Leaders who 'walk the talk' help staff morale

MR SAMUEL Yik, managing director of casual Chinese restaurant Dian Xiao Er, is proud that his staff turnover rate is 10 per cent, despite the labour crunch.

It means that for every 10 employees in a given year, only one will leave and be replaced - far below the industry average of 25 per cent over the past three years.

The 13-year-old chain with 10 outlets has more than 250 full- time employees. Mr Yik, who is in his 40s, said 30 per cent of the staff have been with the company for more than seven years, and two in five are Singaporeans or permanent residents.

He attributed its success in retaining local staff to various strategies. But most importantly, company leaders "walk the talk". Mr Yik himself regularly visits his staff at the various outlets to understand and address any "concerns and grievances".

Employees' remuneration is reviewed on a half-yearly basis to ensure it is pegged to the market rate. There is an "annual increment to tackle inflation". An entry-level waiter typically gets a 23 per cent pay rise over three years.

To help employees improve themselves, Dian Xiao Er engages external service consultants to customise training. It collects feedback via Spring Singapore's Customer Centric Initiative to help in-house trainers and restaurant captains develop training plans.

Also, gatherings such as "crab feast session" and family days are held quarterly at East Coast Park to promote bonding. And all employees get three meals a day.

There is no magic formula in retaining staff, Mr Yik said, adding that it boils down to standing by the company's four corporate core values of respect, excellence, learning and teamwork.

FELICIA LEE