Firms' innovation, staff welfare pay off

Picking up prizes for their winning organisations at Spring Singapore's Business Excellence Awards yesterday were (from left) Commissioner Clarence Yeo (Immigration and Checkpoints Authority of Singapore), Deputy Commissioner Jackson Lim (Singapore C
Picking up prizes for their winning organisations at Spring Singapore's Business Excellence Awards yesterday were (from left) Commissioner Clarence Yeo (Immigration and Checkpoints Authority of Singapore), Deputy Commissioner Jackson Lim (Singapore Civil Defence Force), Sheng Siong Group CEO Lim Hock Chee and Jumbo Group CEO Ang Kiam Meng.PHOTO: SPRING SINGAPORE

Sheng Siong and Jumbo groups lauded at annual awards for excellence in business

Paying attention to innovation and taking care of their staff have helped two home-grown companies do well - and clinch prizes at Spring Singapore's annual Business Excellence Awards yesterday.

Sheng Siong Group won the Innovation Excellence Award, while Jumbo Group clinched the People Excellence Award.

"Being innovative is part of our DNA," said Sheng Siong chief executive Lim Hock Chee.

"I'm not very highly educated, so I want all my processes to be simple and easy to carry out. In fact, I'm constantly thinking of how to simplify things, and I've got plenty of ideas," said the supermarket chain boss in Mandarin.

Spring Singapore lauded Sheng Siong's efforts in improving productivity through various innovative processes, such as freezing seafood, packing vegetables and streamlining payment at the shopfronts with its hybrid self-checkout system.

Being a strong believer in harnessing technology to cut costs, Mr Lim is now working on devising a vending machine-like system to automate the back-end logistics of putting together orders for its e-commerce business.

"With e-commerce, I don't have to pay for retail rentals and cashiers, but I need to add manpower for carton-picking, so I want to cut down on this part," he said.

Another well-known local brand, Jumbo Group, was honoured for its good human resource practices.

Service staff form the core of the seafood chain's 800-strong workforce, and chief executive Ang Kiam Meng is mindful that when he takes good care of his staff, they will, in turn, help him take care of his customers.

After discovering how some of its foreign employees were living in poor conditions, Jumbo created a hostel programme to provide better housing.

Paying $250 a month each, the workers live three to a room, and have air-conditioning, Wi-Fi and a common area with TV.

"Only when they rest well and live well, then they can smile," said Mr Ang.

Other than putting a big emphasis on training, where workers average 120 hours of training, three times the national average, Mr Ang also works at retaining staff.

This includes casual workers who are called up only during peak seasons such as Chinese New Year, Mother's Day and Father's Day.

"We used to attract many random people, who may not even know how to carry trays," said Mr Ang.

By offering cash bonuses up to more than $1,000 on a half-yearly basis, training and social gatherings, Jumbo has managed to grow a fixed pool of committed casual workers for the past two to three years.

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority of Singapore and the Singapore Civil Defence Force were also honoured last night with the Singapore Quality Award with Special Commendation.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2015, with the headline 'Firms' innovation, staff welfare pay off'. Print Edition | Subscribe