F&B firms which managed manpower crunch well cited in HR playbook for sector

The Han's chain has been hiring individuals with special needs since 2007, successfully integrating them into its workforce. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - To manage the manpower crunch amid the Covid-19 pandemic, food and beverage firms in Singapore have broadened their talent strategies, redesigned jobs and invested in digitalisation.

These firms, including home-grown cafe chain Han's, juice retailer SF Food and restaurant Bismillah Biryani, were lauded by Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad as examples for other companies in the food service sector.

They are also being used as case studies in a human resource playbook for the sector, which was launched by the Institute for Human Resource Professionals (IHRP) on Tuesday (Sept 21).

The playbook will help small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the sector better understand their human capital gaps and capabilities.

It will also offer tailored solutions for SMEs to improve their human capital practices to better support business growth.

IHRP aims to support more than 180,000 workers across more than 10,000 food service enterprises with the playbook.

Mr Zaqy was speaking at the HR Tech Festival Asia virtual conference.

The event gathered regional HR leaders and industry professionals to discuss and rethink their human resource strategies related to talent management, human resource development and digital transformation.

Mr Zaqy noted that the Han's chain has been hiring individuals with special needs since 2007, successfully integrating them into its workforce.

They make up 10 per cent of Han's current workforce, taking on various roles including food preparation, cooking and cashiering.

"Diverse and inclusive hiring makes business sense, as it contributes to both business outcomes and manpower resilience," he said.

Meanwhile, Bismillah Biryani ensures employees are equipped with skills required across different workstations.

This means they can switch between back-end and front-of-house roles when necessary.

As a result, only 25 people - including management staff - run their factory, warehouse and four restaurants, noted Mr Zaqy.

As for SF Food, he said the firm used the national Human Capital Diagnostic Tool (HCDT), which helped it identify HR operations and technology as a gap in their processes.

The tool diagnoses strengths and opportunities in the company's human capital processes and recommends solutions.

After identifying the gaps, SF Food implemented a new HR payroll system, which reduced the amount of time spent on administrative tasks by more than 80 per cent.

It made further investments to improve its staff's digital competencies, and also came up with a buddy system by pairing older employees with younger ones to help them keep up.

Said Mr Zaqy: "HR has a key role to play in providing leadership, communication and reassurance to workers and businesses and implementing the business road map of tomorrow together."

Last year, more than 1,200 companies used the HCDT, a 20 per cent increase from the previous year.

To make things easier for companies, IHRP has developed a HCDT Navigator, a self-help version of the HCDT.

Companies dependent on foreign work pass holders also had to hire more locals instead. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

The assessment is free and can be completed in less than 30 minutes.

Mr Zaqy said the navigator will provide a summarised view of the company's human capital maturity.

After the assessment, companies can work with IHRP's in-house associate consultants and licensed partners to undergo a more in-depth and guided HR transformation process.

IHRP chief executive Mayank Parekh noted that the food services sector was significantly impacted during the pandemic, with many companies having to change their business models from dine-in to dine-out.

Those dependent on foreign work pass holders also had to hire more locals instead.

Said Mr Parekh: "Our playbook enables SMEs to apply HR practices to improve hiring and retention, motivate their employees to upskill and cross-skill and innovate to respond to evolving market demands."

Four more playbooks will be launched later this year, in the areas of financial services, digitalisation and automation, hybrid workplaces and work transformation.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.