FairPrice HQ staff swop desks for shop shelves

FairPrice chairman Mr Chin (centre) and chief executive Mr Seah (right) manning the mandarin orange booth at a Toa Payoh outlet yesterday. Mr Seah said that attachments at the stores help office staff to understand the challenges faced by front-line
FairPrice chairman Mr Chin (centre) and chief executive Mr Seah (right) manning the mandarin orange booth at a Toa Payoh outlet yesterday. Mr Seah said that attachments at the stores help office staff to understand the challenges faced by front-line colleagues.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Supermarket chain encourages office staff to work in its stores during holiday periods

Two men in polo tees and aprons were at the FairPrice outlet at Toa Payoh's HDB Hub yesterday to help shoppers select mandarin oranges ahead of Chinese New Year.

They were no ordinary supermarket employees but FairPrice chief executive Seah Kian Peng and chairman Bobby Chin.

The duo, who also helped customers bag groceries, were helping with in-store operations as part of an initiative to give the supermarket chain's corporate employees a taste of the front lines.

Under the One FairPrice Family Programme, launched last November, all 800 employees based at FairPrice's headquarters are encouraged to work at least three days a year in one of its more than 140 stores or at its distribution centre in Benoi.

Two of the days must be during festive peak periods, such as the lead-up to Christmas and Chinese New Year, when demand for manpower is higher. Duties include restocking, attending to customers and retrieving trolleys.

Mr Seah said that attachments at the stores help office staff to understand the challenges faced by front-line colleagues, as well as customers' expectations.

"I think the experience will factor into the work and policy decisions made at the headquarters," he said.

Nearly half of FairPrice's corporate staff have taken part in the programme to date, including Mr Alfred Ho, a senior executive who does internal auditing at the company headquarters in Joo Koon.

Mr Ho, who manned the mandarin orange booth at Lot 1 shopping mall's FairPrice supermarket on Tuesday and Wednesday, told The Straits Times that standing on his feet all day and dealing with demanding customers posed a different challenge from the desk work that he is used to.

"Front-line jobs are not easy. I just helped out for two days and already feel exhausted," said Mr Ho, 31.

"Having a better understanding of what our colleagues at the branches do helps us to provide better support when it comes to problem-solving."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2017, with the headline 'FairPrice HQ staff swop desks for shop shelves'. Print Edition | Subscribe