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The Battle for Talent

Effectively addressing the challenge of attracting and retaining talent is key to The Lo & Behold Group’s success in Singapore’s highly competitive food and beverage industry.


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Published by Enterprise Singapore
on 01 Apr 2018

The Battle for Talent

The Lo & Behold Group made its name in the local food and beverage sector when it opened Singapore’s first rooftop bar, Loof, in 2005.

Three years later, the company set up The White Rabbit, a classic Europeancuisine restaurant housed in a former chapel. Following the success of these establishments, it opened Tanjong Beach Club, OverEasy (an all-American diner), Odette, a fine dining restaurant at Singapore’s National Gallery, and seven other establishments.

Group Chief Operating Officer, Mr Andrew Ing (bottom, left), credits The Lo & Behold Group’s success to its people. “But it hasn’t always been a smooth road,” he notes. One of the key challenges faced by the company is attracting and retaining talent in the food services sector. “However, instead of dwelling on the difficulty of hiring local staff, we decided to do something about it.”

In 2011, the company embarked on a journey to improve human capital development. It used SPRING Singapore’s (now Enterprise Singapore1) HR Diagnostic Tool to identify gaps in and enhance employee value proposition and employer branding. This led the company to focus on instilling an employee-centric culture, and redesign its human resource (HR) practices to attract and retain local talents.

“We do not want to be known just for our restaurants; we also want to be known for growing and developing our people,” Mr Ing adds.

He also believes that HR is a strategic tool for business success. “You can’t compete in the battle for local talent without the proper tools, systems, structure and processes for attracting and retaining them.”

Building a people-powered establishment

In 2015, SPRING (now Enterprise Singapore1) introduced The Lo & Behold Group to volunteer HR director Mr D N Prasad, Director and Global Head of Extended Workforce Solutions at Google Asia Pacific. Mr Prasad provided strategic direction on how to become an employer of choice and shared insights on how to improve the company’s staff feedback channel and appraisal system.

The company decided to first focus on enhancing its staff feedback channel. It established the concept of an IdeaLAB, which helps facilitate 360-degree feedback from staff at the supervisor level and below. “Once a month, a staff from each outlet will share ideas, feedback and even complaints at a casual meet-up session,” says Mr Ing.

He believes that everyone plays a key role in moving the business forward. “Essentially, IdeaLAB gives me an opportunity to better understand the business situation and engage directly with staff on the ground.”

The company also implemented “Walk the Talk” day to promote better integration between headquarters and on-the-ground staff. “It involves senior leaders working alongside rank-and-file team members to better understand their daily work situation,” Mr Ing explains.

Additionally, it put in place an innovative retention and motivational strategy. Every five years, staff get a month-long paid sabbatical. “They can use this time off to do volunteer work, travel or even study,” says Mr Ing.

Another differentiating factor is the company’s five-day work week policy for all staff – something that’s not common in the labour-tight food services sector.

Mr Ing believes that these initiatives are just some ways to keep staff feeling refreshed and motivated. “It’s designed to reward our people for their with the latest promotions to make it easier for them to advise customers.

In addition, The Lo & Behold Group has a strong focus on learning and development. Mr Ing and his management team will personally sit through in-house training sessions to ensure their effectiveness, before encouraging staff to sign up. “Our staff even get to attend external courses to upgrade themselves and learn new, relevant skills,” Mr Ing adds.

The HR efforts have reaped positive results. “In 2014, our value-added per staff was three-fold that of the industry average,” he says. In 2016 Q1, its staff turnover rate was 3.33%, an improvement from its 2015 turnover rate of 4.1%. “This is an affirmation that people want to work for us and stay with us.”

A strategic tool for success

These initiatives have given the company the confidence to expand the business further. This December, it is set to open its first boutique hotel at Robertson Quay.

Mr Ing admits that the company could not have done this without its people. “It is our staff who have kept the business going and customers satisfied since 2005,” he says. “The food and beverage industry is run by people for people, so we must make sure that we attract and retain the right talent.”

The company now plans to improve its performance appraisal system. “One of our key goals is to create a company that people want to work for – and one way to do this is through an effective performance appraisal system that recognises and rewards commitment and hard work.”

Overall, Mr Ing advises local SMEs and start-ups not to look at HR as just a cost centre, but a strategic tool. “Many people think HR is just about payroll and budgets. We believe that happy staff make happy guests and that’s why we will continue to engage our staff and create more opportunities for them. After all, it is a battle for talent.”

 

1SPRING Singapore merged with IE Singapore to form Enterprise Singapore on 1 April 2018.

Last Modified Date: 08 Jan 2020