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On the Talent Hunt: At my computer firm, we’re tackling the labour crunch by creating flexible jobs for gig workers


As companies across Singapore’s sectors face a manpower threat in a tight labor market, the TODAY’s Voices section publishes accounts from business owners.

At this stage, Mr Tan Ching Hwee, 43, writes about the challenges he faces in hiring rank-and-file workers in his computer repair and e-waste recycling business. Redesigning some tasks so that they can be more suited to part-timers helped fill the gap.

I founded PC Dreams in 2005 to sell personal computers and since then I have expanded the business to many related services such as electronic device repair and e-waste recycling.

In recent years, the biggest challenge we have faced has been filling rank-and-file jobs such as customer service and retail roles.

Part of this comes from cuts in quotas on foreign workers, and the fact that Singaporeans have traditionally tended to avoid such jobs.

Those who take these jobs are also easily hijacked by multinational companies. It was so painful to lose staff we trained and nurtured from the beginning just so they could leave.

While some jobs can be automated, in many others, especially in customer-facing positions, you need someone to add human touch, which is more important than most think.

The manpower crunch, exacerbated by recovery from the pandemic, has directly affected how much we earn.

When new business opportunities come up, we still have to turn down some due to staff shortages.

Today we have job openings in a variety of areas, from accounts to e-commerce, logistics, and business administration, and more.

These issues are here to stay, so the responsibility to adapt to change is with us. As such, we are making 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 revised some of our jobs. Previously, for tasks such as data managers, customer service or device graders, we only used full-timers.

In late 2019, we began redesigning our work functions to make them more modular and therefore suitable for part-timers.

We now have 20 permanent part-timers who can choose their own hours, so they have more control over their time.

We just need them to commit to working at least eight hours per week.

Eventually, we will transfer most of the work functions that can be done remotely to teams overseas. In fact, we already have seven employees based overseas.

In Singapore, we aim to maintain a strong team focused on the work that needs to be done on site, and work functions that require innovation.

To ensure that all of these changes are made correctly, we engage external consultants such as communications specialists to help us build our internal communications and branding.

We even remodeled our workspace to include a pantry with a coffee machine and mini fridge, with a weekly budget for staff to buy something for the pantry.

Right now, our team members are talking about what other elements they want to have in the office so that their work can be a more enjoyable experience.

We are in this transition, but we hope it will help us face our manpower challenges.

Our employees are our blood, and they need to feel and know that the company cares about their well-being.

After all, happy staff are more productive, and more productive staff leads to happier customers.

ABOUT WRITING:

Mr Tan Ching Hwee, 43, is the founder and managing director of PC Dreams, which is in the business of sustainability technology, particularly electronics upcycling. The group has a total of 40 staff, including about 20 permanent part-timers.

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



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