HR Policies, Practices and Strategies

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Chapter 4
HR Policies, Practices and Strategies


Apex-Pal recognises employees as associates and as the single most important asset to the company. Every employee is important to the company and the contributions made by every employee are recognised and valued. The company is responsible for the basic needs of all employees, with the philosophy ‘They work with us but not for us’. Hence, we can see that the Human Resource (HR) department has been given a vital and prominent role in guiding the holistic people-focused culture found throughout the entire organisation.

Employee health and well-being issues are managed as part of the Human Resource strategy that aims to maximise staff performance. By providing benefits like the health promotion programme, the company signals to employees across the organisation the importance of a healthy lifestyle and work-life balance. The work culture at Apex-Pal is extremely informal. The company does not believe in

hierarchies, and employees are always free to walk up to anyone to discuss any issue. There is very strong team spirit and cohesion within the organisation nurtured by the HR team.

The company believes in a tripartite relationship where the company first takes care of its staff and their family members, and, in return, the staff will treat the customers well, and lastly, the customers will then treat the company well with continued patronage. Apex-Pal hires people who are looking to build a long-term career with the company. It assesses people's strengths and weaknesses and tries to help them carve a career path in order to secure long-term employment.


Work Life Programme

Apex-Pal has an HR Work-life Committee that develops strategic plans after surveying the needs of employees. It offers various types of family care leave benefits, childcare subsidies, time off to attend to family matters, and a new scheme of 5½ day work week to employees, while most F&B companies still require theirs to work a 6-day work week. It has received positive feedback from employees, who are pleased that they are able to provide significant input pertaining to staff welfare and benefits. It also helps that the committee consists of rotating members of the company who are able to provide a range of inputs and personal feedback that can be implemented easily.

Workplace — Health Promotion Programme

At Apex-Pal, employee health and well-being issues are managed as part of the HR development strategy that aims to maximise staff performance.

The company sponsors the full activity fee for all their full-time employees who are interested in participating in various sports activities offered by the Singapore Sports Council (SSC). Sports vouchers are awarded to staff who actively participate in sports activities.

This programme is useful as it showcases Apex-Pal as a company that cares about the welfare and health of its employees. Through collaborations with the SSC, this programme urges employees to pick up sports to promote a healthy lifestyle, which will ultimately benefit the company through increased productivity.

Workforce Skills Qualification (WSQ) — Food & Beverage

With the F&B WSQ in place, Apex-Pal is able to recruit employees with a national certificate that is recognised by all. This saves the company time by not having to repeat training for new employees. It is a win-win outcome for all parties as productivity and profitability of a business often depends on the qualities and skills of its employees.

Apex-Pal has worked closely with the Workforce Development Agency of Singapore and helped in the development of WSQ elements, standards and assessment plans for the preparation of Japanese cuisine. Apex-Pal is one of the first adopters of this scheme because the company feels that it is a great way to recognise their staff's capability as well as to

appreciate their hard work to the company by giving them a nationally recognised certification.

With this scheme, the company is able to use the standards set in the system to create a robust curriculum and rigorous training processes, thus increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the company's training programme.

Mature Employees Programme

The HR team is expanding recruiting efforts to include mature workers. Also, the team is focusing on benefits plan for mature workers. Apex-Pal offers free health checks and computer training to them. This addresses the main areas of health and technology, which enhances employees' self-confidence and improves their general well-being. This is in line with trends in developed nations like Singapore, which has a higher percentage of mature workers.

HR is also assisting mature employees to move into “trainer” roles. These matured workers will act as mentors for new employees and provide guidance to the team. An example is a 70-year-old employee who is solely in charge of making chawanmushi (Japanese steamed eggs) in one of Sakae Sushi's restaurants. He takes up the role of a trainer, guiding new trainees with the skills needed in chawanmushi making. This method allows employees to specialise in a certain skill that can be imparted to younger members of the team. Mature workers also feel happy knowing that they are able to manage and contribute meaningfully to the company.

