In its first partnership with the Bosses Network Young Chapter, the Institute for Adult Learning (IAL) organised a “Lift Your Business with Learning@Work” seminar cum networking event on 15 April 2017 for SME business owners and workplace learning solutionists. Attended by more than 80 participants, the session showcased a range of exemplary enterprise workplace learning practices and encouraged SMEs to adopt change initiatives that could enhance the learning and performance of employees and the organisation as a whole.
A key highlight of the event was the inspiring experience sharing by the next-generation SME bosses on how they have innovated and transformed their businesses in their respective industries, in order to stay competitive and relevant.
Ms Jamie Lim, Regional Marketing Director of Scanteak Singapore kicked off the sharing session by painting some of the challenges encountered by Scanteak in the furniture industry, which included rising labour costs, competitive retail climate and increasing marketing channels. To overcome these challenges, she revealed how her company made use of internships to help alleviate these issues. At the onset, she had to redesign the job scopes of full-time employees, inject structure into the interns’ roles and responsibilities, and focus on changing her managers’ mindsets about interns.
Eventually, Scanteak was able to give its interns a well-rounded experience and provide them with the opportunity of working on various portfolios such as planning and managing events and product launches; designing marketing collateral and window displays; creating and driving traffic to social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and blog/website; just to name a few. Since taking on interns from 2013 to 2016, the company has successfully achieved a 60% increase in its sales, branding and marketing events, and has made its events more efficient and sophisticated. Moving forward, Scanteak aims to expand its collaboration with more tertiary institutions to attract interns into the company.
Next, Mr Darren Cheng, Executive Director and Ms Jenny Tay, Managing Director of Direct Funeral Services, a husband-and-wife team, shared with the audience on how they reinvented a traditional funeral service business, after taking over the reins in 2013. Initially, they suffered a huge culture shock and had a very steep learning curve. They were faced with several challenges of changing demands of bereaved families, tighter labour quota, manpower shortage, and the difficulty of hiring new people to join a back-dated, taboo business. However, they set their minds on raising the image and standards of the industry, and worked on refocusing the business concept from providing funeral execution to offering customer hospitality. The company’s human resource practices were also revamped by changing recruitment policy, revising pay scales and employee benefits, providing training and offering career progression.
As a result, Direct Funeral Services was able to attract younger workers to join the business, grow their staff strength from five to 50, and more than double their company’s customers from 60 to 140 per month from 2013 to 2017. Fusing innovation with tradition, Darren and Jenny’s ultimate goal for the company is to transform an old-fashioned business into a one-stop end-of-life hub offering professional services.
In line with Learning@Work’s objective of leveraging the workplace as a convenient, authentic and rich site for knowledge acquisition and learning application, participants found the real-life business transformation sharing by these young bosses to be especially informative and valuable.
“After chatting with many of the participants, my take is that they found the session enjoyable, the speakers were very inspiring and IAL’s sharing on the government grants was helpful. I think the highlight was the sharing by Jamie (Scanteak Singapore) and Jenny (Direct Funeral Services) on how they had transformed their businesses in terms of branding, modernising the business concept and most importantly, adapting well to the trends of their customers. If there is a key takeaway from the Learning@Work series, it would be having the courage to drive innovation in our industries.”Mr Andy Hoon Director, Kim San Leng (F&B) Group
“It has been a smooth and pleasurable partnership with IAL. They have the right framework and expertise which are relevant and useful to facilitate growth and progression for interested SMEs. I also had good takeaways from the Learning@Work series, getting tips from the guest speakers, Jenny and Darren from Direct Funeral Services, on their journey in restructuring industry standards for a competitive edge in a very niche and narrow market.” Mr Nicholas Lai Business Development Manager, D’Kranji Farm Resort, Managed by Sun & Earth (S) Pte Ltd
The next “Lift Your Business with Learning@Work” series will be held on 27 Oct 2017. To find out more, visit learningatwork.ial.edu.sg/events