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Case study: Why Courts Singapore's attrition rate is 1.9% vs 3.4% industry norm

Personalised development plans help this retailer keep its high potential employees loyal in an industry typically associated with high attrition, writes Kiran Kaur, chief talent officer of Courts Asia.

As the leading electrical, IT and furniture retailer in Singapore, Courts considers human capital a vital and valued cog of its workforce.

However, an increasingly competitive landscape, coupled with a multi-generational workforce, has necessitated structured HR processes and policies to attract, retain and reward the right talent through fair, responsible and progressive practices.

These initiatives cover all aspects of talent management from new hires to career development, regardless of age, gender and race.

One of the biggest challenges retailers are grappling with is retaining good talent, an uphill battle against the backdrop of a sluggish economy and soft consumer sentiment.

Exacerbating the struggle is the mistaken general notion that retail is a ‘service industry’ – one that offers a one-dimensional career path that is draining, stressful and unrewarding. As such, employee turnover is atypically high compared to other industries, and it detrimentally affects business operations and company morale.

Moreover, the future workplace is no longer encased in traditional boundaries. The rise of the digital age and e-commerce has led to the infusion of entirely new skills and competencies, which employees need to learn and apply quickly in an ever-evolving shopping journey that is increasingly becoming channel-agnostic.

Therefore, it is critical that good talent is incentivised to stay by developing a robust, best-in-class talent development blueprint for a number of reasons:

  1. It enhances the succession-readiness of the company to build the future needs of the business by growing and sustaining our best people.
  2. Training an employee and exposing them to new skillsets involves an investment of time, money, and resources, and having them move and uproot elsewhere has a profound impact on an organisation’s productivity and performance.
  3. Given our unique range of products and services, it is less costly to develop a talent who is deeply familiar with our business than to hire externally.
Action: Strategy and execution

As part of Courts’ efforts to identify and develop quality talent, managers and above, as well as exceptional junior executive staff are evaluated in a multi-level talent audit process. Once these evaluations are completed, the findings are consolidated in preparation for a Talking Talent workshop.

A facilitated Talking Talent workshop is conducted by HR to review and validate the preliminary assessments of these select employees. During this session, individual assessments are reviewed by the senior management group to arrive at a consensus.

We currently have 60 employees identified as high-performing, with the company investing in developing their potential. One of them is Mohd Jahabar, a store manager who has been with us since 2002.
Once identified, these high potential employees have personalised development plans tailored for them, including:
  • Various training and development programmes which revolve around building core strengths and people skills, such as leadership, communication and teamwork.
  • Ongoing learning on the job and stretched assignments, which includes job rotation, regional job postings and overseas study tours.
  • Opportunity for mentorship with our group CEO for the leaders we want to groom.
  • Coaching and mentoring opportunities where more experienced employees impart their skills, knowledge and experiences.
These high potential employees are also identified to be part of the company’s succession plans, which uses the Lominger 9-Box tools to professionalise the talent and leadership framework. This framework is to have a meaningful discussion and identify high-potential talent within the organisation and across countries.

Most importantly, the talent development pipeline is steeped in Courts’ employees-first core value, which encourages a culture of coaching, not chastising, and the belief that a good place to work is a good place to shop.

This new core value was introduced two years ago, representing an important forward-looking paradigm shift in our approach that employees are the most important asset to our business.

This has led to the senior management operating with the mindset of ‘servant leadership’ to seek ways to listen, develop and enrich team members, whilst steering the organisation to achieve business growth.

Employees appreciate working in an environment that cultivates an open culture of continuous learning and collaboration where hierarchy is removed to encourage rapport building.

This has created an even stronger bond within the ‘Courts Family’, inspiring staff to give their best at work.

TAFEP - COURTS(edited)


Action: Results

Overall, our talent attrition rate is 1.9% compared to the 3.4% industry benchmark, according to Ministry of Manpower 2015 data.

We currently have 60 employees identified as high-performing, with the company investing in developing their potential. One of them is Mohd Jahabar, a results-oriented store manager who has been with us since 2002.

An inspiring mentor to the younger staff, he has rotated across job functions and was instrumental in the set-up of Malaysia and Indonesia’s first ‘big-box’ Megastores by sharing best practices and coaching the teams there. He is now back in Singapore, managing Courts’ first next-generation store in Causeway Point, which features a number of new innovations for retail in Singapore.

In short, retaining a pool of sustainable talent has always been a challenge, and this cannot be resolved by a one-size-fits-all approach, especially as the retail sector undergoes changes.

As Courts expands across more markets and grows our talent pool, it is all the more important for us to strategically cultivate our best people to develop multiple competencies, and stay attuned to the values and issues they  find important in order to provide the best platform for them to achieve their personal and professional goals.

We will continue adapting our HR policies to be progressive and forward-looking, continuously benchmarking ourselves against the best in class e.g. TAFEP Exemplary Employer Award, the Aon Hewitt Best Employer Awards and the People Developer and Service Excellence Awards.

Image: Provided

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