You may know Seoul Garden for their yummy Korean BBQ and a great place to chill with friends. How well do you know the staff at your favourite outlet?
I had the opportunity to chat with some of the staff at Seoul Garden’s NEX outlet and would like to introduce you to the kind people who make our meals more meaningful.
The GM who made a mid-career switch
Our host was Seoul Garden’s General Manager Garry Lam, who was himself Placed-and-Trained in the company by e2i (Employment & Employability Institute).
Garry had been working abroad for more than 20 years in places such as Hong Kong, Shanghai, Manila, Chongqing, Adelaide, Sydney, Beijing, Zhuhai, Taipei mainly in the service industry.
However, when he returned to Singapore, he realised there was a prevalence of ageism that prevented experienced mature workers from securing jobs. Thankfully via e2i, he secured a job with Seoul Garden in September 2017.
During his Place-and-Train stint, Garry went through a 6-months compressed training programme which equipped him with the necessary skillsets for his role.
After he completed his training, he was promoted to Operations Manager, then Head of Operations, and now the General Manager of Seoul Garden Group.
Placing people into jobs is just the beginning
In Seoul Garden, many staff have been sponsored by the company for continuous lifelong learning courses as well as professional tertiary courses.
Garry says, “We are even flexible enough to allow team members to go for classes and adjust the working hours to suit their schedule. I strongly urge that our education system will include Restaurant Management as a professional sector for higher academic learning.”.
Being an inclusive employer
Out of Seoul Garden’s 200 staff, around 20 staff have partial disabilities. They are paid equally as other staff and given training and career opportunities. Seoul Garden also hired a team of dedicated staff to help them integrate at work, coach them on the job and bring up their confidence.
“We also welcome matured workers and even partial disabilities such as autism, hearing impaired, etc. We have a team of dedicated Coaching Facilitators & Assessors, who are patient and really focused in helping this group of members to be more independent and able to adapt to a high customer service demand environment,” says Garry.
Seoul Garden constantly looks at how to improve the workplace to help mature workers and workers with partial disabilities cope with job duties.
“With constant R&D of equipment, such as e2i’s WorkPro programme on our buffet counter, Gen 9 smokeless roaster, as well as non-stick grill plate, it has helped the matured workers and workers with partial disabilities to be more productive, and it’s a lot safer for them to work,” says Garry.
Evelyn Chua found a job with Seoul Garden after seeing an advertisement at its Bedok branch. She started working a year ago as a part-time staff and was subsequently promoted to Service Assistant.
When Seoul Garden implemented the new chiller and buffet system, and changed to a Smokeless Grill System, Evelyn’s job was redesigned to be easier and safer. She also received a wage increment.
Evelyn appreciates customers who are more understanding towards service staff like herself, and treat service staff like friends. She remembers fondly a nice customer who told her “I appreciate your help” as she helped the customer take some items while the customer was busy with her baby.
However, there are days that she faces “challenges” that are not ideally pleasant. Demands and requests can get a little overwhelming at times. Hence even when Seoul Garden tries to be more inclusive as an employer, customers also play an important part in understanding and appreciating workers with different abilities.
Garry shared enthusiastically how Seoul Garden will continue to work closely with e2i in upcoming career fairs and explore how both parties can help mature jobseekers who are willing to explore career opportunities with Seoul Garden Group.
Seoul Garden will also be exploring partnerships with SG Enable to help some of the partially-disabled team members adapt and learn new skills.
What do you want to tell others? Find me at jules <at> workersofsingapore (dot) com