On the Talent Hunt: My private school solved a hiring headache with an untapped talent pool — mums returning to the workforce
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 Rathakrishnan Govind, 57, describes the challenges the staff at his private educational institution faced in dealing with students. Finding suitable staff to fill vacancies in a timely manner was a headache until the firm discovered an untapped pool of well-credentialled applicants: Mothers returning to the workforce.
The private education sector has evolved over the years. One unique challenge that our staff has to deal with is to treat students as customers, especially with a growth in enrolment at our private educational institution, which now has 2,000 students.
As young digital natives, our students require customer service that is swift, sometimes expecting an email response within hours to requests such as a switch of classes.
Thus, finding and retaining employees who can cope with these demands and also have good interpersonal skills to establish strong customer relationships remains one of our greatest challenges, particularly with Singapore’s current manpower crunch.
In the last year, we had five vacancies, which took a long time to fill, despite us advertising on most online job portals.
In fact, we found a human resource (HR) manager only after six months.
The long HR vacancy also affected employee morale as we did not roll out many staff welfare initiatives.
Being short-staffed also means we could not promptly attend to a huge volume of queries from our students. This sometimes led to reputation loss when they took to social media to air their grievances when our replies fell short of their expectations.
The pandemic forced us to rethink our recruitment strategies.
We moved beyond purely matching a candidate’s resume and employment history to the job description, and started looking at the person’s personality and potential.
We interviewed candidates to understand the reasons for their career path and choices, thus helping us to find attributes that could be a good fit for the role.
Some candidates showed enthusiasm, out-of-the-box ideas and leadership qualities such as sound decision-making.
These go beyond what could be found in a resume and are useful when dealing with our customers.
Through this, we discovered an untapped pool of potential hires: Mothers returning to the workforce.
They are hungry for a challenge and have good inner strength, having gone through the trials of childbirth and caregiving duties.
In April 2022, we hired as our HR manager a back-to-work woman who had earlier sought career assistance from Workforce Singapore (WSG).
She, alongside three other women whom we have hired in recent years, has done well.
In them, we see how mothers can be good managers because parenthood is one of the basic forms of leadership.
We want to replicate this success by working with partners to cast our recruitment nets wider and consider those who are keen to make a mid-career switch to this industry.
We are also planning to organise outreach events and participate in WSG’s career fairs to fill 15 vacancies in sales, operations, administrative and teaching positions.
It might be a long road ahead, but we hope that these small steps can help overcome some of the manpower challenges that we have faced.
We also hope that other employers can start to be more intentional about hiring for a candidate’s potential, not their past history, and value what employees can bring to the company.
ABOUT THE WRITER:
Mr Rathakrishnan Govind, 57, is chief executive officer of London School of Business and Finance, which has been operating in Singapore since 2010. It has 58 staff members and about 15 full- and part-time vacancies as of July 2022.
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.