Win the battle for talent with right practices
The Lo & Behold Group's COO shares his experiences in recruiting and retaining staff
Three decades of business experience have only increased Mr Andrew Ing's appetite for hospitality and fine dining.
The chief operating officer (COO) of The Lo & Behold Group has been changing the game in the food and beverage (F&B) industry by adopting progressive human resource (HR) practices.
"One thing I love about why I do what I do is because I love taking care of people. When they come into an outlet, they come into our home, and they have a good experience with us. It can be rewarding," he said.
The 49-year-old was included as a business leader and committee member in the Ministry of Manpower's HR Industry Manpower Plan, which will be unveiled on Monday.
Mr Ing, a former marketing manager at Zouk, transitioned to the role of COO at St James Holdings (Singapore) to develop himself.
He then joined The Lo & Behold Group, which owns outlets such as Odette, The Black Swan and The Warehouse Hotel.
Mr Ing said his experience has taught him the importance of manpower in the hospitality industry.
"Our business is all about people, our service staff.
"When I joined The Lo & Behold Group, I spent a lot of my time on HR. When we have manpower issues as we do in this industry, we need to start thinking strategically about human capital," he said.
The cost of hiring new people will always be more than retaining current people. This is not just recruitment cost but the opportunity cost of losing someone who was good for that role.The Lo & Behold Group coo Andrew Ing
Attending HR conferences and talking to experts in the industry convinced Mr Ing that the way to attract and retain talent was by catering to their needs.
He said: "We created interesting schemes, such as sabbatical leave. Every five years, employees get a paid sabbatical that cannot be encashed or broken up.
"This industry requires our staff to work long hours, late nights and on weekends. Sabbatical leave allows them to record an album, backpack across Africa or learn a musical instrument, if they want to."
A new scheme announced at the company's annual staff party earlier this week was birthday leave for employees.
When asked how companies should account for the manpower costs of such initiatives, Mr Ing agreed it will require some deliberation for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
"The cost of hiring new people will always be more than retaining current people. This is not just recruitment cost but the opportunity cost of losing someone who was good for that role," he said.The Lo & Behold Group's efforts to adopt progressive HR practices seem to have paid off.
The company, which has 350 employees, recorded a turnover rate of 53 per cent in 2014. But that dropped to 36 per cent last year.
Mr Ing said: "The battle for talent is very real in the F&B industry, we need to be conscious of it. It is not enough to say it is a problem, companies need to set a strategy to take care of their staff."
He advises SMEs to adopt a blend of top-down and bottom-up approaches to usher in progressive HR practices.
"In many companies, I see the heads of HR do not have a seat at the table during key meetings.
"Many SMEs think of HR as a cost centre. Instead of seeing it as an administrative function, start thinking of HR strategically," he said.
For now, The Lo & Behold Group's goal is to continue building and retaining its talent pipeline.
"We have a service mission here: Passionate people make awesome experiences.
"Only if our staff are happy can they keep guests happy, and the happiness of our staff has to do with their benefits and feedback opportunities, which come under the umbrella of HR practices," he said.
Further your skills in the HR industry
Human resource practitioners can support their professional development through training courses by applying for the SkillsFuture Study Award for HR at www.skillsfuture.sg/studyawards/human-resource.
To learn more about the initiatives and measures in place to strengthen the HR services sector, the public is invited to visit the HR Industry Manpower Plan interactive showcase at the Orchid Ballroom, Level 4, Marina Bay Sands, from 12.30pm to 5.30pm on Monday.
Visit www.tinyurl.com/hrimp2017 to register for the event.