Safety Management Programme

A safe and healthy business is also a productive and profitable business. When accidents occur at workplaces, workers and their families suffer as a result. With the extension of the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Act in March 2008 to cover six new sectors — namely, Healthcare Activities; Veterinary Activities; Hotels and F&B sectors; Water Supply, Sewerage, and Waste Management Activities; Landscape Care and Maintenance Service Activities; and Services Allied to Transportation of Goods — Apex-Pal has taken the proactive approach of setting up a Safety Management System, making it one of the first in the local F&B sector to do so. For a start, the risk assessment plan covering the kitchen, service area and customer sitting area will be put in place. The plan is drawn up based on the key principles of the WSH Act that advocates reducing risks at source, increasing stakeholders' ownership and adopting a performance-based approach. Once fully in place, staff at all outlets will be briefed on safe work and accident report procedures. They will also be trained in simple first aid procedures and the technique for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)

The EAP is a benefit paid for by Apex-Pal for the employees. The programme helps identify and find resources to solve personal problems related to marriage, family, finance, personal and lifestyle concerns, mental, emotional and physical health, and workplace issues. These problems, if not resolved, could adversely affect the employee's job performance.

The EAP helps in three different ways:

  1. Intervention (for employees who may be caught in a situation)
  2. Education (training and learning through talks, online resources, newsletter to equip Apex-Pal employees to manage when difficult situations arise)
  3. Working with the management and HR department to continually improve the organisation culture and policies.

Through the EAP, Apex-Pal hopes to promote Workplace Emotional Wellness in terms of:

  • raising Awareness, promoting Acceptability,
  • proving Accessibility (bring help to the people where the people are),
  • Affordability (given as part of the company benefits), and
  • Assurance (of the type of help and quality of the delivery)

In this knowledge-based age, emotional and mental stresses are becoming more commonplace at work and Apex-Pal's EAP is a workplace environment improvement initiative to help its employees deal with such stresses.

Recreational Programmes

Apex-Pal organises regular company outings such as health screenings, walk-and-jog sessions, bowling tournament, health talks, family day, overseas trips etc. The company hopes to forge closer ties and a better understanding of their staff when they bring their families together to help the latter better understand the working environment at Apex-Pal.

Community Projects

Radin Mas' Lunar New Year Activities

In an effort to spread the festive atmosphere and the celebration of the Lunar New Year to the less fortunate and needy, the HR team, together with staff from all departments within the company and external volunteers, organises annual Lunar New Year dinners for elderly tenants of rental apartments in the Radin Mas area, which includes Redhill Close, Telok Blangah Crescent, Telok Blangah Rise and Henderson Road. The majority of these elderly tenants are single, over 60 years of age, unemployable, failing in health and do not have any relatives or kin to depend on for care or support. Apex-Pal has created tremendous goodwill in the community by contributing to the needy.

Volunteering at MINDS

The HR team organises yearly excursions for MINDS (Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore) students to visit the Sakae Sushi outlet on Sentosa Island, where they will learn the art of sushi-making from an experienced chef.

With the help of employees who volunteer their assistance, the events are always a success as the students thoroughly enjoy their learning experience while co-workers in turn learn the art of being patient and effective communication. In addition, Apex-Pal hopes that this initiative will help to provide possible career opportunities for these students, thus helping the recruitment process.


Apex-Pal has done a very good job with sound and meaningful HR programmes, which have received extensive positive publicity and coverage by the press. Although there are already numerous events planned by its HR department, the company could foster greater understanding with the community by asking each outlet to adopt a district to serve through community service. Apex-Pal can organise cooking classes or food festivals within the community for residents to participate in. This will foster greater unity among residents and employees, which will in turn benefit the company in terms of brand awareness and exposure. Since Apex-Pal has the largest number of outlets spread across Singapore, having a strong community presence will also help its bottom line.


