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Gemma Gil ColorWash column on mature workers

The dark horses of the workforce



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Profiling your mature workers and customising job roles to their strengths will work in your favour, as Gemma Gil, managing director and head of HR for ColorWash, soon discovered.

With ColorWash having expanded quickly over the past 12 years, both in Singapore and across the region, the hiring and retention of staff has remained a key focus for us.

In Singapore, the hiring and retention of retail staff are most challenging. Most shun the service line and we run the risk of the good ones being quickly poached, sometimes within three months of starting work.

This puts a heavy burden on HR to constantly recruit, train and review staff rewards programmes.

Over time, I discovered that while we did not engineer it as such, staff who had served over two years and received the most customer compliments tended to be older, typically aged 50 and above.

We put in place some HR initiatives to see if we could further nurture these staff.

Profiling the mature worker

During recruitment, ColorWash’s referral programme encourages older workers to recommend their friends so they can enjoy working among friends.

A clear training framework for each staff member ensures that all of them, regardless of age and experience, can acquire key skills for their roles smoothly.

During recruitment, ColorWash’s referral programme encourages older workers to recommend their friends so they can enjoy working among friends.

We reduced the complexity of the job scope, by asking staff to focus on developing specialised skills over general skills so they can work on doing one or two key areas very well (e.g. cleaning of wallets), which builds their confidence and makes their work more enjoyable.

Training materials are customised to ensure simple language, using more graphics and videos, as well as real-life retail examples to improve ease of understanding.

Another thing we observed is that elderly staff may feel uncomfortable in giving direct feedback to management. As such, they are assigned a mentor in ColorWash’s buddy system to ensure they have someone to ease them into the culture, as well as take in feedback throughout their time in the firm.

We listen to their needs and remain flexible to work arrangements. For example, some older staffers do not wish to work full-time, wanting to spend more time with grandchildren or on their hobbies.

To accommodate this, ColorWash adjusts weekly rosters and also offers flexible part-time employment terms.

About a year after we started these initiatives, the staff turnover of ColorWash reduced by 50%, while the number of customer compliments has increased by 30%.

I also soon discovered that older staff can prove more meticulous when performing near-work such as the cleaning of bags and shoes. They also tend to be patient and genuinely friendly towards customers.

The proof of the pudding

About a year after we started these initiatives, the staff turnover of ColorWash reduced by 50%, while the number of customer compliments has increased by 30%.

We believe older staff members add value to our business, and as we continue to expand, ColorWash will continue to explore innovative HR programmes and training methods for them to ensure customers enjoy consistently high levels of service and quality of work.



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Find out at the region's largest conference for HR and L&D practitioners, Learning & Development Asia, happening in September.
Register for early-bird savings now.

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