Playbook to help F&B companies boost HR practices

Han's cafe chain among those cited as case studies for managing manpower crunch well

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 (HR) playbook for the sector, which was launched by the Institute for Human Resource Professionals (IHRP) yesterday.

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 them tailored solutions to improve their human capital practices.

The institute 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 brought together regional HR leaders and industry professionals to discuss 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 the company's workers, taking on various roles including food preparation, cooking and cashiering.

Meanwhile, Bismillah Biryani ensures employees are equipped with skills required across different work stations. This means they can switch between back-end and front-of-house roles when needed.

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 its 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 time spent on administrative tasks by more than 80 per cent.

It made further investments to improve its staff's digital competencies, and came up with a buddy system 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, over 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. The assessment is free and can be completed in less than 30 minutes.

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 service sector was significantly impacted during the pandemic, with many firms having to change their business models. 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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2021, with the headline 'Playbook to help F&B companies boost HR practices'. Subscribe