Like many F&B businesses in Singapore, the JP Pepperdine Group’s service workforce was largely made up of foreign employees from neighbouring countries. The homegrown company is behind restaurants such as Jack’s Place, Eatzi Gourmet and Kkongdon Korean BBQ. But with its desire to maintain a strong Singaporean core, coupled with tighter foreign manpower policy, the company constantly seeks to attract Singaporean candidates to apply for jobs in middle management.
“It’s common knowledge that it is hard to attract Singaporeans to work in the service sector,” explains Mr Jerry Lim, JP Pepperdine’s chief corporate officer. “So when we heard about SPRING’s talent attraction initiatives, we were excited to explore the opportunities because we felt it would help us attract quality local talent.”
One unexpected result of choosing to embark on a talent attraction initiative was that it made the company re-examine its HR processes. “First and foremost, we had to ask ourselves if we had the proper training processes in place. We also had to carve a career plan for these talents,” explains Mr Lim.
“Everything had to be mapped out and it was, without doubt, a painful process because it was yet another project to work through on top of our regular workload. But it was good because it forced us to be very clear about our training policies and career roadmaps for employees.”
Mr Lim admits that there were some hits and misses in the beginning. Attracting the candidates was just one hurdle, retaining them was another. “The initial candidates came in for two to three months and then left because they were not the right fit. This taught us that our learning and development processes were not strong enough, so we had to pull up our socks and come up with clearer and more relevant training programmes.”
The company’s journey is now on track, with candidates like 24-year-old Gary Tan, who recently joined them. The assistant restaurant manager of Jack’s Place at Compass Point first joined the company several years ago as a part-time cashier and service staff. During that time, he developed a passion for the service industry.
“Even as a part-timer, JP Pepperdine gave me a real chance to learn about giving good service to customers,” he recalls. “There were a lot of things I didn’t know when I first joined them – for example, things like you should always serve on the right hand side of the guest or that the chilli sauce bottles should always be placed beside the pepper shakers because they are both considered spices.”
The fact that the company gave him the opportunity to experience working in its various different concept restaurants also helped him broaden his view of what it takes to work in the service industry.
When Mr Tan completed National Service and graduated from polytechnic, he initially had plans to further his studies.
“I wanted to learn more about the service industry and when I mentioned this to my bosses at JP Pepperdine, they offered me a position under the Core Executive Programme,” he says. “I’m definitely looking forward to attending the courses and learning how to better interact with my customers, which form the most important aspect of good service.”
Mr Lim adds, “This structured programme helps us attract new talents but also to help them stay engaged within the company. We are looking forward to using it to attract more operations staff both in the kitchens and front-of-house so that we can continue to serve our customers better and thrive as a business.”
As the company seeks to attract more young talents, they have also registered for the SME Talent Programme (STP), which helps SMEs attract local talents from polytechnics and institutes of technical education by sponsoring students study awards and job opportunities upon graduation. It has successfully matched 4 students from polytechnics through the STP so far.
With initiatives like these, the company is armed with a sturdy talent and retention framework, and is confident that it will continue to thrive and offer affordable food and good service to its customers well into the future.
The SME Talent Programme helps attract local talent from the polytechnics and ITEs to SMEs by offering study awards and job opportunities upon graduation. Find out more at www.spring.gov.sg/STP
SMEs can engage qualified HR consultants to upgrade their human capital capabilities by tapping the Innovation & Capability Voucher (ICV). For more information, visit www.spring.gov.sg/ICV , call 6898 1800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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