Looking for talent: At my IT company, we’re tackling labor shortages by creating flexible jobs for gig workers

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As businesses across a wide range of sectors in Singapore grapple with labor shortages in a tight labor market, TODAY’s Voices section features testimonials from business owners.

In this article, Mr. Tan Ching Hwee, 43, describes the difficulties he faced in hiring rank-and-file workers in his computer repair and e-waste recycling business. Revamping some roles to make them more suitable for part-time workers has helped fill the void.

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

Over the past few years, the biggest challenge we have faced has been filling core positions such as customer service and retail positions.

This is partly due to reduced quotas for foreign workers and the fact that Singaporeans have traditionally shied away from such jobs.

Those in these jobs are also easily poached by multinationals. It’s painful enough to lose staff that we have trained and nurtured from scratch to leave.

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

The labor shortage, aggravated by the recovery from the pandemic, is directly affecting our profitability.

When new business opportunities presented themselves to us, we even had to turn them down due to lack of staff.

We currently have vacancies in various fields, from accounting to e-commerce, logistics and business administration, among others.

These problems are here to stay, so it is up to us to adapt to change. So, we have made changes within our business that we hope will enable us to thrive in this climate.

We understand that the gig economy is also here to stay and that workers want flexible work arrangements.

In response, we redesigned some of our jobs. Previously, for roles such as data stewards, customer service, or device evaluators, we only employed full-time employees.

At the end of 2019, we began to overhaul our businesses to make them more flexible and therefore suitable for part-timers.

We have now hired about twenty permanent part-time employees who can choose their own hours, so that they have more control over their time.

We only ask them to commit to working at least eight hours a week.

Eventually, we will transfer most of the tasks that can be done remotely to teams abroad. In fact, we now have seven employees who are based overseas.

In Singapore, we aim to keep a very light team focused on the work that needs to be done locally and the functions that require innovation.

To ensure that all of these changes are done right, we have engaged external consultants such as communications specialists to help structure our internal communications and branding.

We even redesigned our workspace to include a pantry with a coffee maker and mini fridge, as well as a weekly budget for staff to buy something for the pantry.

Currently, our team members are discussing what other items they would like to have in the office to make their work more enjoyable.

We are in the middle of this transition, but we hope this will help us meet our workforce challenges.

Our people are our cornerstone, 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 general manager of PC Dreams, which deals with sustainable technology, especially electronic recycling. The group has a total of 40 employees, including around twenty permanent part-timers.

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

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