training organisation, which looks specifically into the training needs of both its employees and the Singapore workforce. The academy is also considering alternative options to deliver training courses in a more engaging manner. These include the use of technologies such as interactive projectors and augmented reality (AR) to improve training effectiveness. Wong Fong is concurrently exploring Skillsfuture initiatives to upgrade and upskill its existing and new staff as well.

Business owners need to recognise the value of maximising the potential of their staff. This can be achieved not only through general training and skills upgrading, but also having management provide personalised employee mentoring as part of staff engagement and support. This helps in understanding and addressing an individual staffer's needs in learning and development, career progression and growth.

The current manpower constraints have also necessitated the emphasis on developing the skills of the talent pool in order to achieve greater value creation among businesses. Such approaches for human capital align well with the ongoing industry transformation efforts as part of preparations to support Singapore's future economy.

As enterprises head into another year of economic uncertainty, leaders of our local SMEs should incorporate a sound human capital development plan in their overall strategy, in order to lay a path towards success. Efforts such as putting in place good HR practices, talent management, as well as training and skills upgrading will be pivotal for business sustainability and growth.

To quote Richard Branson of the Virgin Group: "If you look after your staff, they will look after your customers."

SMEs that are interested in strengthening their human capital capabilities can obtain more information from SPRING Singapore, Workforce Singapore and Skillsfuture Singapore.

  • The article is contributed by SPRING Singapore.