Biometric Attendance Project

Sakae Sushi has 34 outlets spread throughout Singapore, employing in total about 1200 full- and part-time staff. Due to the nature of F&B business, flexible shift work patterns for all staff are an integral part of operations. HR is currently working on the biometric attendance project for the entire organisation and subsidiaries.

The Biometric Attendance System is a device that uses palms or fingers as a means of identification for every employee. This is linked to a Biometric time clock device which has a scanner and software to convert scanned information into digital data, and a database to store the data. This system supports flexible work shift arrangements, thus allowing the company to look into hiring more part-time employees like

housewives and students. It also frees managers from hours of manual tasks like calculating work hours, and allows them to focus on more important tasks that will enhance their productivity.


The quality of the organisation's human resources depends on the quality of its recruits. Unless there are adequate numbers, the company cannot have a truly selective employment system. Recruiting the right employees is a very demanding job, especially in a tight labour market.

Apex-Pal is a growing company with more than 1,000 staff. To find a viable group of candidates, the company has developed a check-list of four questions:

  • Who are they? Come up with a list of “must haves”
  • Where are they? Internal vs. external employment
  • How to inform and interest these people?
  • How many candidates are enough?

According to May Foo, Apex Pal's Vice-President, Group Human Resource and Capability Development, Apex-Pal requires managers to recruit people who will excel at their jobs, believe in the company's holistic culture and stay with the company. If the wrong recruitment decision is made, there will be significant costs incurred. To reduce this business risk and increase the credibility of the decisions made, it is vital that Apex-Pal makes the right decisions when recruiting.

To do so, Apex-Pal has to have clarity about job descriptions and functions. There should be proper assessment processes to ensure that the people recruited match the requirements. Using a professional selection process will help to attract the

best people and ensure that the company does not fall foul of industrial legislation, which can be both costly and damaging to the brand.

There are many alternatives to recruiting which can be less costly. These include hiring temporary workers (normally hired for not more than six months), employee leasing (from an employee leasing firm), subcontracting an entire support function to an outside firm and contract with an individual or consultant on a project basis. Apex-Pal should recognise these variations and factor them in when designing recruitment programmes.


Employees can be motivated in intrinsic and extrinsic ways. At Apex-Pal, the company believes in empowerment and initiatives similar to those of a Western organisational culture.

According to CEO Foo, money is not the only motivation factor. Apex-Pal pays comparable salaries in relation to other F&B businesses. They also have a total HR development programme: a person who joins as a crew does not have to remain a crew in the next two years. Opportunities will be provided for him/her to learn new skills and try new tasks.

Apex-Pal makes it a point to help each employee excel at his or her abilities. To do so, the company conducts courses and modules that teach leadership and personality skills to guide employees. One of the most critical factors in the area of staff morale and motivation at work is that of employer-employee communication and consultation. Employees will generally perform at their best if they know the company, and understand its needs and aspirations.

Second, Apex-Pal is a family-oriented company which acknowledges the importance of the family. After all, “Apex-Pal, the name suggests that we want to break new heights. But while we're doing that, we want to be friends, we want to be pals, we want to look after your family as well, like part of the company. So we want to make sure that they have enough time for their families,” according to Foo. The company gives out birthday vouchers that entitle celebrating families to dine at its outlets. There are also family day activities, where employees have the opportunity to bond with their families as well.

Third, Apex-Pal gives back to the community. The company organises community outreach programmes, where some employees will organise trips for orphanages or old folks to visit Sakae Sushi outlets, to learn how to roll and make sushi. Hence, employees know that they are “living a life with the company, and not coming for a transaction.”

In its latest plan for employee motivation, the company has just received approval from its board to implement the Performance Share Scheme whereby the company will buy back Apex-Pal shares and distribute them to high performers. In this way, the company hopes to communicate to high performers that they are valued, increase the likelihood that they will share in the company's dreams and retain them in the company.


