Committee on the Future Economy report: Strategy 2: Acquire and utilise deep skills

Lo & Behold, a believer in staff training, development

Mr Ing (far right) with staff of The Lo & Behold Group (from left) Ms Wong, Ms Deborah Theseira, Mr Allan Shieh, Ms Tania Chan and Ms Hamazia Kasban. Ms Wong, now the director of operations systems, tapped the firm's training budget to upgrade hersel
Mr Ing (far right) with staff of The Lo & Behold Group (from left) Ms Wong, Ms Deborah Theseira, Mr Allan Shieh, Ms Tania Chan and Ms Hamazia Kasban. Ms Wong, now the director of operations systems, tapped the firm's training budget to upgrade herself.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

While many food and beverage companies were struggling a few years ago to find enough workers to stay afloat, The Lo & Behold Group opened a new learning and development department to help its staff advance their careers.

Staff attend training courses during work hours, and chief operating officer Andrew Ing will attend external courses to personally evaluate them before recommending them to the staff.

Another focus is on giving its workers new assignments and projects so that they can keep learning, said Mr Ing. "We want to have an engaged workforce that is motivated and sees a long and healthy career with us," he said.

The group, which runs restaurants and bars such as The White Rabbit and Loof, has an average annual training budget of about $1,500 for each full-time employee. It has about 300 full-time and 150 part-time workers.

Although Mr Ing admits that one downside of investing a lot in its workers is the risk of firms poaching them, he believes that if his company culture is good, they will return.

"It is also important to build a pipeline of good people coming in," he said.

The firm's managers also work with employees during appraisals to discuss goals for professional development. He said: "I tell the staff that development is the responsibility of the individual. You have to set goals and see how to achieve them, and we can support you."

 

For example, staff who love coffee and want to be a barista can take a certain pathway that the company would recommend, with training courses and books to read.

Every five years, staff can also take a month-long sabbatical to pursue any interest, on company time.

One employee who tapped the company's training budget is Ms Betty Wong, 44.

The company covered some of the course fees for an advanced management programme in hospitality administration and management that she wanted to attend two years ago. The four-week course was split between Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and Cornell University in New York.

Ms Wong was then general manager of restaurant operations. Now, she is director of operations systems. She said the course taught her strategic marketing and finance skills, and gave her a better understanding of hotel operation systems.

She contributed to the launch of the group's first hotel, The Warehouse Hotel, last month.

"I also got to meet a lot of people from the industry and built valuable contacts that I occasionally lean on for advice," she said.

Joanna Seow

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 10, 2017, with the headline 'Lo & Behold, a believer in staff training, development'. Print Edition | Subscribe