Exclusive: JUMBO Group’s HR mission to reinvent F&B

by Miklos Bolza16 Nov 2015
Spanning eight brands and more than 20 food and beverage outlets, JUMBO Group currently employs over 800 service and management staff in Singapore, China and Japan.
 
HRD sat down with Christina Kong, senior director of HR & corporate affairs at JUMBO Group, to talk about the challenges of the industry and how the company’s HR policies have successfully boosted staff retention.
 
Recruitment difficulties
 
“The toughest part is getting people to join us,” Christina said. “Once they are on board however, we can show them we really care for them and treat them as part of the big JUMBO family.”
 
This recruitment challenge arises because working in the food and beverage industry in Singapore isn’t seen as very attractive, Christina stated.
 
“It’s not a very glamorous job and the service industry is considered to offer lower paid wages. So it’s very difficult to get locals to come on board.”
 
JUMBO Group counters this perception through a variety of initiatives aimed at bringing in more staff.
 
“One of the recruitment strategies we have is not just looking at people already in a working role. We actually start looking at people as young as students while they are still in secondary school.”
 
Christina said the company aimed at creating awareness by working with schools and institutions through strategies such as work experience, learning journeys, scholarships and internships.
 
“We kick off with work experience and if they really like it, they can continue as a part-timer,” she said.
 
Career progression
 
When staff are hired by the company, JUMBO Group then offers a number of innovative programs to keep them motivated and productive.
 
“Once they are on board, we will have a program to develop them,” Christina said. “We have different training programs for different levels so they have a career progression with us.”
 
This career progression occurs in stages with employees starting as basic wait staff and working their way up to supervisory roles and onto managing multiple restaurants.
 
“We try to create small, small steps so that there are many chances to be promoted,” Christina said. “This is something we want to create for our staff – creating awareness that the company has plenty of career progression opportunities.”
 
Learning & development
 
JUMBO Group also offers a number of L&D programs to upskill and improve staff productivity.
 
The Fast Track Programme speeds up training for those identified with high potential and sees that they reach a supervisory role within 12 months.
 
“Once they are ear-marked to be on the program, there will be one year in which they go through a lot of assessments. We ensure they are competent for the next job before we move them up.”
 
These high potential individuals are those who receive a promotion every half year. Employees can also be nominated by the restaurant manager and can join the program after being tested on their knowledge and attitude.
 
LEAD is a customised training program consisting of nine modules. It aims to prepare and guide staff into leadership roles.
 
“Many of our staff are actually promoted from rank and file,” Christina said. “So when they switch to the supervisor level, their mindset is still not changed.”
 
The program includes a number of courses – including on leadership personality, conducting interviews and counselling people – so that these newly promoted employees have the necessary skills to fulfil their supervisory roles.
 
Thanks to these HR practices, JUMBO Group has seen more staff staying with the company. In 2014, its attrition rate was 3.8%, well below the 4.6% experienced by the national F&B industry.
 
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