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On the Talent Hunt: Retail staff want career mobility. Here’s how our department store seeks to give them that, and more

At BHG Singapore, we operate three physical stores — our flagship in Bugis, and outlets in Bishan and Choa Chu Kang.

Ms Morwena Tan is BHG’s Group legal counsel and deputy general manager and has been with BHG Singapore for the past 15 years.

Ms Morwena Tan is BHG’s Group legal counsel and deputy general manager and has been with BHG Singapore for the past 15 years.

As companies across a wide range of sectors in Singapore are grappling with a manpower crunch in a tight labour market, TODAY’s Voices section is publishing first-hand accounts from business owners.

In this instalment, Ms Morwena Tan, deputy general manager at BHG Singapore, describes the challenges the department store has faced in hiring and retaining staff. To improve career mobility, it expanded the job scopes of its 160 staff members, who have expressed more fulfilment in their jobs as a result.

At BHG Singapore, we operate three physical stores — our flagship in Bugis, and outlets in Bishan and Choa Chu Kang.

In 2020, the pandemic accelerated our plans to launch our e-commerce platform. Doing so has been challenging, but undoubtedly, our biggest issue continues to be manpower.

Hiring and retaining staff has been tough for retailers, especially since we reopened after the Covid-19 circuit breaker in 2020. We are particularly impacted by the lack of frontline staff. On the flipside, there are many job vacancies, which means employees are spoilt for choice.

To manage the shortfall, we rely on part-time and seasonal staff. But it’s not all doom and gloom. The labour crunch has an upside too.

To improve retention, we expanded the job scopes of our 160 staff members. While this may seem counter-intuitive, we recognised that staff across all age groups seek career mobility. Our employees have become more versatile — they can wear many hats which gives them a broader understanding of retail and increases their value.

We have a diverse age profile within BHG — from fresh graduates to those approaching retirement. As many of our staff are in the 40-50 age bracket, we have placed greater emphasis on attracting younger talent. For example, we used social media advertising to attract different groups of potential employees and we hope to start a traineeship to help younger retailers launch their careers.

This has injected fresh ideas and helped propel our digital transformation, which in turn attracts younger customers to our stores.

The retail industry is driven by “online-to-offline” strategies, which seek to bring online customers to physical stores.

Hence, we have trained our staff to be aware of our online promotions and to ensure transactions are seamless.

E-commerce has also allowed us to experiment with targeting different customer segments and run exclusive campaigns with more ease than with physical stores.

To ease our frontline staff into updated job scopes for over 10 positions, including sales and e-commerce roles, they completed the Professional Conversion Programme with the Singapore Institute of Retail Studies last November.

The programme covered areas such as e-commerce, online-to-offline strategies, and customer profiling. We also cross-trained all our staff to broaden their retail skill sets, from sales and cashiering to visual merchandising.

By giving staff a more holistic understanding of the business, they have expressed greater fulfilment in their jobs. This fosters not only a happier workforce, but a more equipped one able to take on complementary roles if needed.

To further empower our longer-staying staff, we also will be running more in-house courses in the next few months.

We are also about to embark on a career conversion programme with the Singapore Retailers Association, where we will work on enlarging traditional roles such as head of merchandising to incorporate marketing and e-commerce scopes.

This way, it brings such roles closer to the ground, which enables us to better address shoppers’ needs. It also creates a greater sense of ownership among our team members by empowering them.

 

ABOUT THE WRITER:

Ms Morwena Tan is BHG’s Group legal counsel and deputy general manager and has been with BHG Singapore for the past 15 years. She was previously with companies such as Far East Organization, Harry Elias Partnership (Singapore) and Allen & Gledhill (Singapore).

If you are a business owner with an experience to share or know someone who wishes to contribute to this series, write to voices [at] mediacorp.com.sg with your full name, address and phone number.

Related topics

On the Talent Hunt BHG department store labour market e-commerce career mobility

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