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Going local – it’s not such a foreign concept

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Michelle Yeoh, director of human capital and development at PARKROYAL on Kitchener Road, explains what the hotel has done to reduce its reliance on foreigners.

For many years, businesses in Singapore could fall back on foreign workers and talent to fill the gaps in their human resource needs. Various parties have spoken in support of this as a means to sustain a burgeoning economy, because it was apparent local resources alone would not suffice.

While Singapore owes its success in some parts to this strategy, socio-economic challenges have started to surface in recent years. This has made us wonder whether Singapore businesses had been too quick in bringing in foreign workers, resulting in an over-reliance on the foreign workforce and a neglect of investments in technology and productivity improvements.

It has been noted Singapore lags behind other developed economies in terms of productivity, so clearly there is room for improvement. The government’s efforts to lessen reliance on foreign workers have translated to foreign worker levies and the imposition of minimum wage requirements. Economic principles dictate that a higher cost of employing foreign workers would reduce demand. Raising the qualification bar for the S-Pass and Employment Pass and decreasing the number of approvals on work permits have led to a more stringent recruitment selection process.

In response to the current manpower situation in Singapore, PARKROYAL on Kitchener Road has identified where the biggest challenges and opportunities lie and the ways we can better attract, retain and develop our associates to offer a stronger employer value proposition.

Job flexibility for productivity

Under this initiative, which was introduced by the Ministry of Manpower in January this year, our hotel has started training associates to perform a variety of functions, instead of recruiting more foreign workers.

For example, our restaurants, bars and events associates receive cross-training in front office responsibilities so they can be deployed to help out during peak periods. We believe this will heighten our productivity and contribute positively to the bottom line. At the same time, associates benefit from learning new skills that add value to their career development, and they also receive fair remuneration for their enhanced job abilities.

Special employment credit

Unveiled in the 2011 Budget, this scheme provides support for employers to raise the employability of older low-wage Singaporeans. It was augmented in 2012 with additional support for employers to hire older Singaporean workers, as well as persons with disabilities.

At present, the hotel has under its employment 11 associates above the age of 62 and two with mild disabilities.

Flexi hour scheme

Another measure our hotel has undertaken is the implementation of flexi work hours and flexi work weeks to tap on the latent Singaporean workforce.

Currently, we have 10 housewives and tertiary students working in various shift patterns which accommodate their lifestyles. This particular step has helped reduce the reliance on foreign workers.

Career development plans and job redesign

Besides flexibility schemes to boost local employment, the hotel focuses on two core areas to retain associates, both local and foreigners – to set a clear career development path for every associate and to redesign job responsibilities.

Our human capital and development (HCD) department looks at the job content for each role and alters and reshuffles tasks so associates will be doing the right job while achieving maximum output. The HCD team has also introduced the “organisation human resource planning initiative”, which helps us to look into our talent assessment, organisation capabilities and associate development plan.

As we continue the journey of workforce reform, it is important we acknowledge the various alternatives Singapore businesses can and should explore. Business owners, managers and workers need to be more innovative, adaptive and daring to move forward.

This is not an easy journey, be it financially or operationally, and there is a role for everyone to play in this transformational process. Therefore, we need to embrace the challenges as an opportunity for growth and development.

Human Resources magazine and the HR Bulletin daily email newsletter:
Asia's only regional HR print and digital media brand.
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