According to its 2006 annual report, Apex-Pal's top management received bonuses from 9–45% of total salary. This is in line with industry averages of 20%.

In Apex-Pal, there is a profit-sharing scheme where the company “make(s) sure that they are market competitive, or slightly better.” This profit sharing scheme is extended to everyone in the company. and CEO Foo acknowledges that employees “still look at that (bonuses) as very important.”

HR establishes criteria to reward performance and contribution to the company. Measurable performance objectives and standards are pre-agreed in management meetings. These performance objectives are closely linked to the company's strategic business plan and ideally concluded prior to the time of the annual budget.

According to May, all employees must be given due recognition for their contribution to the company's growth. The recognition must provide the employer and employee with specific information about what behaviours or actions are being rewarded and recognised. Anyone who then performs at the level or standard stated in the criteria receives the reward. The recognition should occur as close to the performance of the actions as possible, so that the recognition reinforces behaviour that is encouraged.

Since the HR Department has the largest responsibility of the system, including access to individual personal records, HR personnel will then need to be more vigilant and consistent to correct any disparity in assessment through HR vetting.

The HR department would have to assess the compensation package of Apex-Pal on a frequent basis, to ensure that it is in line with or above industry average. Failure to do so may result in the loss of valuable senior managers.


Apex-Pal's long-term success in managing its people rests on its ability to manage employee performances. Performance management systems do not need to be formal to be effective, but will have to fit in with the company's strategic objectives and culture.1

Apex-Pal has a very effective feedback system as exemplified by CEO Foo, who welcomes “360-degree feedback” to be “more efficient and have better communication” within the company. To do so, Foo has an open door policy and replies all questions posed to him, as he believes that through communication, the staff will have a better grasp of the opportunities available to them to try new ideas.

The company also has a Staff Suggestion Scheme where employees are encouraged to participate in the decision-making process to cultivate a sense of belonging among the employees. Any employee may submit his/her suggestions to the HR Department. A reward is given as an incentive for each successfully implemented suggestion.

Apex-Pal has also set up effective communication channels to allow the company and employees to understand each other's needs, interests and difficulties, while reaching agreements that are beneficial to both sides. The employer-employee communications can include weekly Area Managers' and Area Chefs' meetings, monthly Management Meetings, the effective use of online and offline bulletins, CEO's memorandums, staff outings and the Annual Dinner

1 A. Jeffrey Mello, Strategic Human Resource Management 2nd ed. (Mason, Ohio: Thomson South-Western, 2006), 443.

& Dance, as well as employee Appreciation monthly lunches with the CEO.

When managing difficult staff, Apex-Pal often counsels them first. If that fails, they “go through the proper HR procedure of issuing them a letter that they've been counselled.” There are checks and balances and proper procedures that are followed, but the company seldom has to resort to such measures.


Apex-Pal can use five critical guidelines in their performance management system.2 Firstly, any feedback provided should be specific. Feedback provided should be from credible, trustworthy sources whose backgrounds have been thoroughly checked. Thirdly, feedback should be provided as soon as possible after events, behaviours or outcomes have taken place. Performance measures should be based on clear and measurable goals. Lastly, the process should involve a dialogue between the employee and manager that addresses problems and plans for the future.


Career development includes career planning and career management. Career planning requires personal appraisal of values, career goals, skills, strengths and weaknesses, setting

2 Ibid., 454.

career objectives and developing activities to achieve them.3 As Apex-Pal grows larger, it has to develop specific HR activities to facilitate career growth. Initiatives such as a strong mentor system to integrate new employees, internal job posting, career development workshops, strong performance review and proper training and development help in the career management of the employees.

Above all, career development is an HR strategy that facilitates employees' better understanding of their abilities and interests to better match personal needs for growth with organisational needs. It also facilitates promotion from within the company, hence ensuring that talents will always be available. Career development also helps to create an environment where there is greater job satisfaction, higher morale and retention of talents, while ensuring that minorities and women get opportunities for growth and development.

