Working with silver talent

Singapore is facing a greying population, with numbers of mature workers within organisations booming. How can HR ensure meaningful working relationships with this group of talent? HRM finds out

Retention and development of a multi-generational workforce are important aspects of manpower management. “We recognise that people are our best asset as they play an essential role in connecting with guests emotionally, differentiating our hotel from the rest,” says Patrick Fiat, Chief Experience Officer (CEO), Royal Plaza on Scotts.

With a quarter of employees above the age of 50, preparing existing staff for reemployment and making the work environment conducive and fulfilling for mature talent is an important task. Royal Plaza on Scotts provides specific counselling one year before the retirement age of all eligible staff.

“We conduct engagement sessions with retiring employees on their re-employment prospects at least one year from their retirement age (62 years old),” says Fiat “This includes discussion for the training opportunities, including the 20-month Reemployment: Equipping and Developing Yourself (READY) programme and the options of redeployment.”

On Cheong Jewellery is another company that advocates fair employment practices, especially for older employees. The store was awarded the TAFEP Exemplary Employer Award in 2012 and also the Outstanding Workplace for Mature Employees prize for its fair and responsible employment practices.

Mature workers above the age of 50 make up a sizeable 69% of the jeweller’s workforce. The four most senior workers who are still contributing to On Cheong are aged 67, 71, 76 and 81 respectively.

“On Cheong values all workers regardless of age as long as they are effective, productive and healthy,” says Ho Nai Chuen, Managing Director, On Cheong Jewellery. “We believe in a good mix of employees of all ages as they can play a complementary role to each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”

On Cheong’s corporate culture has seen the company continuously hire employees past their retirement age even before the government revised the Re-employment Act in early 2012.

The jeweller also rewards its employees based on merit and without discrimination according to the age profile. “We have one colleague who was promoted to Assistant Operations Manager of Retail at 63,” says Ho.

With nearly a third of staff aged 51 years and above, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) adopts fair employment practices by adhering to principles of meritocracy, open competition and best fit for the job.

“MPA’s strategy is focused on retaining the mature workforce, as they provide a wealth of institutional knowledge and experience that are beneficial to the organisation,” says Ong Seok Bin, Director - HR, MPA. “This is important to MPA as the maritime industry is diverse and we need experience and expertise in different areas.”

Retaining older workers

Currently, older workers make up about 75% of the workforce at On Cheong, with the average length of service being above 10 years. One way talent is retained at the jeweller is through the provision of a positive working environment for employees, based on four staff-centric strategies: Recruit the right staff; reward their contributions; retrain to keep them upgrading themselves; and help them relax through wellness and health management programmes.

About one in four MPAs officers have 25 years or more of service. “MPA offers rotation opportunities within and out of MPA to give employees greater exposure in various portfolios and roles,” says Ong.

MPA also has various initiatives to help all employees grow and advance. For instance, staff take advantage of the Opportunities With Learning (OWL) framework that consists of classroom programmes, experiential learning and self-learning opportunities. “These are designed to help employees meet their core and functional competencies as well as to widen their horizons,” says Ong. “Employees are also encouraged to apply what they have learnt and pursue additional learning beyond their current job scopes.”

An “UPGRADE” account is also set up for all officers to encourage lifelong learning. “All officers, including re-employed officers, can tap on the account to reimburse up to 75% of fees for courses which need not be related to work,” Ong explains. “The account will be topped up annually to maintain a balance of $1500, subject to a maximum of $750 per year.”

Since August last year, all re-employed staff can continue to use their UPGRADE accounts during their re-employment, enjoying the same benefits as other employees. Re-employed officers at MPA are also eligible to upgrade their maritime knowledge through certified courses under the Maritime Cluster Fund Training Grant.

Royal Plaza on Scott’s family-oriented culture has been credited with helping to retain talent for as long as 41 years. “Royal Plaza treats all talents as individuals and not just another employee,” says Fiat. “It is essential to continue to build on the organisation’s culture as talents are also looking for an emotional connection with their employers.”

For instance, the hotel gives away shopping vouchers when staff are getting married. New mothers and their new-borns are showered with gifts at the hospital. “We share all joyous occasions through our Facebook page,” says Fiat.

When talents are hospitalised, hotel leaders visit them with ‘get-well-soon’ hampers, wishing them speedy recoveries. “We believe that every little effort makes a world of difference,” says Fiat.

Speed-bumps in sight?

Still, working with mature staff isn’t without its challenges. “There are challenges faced in daily operations as younger staff may need to look out for older workers’ health conditions and assist them in physically demanding chores,” says Ho.

When working with a multigenerational team, communication is essential, says Fiat. “Baby Boomers and Generation Xs may be more reserved in their communication whereas Generation Ys are outspoken and direct,” he explains. “Bonding activities are encouraged in the organisation so the associates get to know each other better.”

