On the Talent Hunt: At my computer firm, we’re tackling the labour crunch by creating flexible jobs for gig workers
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, Mr Tan Ching Hwee, 43, writes about the challenges he has faced hiring rank-and-file workers at his computer repair and e-waste recycling business. Redesigning some roles to make them more suited to part-timers has helped fill the gap.
I founded PC Dreams in 2005 to sell personal computers and have since expanded the business into numerous related services such as repairing electronic devices and e-waste recycling.
In recent years, the biggest challenge we have faced is filling rank-and-file jobs such as customer service and retail roles.
Part of it stemmed from cuts to foreign worker quotas, and the fact that Singaporeans traditionally tend to shun such jobs.
The ones that do take these jobs are also easily poached by multinational companies. It's quite painful to lose staff whom we have trained and nurtured from the ground up only for them to leave.
While some jobs can be automated, in many others, especially in customer-facing positions, you need a person to add the human touch, which is more important than most people think.
The manpower crunch, made worse by the recovery from the pandemic, directly affects how profitable we are.
When new business opportunities come our way, we have even had to turn down some because of a lack of staff.
We currently have job openings in a range of areas, from accounts to e-commerce, logistics, and business administration, among others.
These issues are here to stay, so the onus to adapt to change is on us. As such, we've made changes within our company that we hope will allow us to thrive in this climate.
We understand that the gig economy is also here to stay, and workers want flexible work arrangements.
In response, we have redesigned some of our jobs. Previously, for roles such as data handlers, customer service or device graders, we employed only full-timers.
In late 2019, we started redesigning our job functions to make them more modular and hence suited to part-timers.
We have now hired 20-odd permanent part-timers who can choose their own hours, so they have more control over their time.
We only require them to commit to work at least eight hours a week.
Eventually, we will move most job functions that can be done remotely to overseas teams. In fact, we now have seven employees who are based overseas.
In Singapore, we aim to keep a very lean team focused on work that must be done on site, and job functions that require innovation.
To ensure all these changes are done right, we engaged external consultants such as communication specialists to help us structure our internal communications and branding.
We even redesigned our workspace to include a pantry with a coffee machine and mini fridge, along with a weekly budget for staff to buy something for the pantry.
Currently, our team members are discussing what other elements they would like to have in the office to make their work a more enjoyable experience.
We are in the midst of this transition, but we are hopeful that this can help us tackle our manpower challenges.
Our staff are our lifeblood, and they must feel and know that the company cares about their well-being.
After all, happy staff are more productive, and more productive staff lead to happier customers.
ABOUT THE WRITER:
Mr Tan Ching Hwee, 43, is the founder and manager director of PC Dreams, which is in the business of sustainability technology, in particular electronics upcycling. The group has a total of 40 staff members, including about 20 permanent part-timers.
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.