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Tan Lee Lee, senior director of people development, The American Club Singapore

Case study: Hospitality towards older workers translates to 10% higher employee engagement

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See how the mature worker-friendly initiatives undertaken by this community club have improved employee engagement by 10%. Tan Lee Lee, senior director of people development at The American Club Singapore, speaks to Aditi Sharma Kalra.

For many seniors, retirement does not necessarily mean an end to working. In 2015, 99% of employees in Singapore who turned 62 were offered re-employment. The American Club Singapore has been mindful of its shifting demographic to a more mature workforce.

Established in 1948, this social club has grown to more than 3,700 members, and in tandem, developed age-friendly practices for its employees. “The club’s over-arching objective is to build a community and our members consider the staff team an integral part of the club community – they greatly value the continuity in the staff team,” says Tan Lee Lee, senior director of people development at The American Club Singapore.

But it’s not just the club members, the organisation recognises the value that older workers bring – a tremendous work ethic, a wealth of experience, and skills that can complement those of the younger workers are a few that Tan names. “Because of this, they serve as wonderful mentors to our younger employees,” she adds.

This call for age-friendly practices was a conscious decision. There was a time when the departure of older staff in key positions resulted in a loss of crucial institutional knowledge and skills, as some younger staff did not have the ability and experience required to fill those roles. As a result, the implementation of such practices supports the club’s business stability and continuity.

“By establishing age-friendly practices for our mature workers, we are also better able to attract and retain our diverse pool of talent, helping to off set the labour market challenges affecting the hospitality industry and Singapore today,” Tan says.

HR practices coming of age

As part of this rigour, The American Club Singapore conducts pre-retirement discussions at least 12 months before an employee is due for retirement. During these sessions, retirement plans and employment options at the club are discussed, including alternatives such as permanent part-time work with shorter work hours.

It also provides necessary training to help them continue with their employment as long as they are medically fit. Tan shares examples of other initiatives: “All staff actively participate in HR activities to create a happy and healthy workplace such as group fitness, healthy cooking and annual health screening.”

Employees have responded favourably, with the club retaining more of its mature employees, resulting in higher staff morale.

“The development of our current age-friendly employment practices was a natural progression that complemented the club’s overall strategic direction.”

A good time to achieve results

Employees have responded favourably, with the club retaining more of its mature employees, resulting in higher staff morale. Tan says: “Age-friendly employment practices have resulted in improvements to our overall employee engagement and attrition rate, which continues to remain low relative to the industry.”

It also conducts an annual employee satisfaction survey – one of the ways it measures staff engagement and identifies specific areas of concern. In 2015, the score went up by 10% from the previous year to 77%, putting the company in the top quartile of all companies surveyed in Singapore, based on an Aon Hewitt report.

Another development is the recognition of the club as one of 74 organisations in Singapore as a partner in the human capital partnership programme, a tripartite initiative that brings together progressive employers in Singapore. In doing so, the club tapped on reference materials on the initiatives that companies can roll out around age management provided by Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP).

“The creation of a diverse workforce constituting staff from various backgrounds and ages also enables us to harvest unique talent and experiences that together enable us to stay flexible, adaptable and competitive in the ever-changing market,” she says.

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