The hotel has held focus groups amongst associates of different generations to establish Employee Value Propositions (EVPs) that are relevant and important to each. The common denominators have been found to be: instilling trust and respect, celebrating and recognising the successes of each individual and team; and making the organisation fun to work in so associates are driven by passion to make a difference.

“With a deeper understanding, staff are better able to build rapport with one another in the workplace,” says Fiat.

Best practices at Royal Plaza on Scotts

Some of the initiatives that have been implemented to support and develop mature workers at Royal Plaza on Scotts are:

  • Improving the work environment – Creation of the “Chillax Lounge”, equipped with a projector, massage chairs, books, newspapers, magazines and a live aquarium.
  • Automation to improve productivity and reduce workplace injury – Housekeeping attendants are now equipped with motorised trolleys, which reduces the energy and time required to push and transport amenities from room to room.

 

Case study

Continuous learning in the Public Service

In managing a mature workforce and generational diversity, it is important that the values, needs and preferences of each segment of the workforce are addressed, says Chan Boon Fui, Senior Director – HR Policy and Leadership Development, Public Service Division, Prime Minister’s Office.

For example, younger officers may not be comfortable supervising mature officers, while mature officers have the knowledge and experience but may lack the confidence to communicate their ideas. To ensure that supervisors have the skills to manage a multi-generational workforce, they are sent for courses so that they can pick up soft skills and the ability to understand older employees, in addition to refining their functional skills and experiences. “We also encourage our older employees to communicate their views and proactively resolve differences with younger supervisors to help them understand how best to work with one another,” says Chan.

In order to ensure the long-term employability of officers in a constantly changing work environment, the Public Service has in place training and development policies. All officers can apply for 100 hours of training per year. “Should an officer in his 50s utilise all his training hours each year for his 25 years in service, he would have clocked 2500 hours or 300 work days of training in his career!” says Chan.

Lower-skilled older officers are encouraged to attend training courses to up-skill and upgrade. Officers will be eligible for cash incentives when they successfully complete selected national-level training programmes, e.g. attain Workforce Skills Qualification (WSQ) certificates or other certificates conferred by any of the Polytechnics or Institute of Technical Education.

Mature officers are also tapped on to be trainers to impart knowledge and wisdom to the next generation.

 

Case study

Chan Woon Chee, On Cheong Jewellery

Chan Woon Chee is one of the oldest employees at On Cheong Jeweller, having been with the company for nearly seven decades. That’s indeed a testament to how well the company has done in terms of retaining their talent and making adjustments to its workplace to cater to staff needs.

Chan, 81, has been working with On Cheong since 1947. His father, Chan Tai, who worked with On Cheong as a craftsman, died in his 40s in 1947 and his family instantly lost the only breadwinner of the family. His mother brought the younger Chan to see the founders (Mr and Mrs Ho Yew Ping), begging them to let him work, even without pay.

She even gave permission to the late founders to punish and discipline him should he misbehave. Chan was indeed caned by the founder a few times for bad behaviour. Chan lived at the On Cheong premises and went home once or twice a month, no Sundays off.

“On Cheong is not just a workplace for Chan; he worked, lived and slept here as a young apprentice when he was barely 12 years old,” says Ho Nai Chuen, today’s Managing Director of On Cheong Jewellery. “He started as a young apprentice and was promoted to Senior Jewellery Executive in year 2010. On Cheong is not only a workplace to him, but his second home.”

“On Cheong is proud to hold a rare record of having four staff who have only worked in On Cheong (first and last job),” he adds. “Chan Woon Chee is one of them who has dedicated his entire life to On Cheong.”

 

 

Best practices of On Cheong Jewellers

Re-employment

  • On Cheong provides pre-retirement planning and pre-employment consultation to employees when they reach the age of 61. Staff are offered a re-employment term contract of at least one year, renewable up to the age of 65 and may extend further as long as they are medically fit for the job and have satisfactory performance. Same wages and employment terms and conditions are offered for re-employed workers without a wage cut.

Mentorship

  • Mature and experienced staff are assigned to mentor newer colleagues, imparting product knowledge and a good service culture to customers.

Work Environment

  • To make it more convenient for older employees to move jewellery pieces every day, the secure “strongroom” was moved from the second storey to the ground floor. Smaller trolleys are also used in moving jewellery items to the strongroom.
  • Improved workstation design and job design – including having a pantry for workers to change body positions, choice of sitting or standing while at work, and a seat for resting if standing is unavoidable.
  • Promote healthy eating habits, active living, stress awareness, proper posture and ergonomics through workplace health programme.

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
CAPTCHA
This question is to ascertain that you are a legitimate user and prevent automated spam submissions.
1 + 7 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.

Contact info

HR SUMMIT 2017

Follow us on Twitter