From ad hoc to full time roles, businesses turn to tech to tackle labour woes

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SINGAPORE: For the managers at local dimsum restaurant Yum Cha, looking for an extra pair of hands to cope with the weekend crowd or to stand in for a full-time employee who has called in sick used to be a stressful process.

It usually involved combing through a phone book and calling up part-timers one by one, according to deputy general manager Melody Tan.

The homegrown restaurant, which operates two outlets in Chinatown and Changi Business Park, also depends on temporary staff to help when there are large bookings or when its full-timers go on leave after peak periods like Chinese New Year. But the perennial manpower crunch in the food and beverage (F&B) sector has made finding workers an uphill task and its regular list of 20 part-timers is often barely enough.

For the past year, however, managers at the dimsum specialty store have been using a mobile app called JobsOnDemand to find ad hoc workers who can stand in for a day or two at a short notice.

The real-time job-matching platform allows businesses, such as Yum Cha, to post ad hoc jobs which users of the app can sign up for. Workers receive their wages the next day while businesses pay a small fee for each successful match.

Last week, Yum Cha’s outlet in Chinatown posted two recruitment ads for service crew to work over the long weekend at an hourly rate of S$9. The positions were filled by the end of the day.

According to Ms Tan, the app has been a “quick solution” to the restaurant’s labour woes. “Instead of having my managers call up part-timers one by one and end up feeling stressed, it’s much easier now. They just make a post and wait for applicants.”

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WIth two outlets in Chinatown and Changi Business Park, dimsum restaurant Yum Cha currently employs 50 full-time employees. (Photo: Yum Cha Restaurant/Facebook)

 

Over at Jewel Coffee, its managers are using a similar mobile app called MyWork to hire flyer distributors for ad hoc promotions that it has. Given its tight manpower situation, the newly opened cafe located at GSH Plaza intends to use the app to recruit ad hoc service crew and baristas in the near future, noted co-owner Quek Kay Hwee.

Both F&B businesses told Channel NewsAsia that the apps provide a summary of a candidate’s past working experience, which helps employers to pick and choose quality part-timers to tide through the ongoing manpower crunch.

“The app is useful because you get to see what other jobs they’ve done, how they fared and what rating they got from other employers,” said Mr Quek. “For us, if these workers are looking at a longer-term commitment, we can use this as an opportunity to try it out and if it works, we may consider a longer-term part-time contract or potentially a full-time position.”

The emergence of such job-matching apps has also helped businesses to expand their pool of candidates. For Yum Cha, it managed to hire younger part-timers – a group of workers that it has faced difficulties recruiting in the past.

Ms Tan said: “We have a group of part-timers who have been with us for more than 10 years and as they get older, we need to find their replacements. But it’s very difficult for us to attract the younger people because we are a traditional restaurant. Even though we offer a higher pay, many of the younger workers prefer to work in cafes or places that are more cool and have colleagues that are their age.”

She added: “But now, they get to pick a one-day job on the app based on the pay, location and job scope and many of them are willing to give us a try.”

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JobsOnDemand is a real-time job-matching app developed by homegrown software development company Aptus Technologies. (Photo: Tang See Kit)

“WHERE ARE THE TALENTS?”

Apart from F&B, the local technology sector is also facing a talent squeeze. Rapid growth in the industry has opened up more job opportunities such as digital marketing and online content development roles, but filling them is not always easy, according to some firms.

Local e-commerce start-up ShopBack was looking to hire a “chief shopping officer” earlier this year. The one-month position required the candidate to make purchases online with funds provided by the start-up, and produce four two-minute videos to document his or her shopping journey.

However, the role, which has a pre-requisite of two to three years of online shopping experience and a remuneration of up to S$5,000 “with variable bonus”, took longer than expected to fill despite the start-up running the job ad on six recruitment portals.

“We intended to fill the role within 2 weeks but we had to extend by another 2 weeks to gather a decent number of applications… The role took us longer than expected, which is possibly due to the nature of the job,” said Ms Rachel Lee, ShopeBack’s human resource business partner. “It might have sounded too good to be true.”

To help businesses fill these niche positions, there are tech start-ups that are gearing up to plug the gap. One of them is Singapore-based TalentDash, which runs a recruitment technology platform that leverages on big data to help businesses locate and find ideal candidates.

“Our clients are constantly asking: ‘Where are the talents?’ Even with the tight labour market, it’s still hard to find talents, especially for tech roles,” said product marketing manager Charisma Lin. “A lot of the companies we work with are SMEs and start-ups that don’t have the resources to focus on hiring so they just post ads online but the applicants may not be people that they want.”

Since launching last August, the start-up has worked with more than 200 clients, with the majority being tech start-ups and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from Singapore and the United States. By paying monthly subscriptions for the service, companies can receive a daily list of qualified candidates sourced by TalentDash’s proprietary algorithm.

Ms Lin said: “We recently had a user from Europe who was looking to set up in Singapore and needed talents from the biotechnology space. With the parameters that he gave us, such as skills needed and years of experience, we ran a search across the open web with our algorithm and we found over a hundred candidates. He went through the list and hired a couple of them so I don’t think there’s a lack of tech talents in Singapore but it’s more of businesses not knowing how and where to find them.”

But even as start-ups, armed with their own in-house algorithms, look to redefine the recruitment process, there are incumbents that believe they still have a competitive edge.

Ms Lynne Roeder, the managing director of Hays Singapore, said while algorithms can improve the job-matching process, start-ups still lack the rich data that established players have accumulated over the years.

“Using past and current data in machine learning enables us to predict future success based on actual past success, that’s quite a challenge for new entrants to the market… Right now we see many trying to match based on little historical data and often only up to the stage of application.”

For Yum Cha, the app has been a quick fix for its manpower crunch but it has certainly not been foolproof.

“There are those that don’t turn up even after accepting the job, those that come but say they don’t want to do certain things or leave after one hour… There will always be oddball cases so I would say the success rate for us is about 80 per cent so far,” Ms Tan told Channel NewsAsia.

“But I think these apps have surfaced and will continue to do well as long as there’s high demand, and we need workers.”

Follow See Kit on Twitter @SeeKitCNA
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