Older workers are 'wonderful mentors' at The American Club

The American Club's assistant director for information technology, Mr Chai, 54, says he enjoys fielding calls from younger colleagues from other departments who look for him whenever they have IT problems. The number of calls he gets determines his value,
The American Club's assistant director for information technology, Mr Chai, 54, says he enjoys fielding calls from younger colleagues from other departments who look for him whenever they have IT problems. The number of calls he gets determines his value, he says with a laugh. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Even though some of his colleagues are nearly half his age, they have little issue working with Mr Chai Virn Ping, who clocks in at 54.

Mr Chai, the assistant director for information technology (IT) at The American Club, puts this down to a common goal and mutual understanding.

"As older people working with younger staff, we want to be viewed as people who are helping you, not telling you (your) ideas won't work.

"So I try to facilitate their ideas, not compete with them. They want to build their careers," he said.

It helps that the staff all have a common aim of meeting club members' high expectations, said Mr Chai.

"For us to work as a family to fulfil this objective - we have no time to have any internal friction," he said.

Mr Chai has spent 27 years working at the club, which he described as a friendly place to grow older in.

There are health and wellness talks he can attend, and training opportunities are given to all staff, regardless of age.

Mr Chai said that he enjoys fielding calls from younger colleagues from other departments who look for him whenever they have IT problems. "The number of calls I get determines my value," he said with a laugh.

Staying relevant has been at the top of his mind for several years, especially after the club started focusing on business intelligence and analytics, which he had not studied.

"I realised even my daughter is studying this in polytechnic now," he said.

So last year, he attended a three-day course, paid for by his employer, on the subject and learnt how to extract information and generate useful reports.

He led the IT team's migration of the club's server and computers from its Scotts Road building, which is being redeveloped, to the Claymore Hill building.

Mr Chai, who was promoted to the assistant director's role earlier this month, has thought about whether he would be able to adapt if the club were to take another big step forward in IT systems.

But he seems reassured by the fact that a 66-year-old colleague, who had been managing the jackpot system, was offered a slower-paced job at the business centre after having a heart transplant last year.

"If I couldn't adjust, would they give me an opportunity to work somewhere else in the company? I think they would," he says.

The American Club's senior director of people development Tan Lee Lee said the club recognises all staff for their contributions, irrespective of seniority, as it aims to foster an inclusive work environment. It also gives older workers flexible work opportunities as they near retirement.

"We believe that older workers are productive and have tremendous work ethic.

"Because of the knowledge, skills and experience they have accumulated over the years, they serve as wonderful mentors to our younger employees," she said.

Joanna Seow

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2016, with the headline 'Older workers are 'wonderful mentors' at The American Club'. Print Edition | Subscribe