Hence, companies must be flexible enough to provide alternative paths to satisfy employees' different career needs. The following individual career anchors are desired functions of potential and current employees which are vital in helping Apex-Pal make sound decisions in analysing employees when recruiting and retaining them.

Firstly, employees look for technical functions as a career anchor. These people make career choices based on the technical or functional content of the work, such as engineering, computing or financial analysis. They are likely to avoid decisions that would drive them towards general management. Apex-Pal can identify such employees and provide them a range of jobs like finance, accounting and the preparation of food.

3 Ibid., 443.

Secondly, people look for management functions as a career anchor. This applies more to senior managers or experienced hires. People of this function want to manage others and have a strong motivation to become managers. They believe their career experience will enable them to rise to general managerial positions. These people are very important to any organisation because of their ability to lead and inspire. As Apex-Pal grows, it will require managers who can empower and motivate staff across geographies. Hence it is important to quickly identify and retain such employees.

Thirdly, creativity is another career anchor. Creative individuals are somewhat entrepreneurial in their attitude. They want to create or build something that is entirely their own. Apex-Pal has empowered many employees to take initiatives and to set up independent operations overseas. These people are highly valued for their drive, vision and determination.

Lastly, security is very important as a career anchor. The anchor for security-conscious individuals is to stabilise their career situations. These individuals are the most loyal as they will stick to the company in good or bad times. Apex-Pal should employ more of such people as they will remain motivated and loyal to the company.

Management Roles in Careers

Management has an important role in ensuring that all five points above are met. HR should provide realistic job previews in recruiting and provide periodic job rotation within the company. HR should also be demanding by making valid assessments and provide constructive and accurate feedback on performance. This can be complemented by strong

coaching and mentoring which transmit the right kinds of values, norms and corporate culture.

Current Trends in Singapore

Looking at Singapore's demographics, a large majority of the population is of the young working ages of between 18 and 35. This generation will have to deal with globalisation and technological change while adapting to the changing landscape of business. Businesses today hire on ability and compensate employees for their performance rather than loyalty Life-long employment may no longer be an important issue.

In the past, career success was related to advancements and good salaries. As more firms implement a flat organisational structure, there will be less promotion opportunities, which may lead to greater job dissatisfaction and hence more job-hopping.

Apex-Pal will need to look for alternative means (like empowerment) of satisfying employees' career aspirations besides the traditional promotion and compensation.

Further Recommendations

The current tight labour situation in developed nations like Singapore means that Apex-Pal may have to consider options like cross-training existing staff to have multiple skills and subcontracting non-critical functions to outside suppliers and parties to reduce cost. Apex-Pal will also have to increase its employment of part-timers, retirees, housewives and students and recruitment foreign staff.

Lastly, diversity in the workforce is very important. The profile of Apex-Pal's staff, which is currently dominated by local staff, will have to change to involve more multinationals in order to facilitate its international growth.


The HR report4 and recommendations was compiled with the help of an interview with May Foo. The HR department at Apex-Pal conducts yearly staff satisfaction and health surveys and consolidates annual HR return on investment reports to the management. Below are some of the results for 2006:

Enhanced cost effectiveness:

  • Staff turnover reduced.
  • Turnover ratio declined from 10% to 4% per month.
  • Recruitment and retraining cost decreased from 10% to 5% as compared with year 2005.

Improved employee performance:

  • Reduced cost of absenteeism, tardiness, medical and sick leave.
  • Decreased medical cost as compared to year 2005.
  • Reduction of sick leave of 400 days per year as compared to year 2005.

4 Apex-Pal Annual Report 2006.

  • High level of satisfaction in the workplace, leading to reduced work stress.
  • Increased satisfaction rating obtained from employee survey from 3 (Average) to 4 (Good) as compared to years 2005 and 2006 respectively.

