Outsourced services 'in high demand' in Singapore

Outsourcing agencies that help companies fill both short- and long-term positions are reporting an increase of up to 50 per cent in clients this year.

These include employers who need staff for administrative work or jobs in customer service and the food and beverage (F&B) industry - all of which typically experience high turnover.

Agencies that provide staff for customer service-related work told The Sunday Times that clients not only need staff but also help to train them.

Certis Cisco Security, which primarily provides security services, started taking on such requests three years ago through its subsidiary People Advantage.

The unit started off with a pool of 200 people in 2011. This has grown to 1,000 people working as library shelvers, hospital concierges and call centre operators all over Singapore.

This is about one-tenth of its staff strength, said Ms Wong Poh Swan, vice-president and head of People Advantage.

Demand has grown by double digits year on year, said Ms Wong. "Our customers said they had difficulty hiring people for certain job functions and they wanted to outsource jobs, and even business functions that are not their core competencies."

It helped that Certis Cisco already had the capability to recruit, train and deploy large numbers of people, she said.

Staff deployed by People Advantage are trained and paid between $1,000 and $3,000 a month, depending on the nature of the work.

F&B businesses, on their part, are turning to food manufacturers and production kitchens in the face of tightening labour laws and staff shortage.

Production kitchens that make and prepare food for F&B outlets, for instance, have seen a 20 to 50 per cent jump in the number of clients.

Factors that contribute to this rise include the higher foreign worker levy and a further reduction of the foreign worker dependency ratio ceiling from 45 per cent to 40 per cent, which kicks in this month. Other reasons for the increased demand include rising operating costs because of rental hikes.

Ms Femke Hellemons, country manager of human resource firm Adecco Singapore, said demand for outsourced workers and services has increased as companies recognise the flexibility it offers them.

Outsourcing agencies have a ready pool of staff for clients to rope in at any time, depending on their manpower needs.

Some agencies, like People Advantage, even provide facilities for business operations.

The Ministry of Law (MinLaw) is one such client; it has a call centre located at Certis Cisco's Paya Lebar headquarters. The ministry started contracting the call centre workers last year. Today, more than 50 of them help to field calls from the public.

MinLaw had wanted to improve the way it responds to public queries, said Ms Elsie Tjoeng, general manager of its community mediation unit.

With staff from People Advantage helping to liaise with the public, MinLaw's case officers can focus on addressing case-specific issues, she added.