Staff at Gardens by the Bay to be cross-trained for different roles

Move will allow for more flexible manpower deployment at attraction, which has been impacted by the pandemic

Visitors at the Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay yesterday. The attraction's deputy chief executive officer Lee Kok Fatt said it has had to reinvent and refresh its business model due to Covid-19. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
Visitors at the Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay yesterday. The attraction's deputy chief executive officer Lee Kok Fatt said it has had to reinvent and refresh its business model due to Covid-19. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Staff at Gardens by the Bay will soon undergo training to help them adapt quickly to changing manpower needs in multiple areas at the tourist attraction.

As a start, 120 staff from various departments will be cross-trained in guest relations management, security operations compliance and customer experience.

They will then form a central pool of workers who can be deployed in a flexible manner at the attraction, which has been affected by travel restrictions as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. These staff, now in the attractions operations, visitor services, retail and security departments, will undergo training from January to April.

Gardens by the Bay will be supported by the Attractions, Resorts and Entertainment Union for workshops and trainers, as well as in identifying how its technological capabilities can be bolstered.

This is part of an Operation and Technology Roadmap between the union and Gardens by the Bay - a first in the attractions industry.

In a later phase, 21 horticultural staff, who perform specific roles such as maintenance of outdoor gardens or horticultural research, will be trained to perform tasks across various horticultural functions.

The attraction has about 370 staff in total.

Gardens by the Bay deputy chief executive officer Lee Kok Fatt said yesterday that the attraction has had to reinvent and refresh its business model due to Covid-19.

"A lot of our visitors now are Singaporeans who are able to come only on weekends," he said.

On the weekends, the services staff provide include ensuring safe management measures are adhered to. On weekdays, they are busy with demands such as addressing queries through the phone or online.

"To be able to deploy our staff to meet the various demands throughout the week, our employees need different skillsets," said Mr Lee.

Visitorship among locals this year has seen a "steady month-on-month increase" since the attraction was given the green light to reopen in July, when it saw over 360,000 visitors. Last month, it had more than 600,000 visitors. More locals also visited in September and October than in the same months last year.

To improve productivity, staff will also learn how to use new technologies such as drones to monitor the condition of irrigation pipes.

This is part of Gardens by the Bay's "Smart Garden" vision to reduce its reliance on foreign labour via automation, enable smarter deployment of a skilled local workforce using data, and improve service quality through artificial intelligence and machine learning. The first phase will be implemented in 2022, with expected cost savings of $2.3 million annually.

The technologies will be integrated on an Internet of Things platform that will be developed by the Government Technology Agency under a memorandum of understanding signed yesterday.

National Trades Union Congress secretary-general Ng Chee Meng said the road map will bring about benefits for not only Gardens by the Bay, but also its workers: "We spoke to many of the workers just now and they are all energised, because they are part of the process of innovating (and) improving things."

While Covid-19 has led to challenges, companies should seize the opportunity to adopt new capabilities by forming company training committees, he added.

NTUC aims to have 1,000 of such committees by 2022, to reach about 330,000 workers. So far, 447 committees have been formed.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2020, with the headline 'Staff at Gardens by the Bay to be cross-trained for different roles'. Subscribe