Transformation programme for services sector shortened and simplified: MOM

Manpower Minister Tan See Leng (right) is being guided by Crystal Jade executive chef Martin Foo (centre) as he tours the restaurant at Takashimaya Shopping Centre on April 1, 2022. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Businesses in the services sector will be able to transform quicker with the help of dedicated professionals, under enhancements to a productivity scheme.

The Service Industry Transformation Programme (SITP), which was jointly rolled out in September 2019 by the Singapore Productivity Centre (SGPC) and Workforce Singapore, will take half as long to complete - down to within 15 weeks, from about 30.

The agencies said in a statement on Friday (April 1) that this is achieved through the introduction of dedicated facilitators who will work with the companies in the initial stages of the programme.

"The facilitators will be on-site to conduct the fieldwork, including customer interviews, surveys and process mapping, for example, and ensure that the research is completed within the 15 weeks' timeframe."

Participating companies can also expect an easier process to identify problems, with best practices adopted by other firms in the same sector, and solutions to tackle the challenges. 

"This will help companies pinpoint the main problem statement earlier and incorporate steps to minimise process redundancies and optimise resources to better meet their business objectives.

"Some of these pre-defined issues and areas include process optimisation, increasing productivity and reducing man-hours."

Two tracks on food delivery operations and marketing were also added, on top of the two current ones on service design and digitalisation.

The shortened programme will be conducted in three phases:

- Training by SGPC to help senior management and key personnel assess the company's performance, identify areas for improvement and establish a road map for  projects;

- site visits by SGPC consultants to support staff at work to improve productivity;

- and a post-implementation review that also includes a sharing by SGPC of relevant grants the company may potentially tap.

Since its launch in September 2019, more than 60 companies have redesigned their processes and job roles under the SITP, added the agencies.

Nonetheless, many companies still face hurdles in implementing service and job transformation projects, as they continue to deal with immediate manpower challenges and recovering sales, they said.

The two agencies noted that the need for transformation is particularly strong in the lifestyle sector, including food services, retail, hotels, attractions and travel, which were heavily impacted by the circuit breaker and safe management measures over the past two years.

The programme will cost employers $18,000, with funding of up to 90 per cent of course fees available for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and 70 per cent for non-SMEs.

Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said the training time was cut short so that employers in areas with the greatest shortage can deploy workers with new skills more rapidly to plug the gap.

He was speaking to reporters after a tour of the Crystal Jade Palace restaurant at Takashimaya Shopping Centre to see how it has upskilled workers and redesigned their jobs.

"I think what they (SGPC and Workforce Singapore) have done is that they probably have curated the programme with many of the employers to go for the low-hanging fruit first, and make sure they are up to par and they can be deployed in a very short period of time.

"The longer training needs... will be prioritised to a later stage when they are able to spare the resources... to then quickly plug up the rest of the skill gaps."

According to the Ministry of Manpower's 2021 labour market report released this March, more than two million Singaporeans and permanent residents currently work in the services sector.

One of the companies that benefited from the SITP is Liang Food Caterer, which saw its revenue drop by about 80 per cent during 2020’s circuit breaker period, before it embarked on the programme in September that year.

In June 2021, it launched Liang Gourmet, an online food delivery brand selling more premium items directly to health-conscious consumers who now account for roughly 10 per cent of the company’s revenue.

Mr Foo Zhi Yang, general manager, said this cushioned the blow of pandemic restrictions on the company of seven full-time local employees.

“SGPC’s associate facilitator helped to piece my ideas together and provided ample project guidance, including helping with understanding our target customers’ needs, the crafting of a new business-to-consumer persona, and the development of our new brand’s e-commerce website.”

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