Increased customer satisfaction (in a joint Apex-Pal-NTU study)

  • One unit increase in work-life and other benefits leads to 1.4% of a unit increase in work performance.
  • One unit increase in work performance drives 14% of a unit increase in customer satisfaction with service responsiveness.

The results show that there is a direct relationship between how employees are treated at work and their responsiveness and ability to attend to customers' requirements and needs. Apex-Pal has been able to implement its HR initiative successfully to help achieve organic growth in the company.


In view of the increase in recruitment due to business expansion needs, Apex-Pal faces tough challenges in introducing company culture, values and beliefs to the new recruits. Secondly, staff retention is also a major issue in the fast-moving F&B industry.

Apex-Pal has responded to these challenges by constantly upgrading employees' skill levels through internal

and external training programmes to better prepare them for the knowledge-based economy. We will look through these programmes separately and conclude that such practices also maintain employees' enthusiasm in the job and help to ensure Apex-Pal's employees are the best at their job.

To counter high turnover, Apex-Pal goes to the root of the problem and helps employees balance their work, family and personal lives. Apex-Pal focuses on creating supportive work-life climates, which includes top management support of employee work-life balance, direct supervisors who are supportive and understanding of employees' work-life needs as well as work-life benefits that are useful to employees. By providing welfare and positioning itself as a company that cares, Apex-Pal has managed to avoid the need to dish out high compensation in order to keep employees motivated.


Apex-Pal has done an excellent job with various innovative HR programmes that have been well received by employees and senior management. According to May, the HR department needs to have an extremely close relationship with the business. If an employee is able to position himself or herself within the company as a strategic resource for the business of the organisation, he or she can then add great value. This is the “great thrill or satisfaction that an HR professional can get by being there, making the business happen and creating that environment which enables the business to happen.” May was very enthusiastic when she proclaimed that “the creation of an environment in which people contribute more than a

hundred percent of their effort to the organisation's growth and objectives is immensely satisfying.”

In Dave Ulrich's article, “A New Mandate for Human Resources”5 published in the Harvard Business Review, he clearly articulated the position that achieving organisational excellence must be the work of HR.” To achieve such excellence, Ulrich argues that HR has never been more relevant today and it is vital for HR to form strong strategic partnerships with senior management to jointly plan, execute and regulate business strategy.

Ulrich identifies four unique challenges facing HR in today's competitive arena. Firstly, globalisation has changed the rules of the game. Markets have to “balance the paradoxical demands to think globally, act locally.” Globalisation increases the need for HR professionals to collaborate, learn fast, and adapt to changes in the global workforce. There is also a need to value diversity and international growth.

Secondly, the drive for profitability has put additional pressure on the company's bottom line. Companies have to acquire new customers, markets and human resources rapidly to keep up with global change. HR professionals will have to adopt efficiency and productivity in their practices as well.

Thirdly, technology has changed the global environment. With the flow of information and the ease of telecommunications, many ideas can be learnt and adopted with ease. HR professionals at Apex-Pal will have to constantly utilise and manipulate technology to their own advantage.

Lastly, in the new knowledge enterprise economy, HR at Apex-Pal will have to embrace intellectual capital as

5 Dave Ulrich, “A new mandate for human resources,” Harvard Business Review, January-February (1998): 124–134.

it operates in the service industry. The inability to keep its employees loyal to the firm may result in huge costs, thus hurting its growth efforts.

Hence, for Apex-Pal to continue its successes and to overcome these real challenges, it has to be careful not to neglect the importance of HR to gel the company together. To do so, Apex-Pal can follow four steps proposed by Ulrich:

  1. HR should be a partner with senior management and line managers.
  2. Delivering administrative excellence to ensure efficiency and cost reduction.
  3. Becoming a champion for employees, by being their voice, to gain their loyalty.
  4. HR has to be an agent of continuous transformation; shaping and improving processes.

