- Add your opinion about the choices and decisions being made—if this was your company would you make this choice?
- What would you do differently?
Singapore is an island of 646 square kilometers, about the size of Chicago. It is located at one of the crossroads of the world. Singapore’s strategic position has helped it grow into a major center for trade, communications, and tourism. In just 150 years, Singapore has grown into a thriving center of commerce and industry.
Shopping is second to eating as a national pastime in Singapore. The island has an outstanding range of products that are available in shopping malls, department stores, boutiques, and bargain stores. Avid shoppers love the annual Great Singapore Sale, which usually falls in June to July. It has become a legendary annual event for both Singaporeans and visitors alike. Wide ranges of goods, including designer products, are marked down to present a mighty shopping extravaganza. The bargains are genuine and definitely give value for money. Shoppers can also expect private events that are hosted by the distinguished Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Tresors, and Glerums & Bonhams and feature exclusive items, such as works of art and jewelry. Antique rugs and carpets can also be bought at a cheaper price during the Great Singapore Sale.
Jurong Point Shopping Centre (“Jurong Point”) is a leading suburban retail mall situated in the western part of Singapore. Strategically located next to Boon Lay MRT Station and Bus Interchange, Jurong Point serves as the gateway to the Jurong West industrial estate, Singapore’s key educational institutions, and the residential population in the west. Jurong Point in 2014 was the largest suburban mall in Singapore, housing about 450 retailers and showcasing their products and services to 6 million visitors a month. The revamped Jurong Point houses a range of retail zones—expanded and revamped Ginza Delights, Mongkok, Rackets & Track, Korean Street, Malaysia Boleh, Takeaway Alley, Gourmet Garden, and many more. In addition, there are also a 67-bay air-conditioned bus interchange, 11 civic community tenants, and to top it all off, a 610-unit condominium nestled above the retail podium.
Jointly owned by Guthrie GTS Limited and Lee Kim Tah Limited, Jurong Point is poised to take a leap forward to be the “heart of a vibrant community, abuzz with activity and a passion for life, offering WOW experiences for one and all.”(3) Jurong Point Shopping Centre has an HR staff of 3 employees who oversee 160 in-house staff, with an additional 2,500 employees working for the mall’s tenants. Singapore is seeing a growing number of mall projects as more foreign retailers enter the local market, with 13 new malls in the works and scheduled to open between 2014 and 2017. As competition heats up, existing retailers are seeking new and innovative ways to engage and retain their employees.
HR at Jurong Point has launched a number of initiatives to attract the right talent into its fold. One of the most effective means has been the organization’s in-house staff referral program, shares Sally Yap, senior HR and administration manager at Jurong Point Shopping Centre. “They receive cash incentives if the employee is confirmed after three months.” Recruitment efforts do not stop at in-house and operational roles but extend to the tenants. The mall launched its own job portal in 2012 to help its tenants look for staff. It also runs regular recruitment fairs to attract suitable candidates. This additional help is especially valued by the mall’s smaller shops that have resource constraints, shares Yap.
Jurong Point has also beefed up its service levels to keep its customers coming back for more. One of the ways it achieves this is by conducting training programs for its tenants. Employees from the mall’s various outlets are taken through bite-sized modules that focus on areas such as how to serve people better, personal grooming, and basic conversational English. The latter can be a barrier for some staff, so courses like these help them perform their daily tasks better, says Yap. “We treat our tenants like family. We won’t be strong if they are not strong.” The mall is also partnering with Singapore Polytechnic (SP) to offer a service training program for its retail and food-and-beverage staff. In this program, employees undergo 30 hours of training focusing on areas such as retail strategies and operations, visual merchandising, restaurant management and challenges, and menu design and pricing. Upon completion, course participants receive a joint certificate from SP and Jurong Point. “It’s a sweetener that will encourage them to stay at Jurong Point,” Yap says. “It adds value and enhances their employability.”
Jurong Point is fully absorbing the cost of training and hopes to put 500 to 700 service staff through the program’s 2-year pilot phase. It plans to extend it to the mall’s full staff within the next 5 years. According to Yap, the customized training will focus on improving the productivity, emotional intelligence, and entrepreneurial mind-set of in-house and tenant staff.
Once employees are recruited and trained, an employee empowerment program sets the culture for the firm. A bottom-up team approach gives employees the freedom to work out the operational details with their teams. This makes decisions less hierarchical, and employees are also happier, as they are not micromanaged, says Yap. Employees are not limited to the roles that they initially signed up for. If an employee in the operations department is interested in a marketing role, they can get a transfer when the right opportunity arises. This flexibility is appreciated by the organization’s younger employees in particular. “They are more restless and don’t want to be stuck at the computer doing mundane things. We are very open to doing things differently,” says Yap.
The HR team at Jurong Point follows this ethos and takes a nontraditional approach to its role. It works very closely with other departments to push out new ideas and programs. It also serves as the umbrella HR organization for the mall’s tenants and is actively involved in ensuring a consistent culture across the property. Interaction between departments is also encouraged through activities such as overseas trips. “Every department is represented by a team member, and it allows employees to bond outside of work,” says Yap. Quarterly buffet lunches are organized to encourage employees to eat and mingle together while exchanging updates on the latest happenings. “We don’t work in silos and like to come together to support each other,” says Yap.