Let us explore these four steps in detail and apply them to HR at Apex-Pal.

Step 1: Acknowledging HR as a Strategic Partner

In most companies today, HR plays the role of regulator, auditor, administrator and the handling of hiring and firing. When HR is more empowered by senior management as a tool for growth, it has a larger role to play in the company. Ulrich argues that the acknowledgement of HR's importance is vital and impactful when the role of HR is ‘owned’ by the CEO and every line manager who must achieve business goals. The CEO and line managers at Apex-Pal hold huge responsibilities for the success of the F&B business and should utilise HR as a partner to achieve such measurable goals. Senior management should call upon HR to play the role of

an architect, able to dissect the business strategy and provide a feasibility analysis from the perspective of human capital.

HR mangers at Apex-Pal should be responsible for arranging company audits. As Apex-Pal grows in size, operational risk will play a bigger factor as operations are sometimes outsourced or streamlined. Managers should not be afraid to hold HR accountable when making business decisions. Without a responsibility in the decision-making process and in the results, HR may be disconnected from the front line. This may potentially be very dangerous, leading to problems within the organisation. Likewise, May, as the top HR person at Apex-Pal, has to ensure that HR remains relevant to the business and is able to support the various functions of the group to achieve organic growth together.

The importance of culture is often lost on companies seeking growth. The role of HR as a strategic partner, according to Ulrich, is to identify methods for changing the parts of the organisational architecture that need it. HR has to take the lead in analysing decisions and proposing changes to ensure the best company practices are closely followed. HR should then have clear and concise plans and implementation. It has to set priorities and constantly assess and evaluate its role in the business. Ultimately, the HR team has to add significant value to the CEO, line managers and the business.

Step 2: Delivering Comprehensive Value in Efficiency and Productivity

HR has long been regarded as the administrative champion, responsible for back office paperwork to implement executive policies. Apex-Pal's HR team will have to embrace professionalism and acknowledge the importance of administrative

work for the company. They will have to “shed rule-making policy police, while still making sure that all the required routine work in companies is done well.” The HR team members become administrative experts, by reducing cost of processes and implementing innovative solutions to HR problems. The team will have to practise efficiency and productivity in daily tasks to provide value. As Apex-Pal grows, the HR team may be able to form independent HR departments for its various subsidiaries, in order to drive specific HR initiatives for the different businesses. Another recommendation is for Apex-Pal to come up with centres of expertise to train HR professionals and to network with other HR professionals in the service industry. Such groups can then act as internal consultants to the various subsidiaries in the group.

Step 3: A Friend of all Employees

Work today is demanding, with bosses demanding more results in less time. As companies reduce reliance on long-term loyalty of staff and revert to performance-based remuneration, employees may feel the stress of work. It is hence HR's job to ensure that they remain a champion of employees' welfare. HR at Apex-Pal has done a good job with various programmes throughout the year to foster goodwill internally. It will have to remain connected to employees and seek open and honest feedback on the quality of the working environment. The key is to engage employees to have shared ideals of working hard for the company. Apex-Pal can consider initiatives like training workshops, written reports, anonymous feedback and employee surveys to orientate and train managers to improve company morale.

Since HR is closest to the ground staff, it has the responsibility and ability to report any lowering of employee morale. HR plays a critical role in recommending ways to ameliorate morale problems. HR must ultimately represent employees and be their voice in management discussions; this will enable employees to understand and respond well to change.

Step 4: A Dynamic Team that Responds and Adapts Well to Change

Lastly, according to Ulrich, the primary difference between winners and losers in business is the ability to respond to change. Winners are able to adapt, learn, and act quickly while losers will spend time trying to control and master change. Change is inevitable in today's workplace. Apex-Pal has encountered intense changes like the Asian Financial Crisis, Bird Flu and SARS. The HR team is well-equipped to handle external change, given its experience. However, it is the area of internal change that presents a challenge to Apex-Pal's HR. It will have to build the organisation's capacity to meet and capitalise on change and make sure that change initiatives are focused. An area where Apex-Pal can work on is to allow workers to have greater mobility; to be relocated to different outlets or countries to gain exposure. This will allow staff to have broader mindsets when approaching the job and also provide goodwill towards the company. With varied experiences in different businesses and geographies, staff will be able to respond better to change and contribute meaningfully to the business.

With the careful implementations of the four steps above, Apex-Pal's HR team will be able to position itself as a greater

asset to both the senior management and the business in general. The empowerment of HR within an organisation is vital and should not be underestimated. Further, there are four more steps to ensure that a complete mindset shift in HR professionals will result in a focus on outcomes and not activities or projects. These four steps are:

  1. Communicating to the organisation that HR issues are important.
  2. Clearly defined deliverables.
  3. Invest in innovative HR practices.
  4. Upgrade HR Professionals.

Step 1: Communication to Senior Managers

Senior managers have to believe that the typical HR issues — the soft stuff like culture change and intellectual capital — are critical to business success. This can be done through department meetings to reinforce the importance of HR in the company. HR professionals can also be included in strategic discussions and important company decisions.

Step 2: Clearly Defined Deliverables

Senior management has to assess the performances and requirements of HR on a quarterly basis. This will allow for changes to be implemented effectively, while also creating an environment of constant discussion and feedback. This will benefit HR as they will then be able to implement policies and processes with the blessings of senior management.

Step 3: Invest in Innovative Practices

HR encounters many new technologies and processes. The HR team at Apex-Pal should be on the lookout for cutting-edge technology that will help its operations. Business conferences and academic journals are a good place to start and the HR team should have information sharing sessions to reinforce the notion of best practices. Investing in HR practices can come in the form of training where senior management is attached to universities like the National University of Singapore (NUS) for Human Resource Management and Leadership and Organisation courses and workshops. These investments will highlight the importance of HR in the company and upgrade the skills and thought processes of employees.

Step 4: Grade HR Professionals

Lastly, and most importantly, senior management will have to constantly upgrade the quality of HR professionals. This can be done through actively seeking new competent hires and also through internal training programmes. As Sakae Sushi aims to be a global sushi brand, it will have to constantly keep up with innovative practices of its competitors. It will also be a good idea to look out for key HR professionals in F&B industries to join the Apex-Pal team. These members will bring different experiences that will enhance the way Apex-Pal works. The hiring of HR professionals from different industries may be interesting as it provides fresh perspectives from an unrelated business, while using the same theories and practices in HR.


Apex-Pal International has done a commendable job to ensure that HR policies take centre stage in the company strategy. Management has rightly acknowledged the importance of human resource and labour for the F&B company. The sound implementation of HR policies has been aided by the close and open relationship between the senior management and the middle-level managers. The organic structure allows for transparency and the free movement of ideas and feedback, which has allowed HR policies and recommendations to be immediately impacted.

Staff attrition remains a pressing issue. Being one of the largest F&B businesses in Singapore, Apex-Pal has economies of scale. Apex-Pal will have to look closely at its recruitment policies to hire staff who are able to work in diverse teams independently across tough geographies. A global workforce is ultimately required if Apex-Pal is to achieve its goal of becoming a global brand.

Strategic Human Resource Management can be a misunderstood element of any business. It is both the role of senior management and the HR team to bridge the gap and to avoid HR being marginalised. To do so, the importance of HR has to be embedded within the thought process of the CEO and all line managers. HR has to play a vital role in ensuring smooth operations within the company. HR plays an important role in strategy implementation and is responsible to provide sound feedback to improve processes. While delivering constant efficiency and productivity in administrative practices, HR has to ensure that it remains a friend of all employees so as to gain the long-term trust and loyalty of employees. After all, in this new age of knowledge enterprise, Apex-Pal can ill-afford to lose its best assets — which are its employees.