31 July 18 The Business Times by NARENDRA AGGARWAL
Marché Restaurants Singapore, which has Swiss roots, is this year's winner of SwissCham's annual award for Excellence in People and Skills Development, which was launched last year. The company has five restaurants in Singapore, and strongly focuses on training and developing its staff at every level. Marché is committed in providing lifelong learning for its 300 staff here and in nurturing future talents for the food and beverage (F&B) industry.
Highlighting the importance of staff training and development, Roger Nagler, director of operations of the Swiss restaurant chain says that "without that, we wouldn't be able to operate".
Says Manfred Rist, chairman of the SwissCham award selection panel this year: "Marché turned out to be the winner in 2018 due to its outstanding development and career programmes which also focus on an unskilled workforce of young and old in a very difficult industry with quite high turnover in staff. Moreover, Marché submitted an excellent presentation with a strong visibility and components of skills development in Singapore.''
Talking about the selection process, Mr Rist says that entries for the award are scrutinised according to their relevance for Singapore. "In this context, applicants have to focus on skills development here. Some of the companies may have an outstanding international reputation for this but the Swiss Business Award, however, is about skills development in the Republic. We, therefore, focus on the impact of these policies and the actions here in Singapore.''
Says Mr Nagler: "Winning the prestigious SwissCham award this year is an important milestone for us and a reassurance for our training and development efforts. We are deeply honoured to have won the SwissCham Excellence in People and Skills Development Award. We have always prioritised training in our company, and this award serves as a motivation for us to continue providing better training programmes for our staff."
Mr Nagler thinks that Marché was picked as the winner this year as what makes it stand out from the rest of the competitors could be its structured training programme and various learning opportunities for the staff despite being a small company. In addition, it could also be because of the company's efforts in cultivating aspiring talents in the industry by supporting internships and scholarships for students who want to join this industry.
For the staff recruitment process, the company has a trial day for potential candidates to experience what it is like to work with it. At the same time, the company also assesses the candidate's suitability. This is to ensure that it employs people with the right fit for the job and to reduce staff turnover, time and effort in re-training new employees.
When new employees join the company, they attend an orientation programme to learn more about the company and align the company's goals and values with themselves. It is also an opportunity for them to forge new friendships with their co-workers and establish a support system. They are then are attached to a buddy to guide them and help them integrate into the company. Marché believes that it is important that new hires are well orientated into the company so that they become productive members quickly.
As for skills training, every employee has to go through on the job training. The trainers go through training sessions with the new employees, and there is an assessment at the end of the training. "We have a training passport for each of our employees, and their training progress will be recorded. This not only allows us to keep track of their progress but also allows them to track their own progress and to encourage them to take responsibility for their own learning," says Mr Nagler.
"Besides on the job training with us, we also send selected staff to the Marché International School (MIS) in Switzerland. The participants go to an overseas branch and learn about product knowledge, marketing, sales, controlling costs, human resource, leadership, preventive maintenance, hygiene and quality standards. It is a stringent education process based on practical experience. The selection process for sending staff to MIS is based on team work challenges."
For education opportunities, Marché supports entry level staff who wish to do further studies. It encourages staff to do their studies at the Singapore Hotel and Tourism Education Centre, where it supports them with a sponsorship agreement. The company believes that this will help to establish them as a working professional.
"Other than training, we also have various appreciation events and bonding activities. As much as we believe in training our people to be productive, we also value our staff welfare and it is important to keep them happy at work. We have various bonding events to help them develop their soft skills and also to create a happy and comfortable workplace. Moreover, we also give out appreciation awards to celebrate and motivate staff with achievements," says Mr Nagler.
Asked why in his view excellence and skills training are important for businesses, he is of the opinion that investing in people is an investment for success. "When employees feel inadequate or unsupported, it could lead to unhappiness and eventually lead to unproductivity. Staff engagement is very important for every business. Excellence and skills training improve employee satisfaction, helps them be more consistent and bring improved performance at work which helps in the growth of businesses. This is especially so because demands are constantly changing and we have to upgrade skills in order to stay relevant," Mr Nagler adds.
On-the-job training is done by Marché's own staff since the company wants to have a self-sufficient training programme . It has its own Train the Trainer programme where staff are trained to become trainers who in turn train the new hires. This is to give the staff a sense of responsibility and take up leadership roles.
As for soft skills, Marché has its own staff to train its other staff in skills such as upselling and customer service. The company believes that by sharing their expertise and experience, the staff will be better able to understand and improve.
"A crucial part of our development programme is to educate speciality trainers. Usually, this are employees who have been with us for at least one year and very firm in their job. They will share the passion in their daily work and help to train new staff," says Mr Nagler.
"Every team leader needs to be trained in every station. For the food department, we have 10 different stations. In order to become a team leader, you need to be able to become a trainer. So, it is really up to the person, if he or she wants to upgrade," says Mr Nagler.
"Most of our staff are hungry for education. They like to learn new things and they like to be professional," he adds.
Marché believes that there are many benefits to its staff and also the company in general from its focus on skills training. "First of all, we believe that providing training opportunities helps our employees in their career and personal growth and keeps them motivated. It also helps to retain our talents and increase employee engagement rate. In addition, the food and beverage industry is a dynamic industry, and customer demands and preferences are constantly changing, so for us to continue to meet customer demands, we have to always seek improvements and ensure that our team possess the relevant skills," says Mr Nagler.
"Emphasising skills training also keeps the workforce productive; and through training, our employees will be able to gain new perspectives and provide new insights for the company's development, leading to greater success of the company."
Mr Nagler himself started almost 10 years ago with Marché Restaurants Singapore and went through a detailed training process. "At that time, I already had 30 years of hospitality background beginning with coffee shops to working in Michelin Star restaurants and deluxe hotel operations," he says.
"The reason I came to Marché was the way they operate. Everything is prepared fresh on a daily basis, in front of the guest. At this business volume, it is very unusual. It was a must for me to learn every detail in order to be successful and run one of the newly opened branches."
He adds: "Today, we have five restaurants in Singapore, and we focus on training and developing our staff in every level. Without that we wouldn't be able to operate."
While Marché's five restaurants in Singapore are very busy, at the same time Singapore is the regional base for franchise development in Asia. At the moment, the company is focusing on a stronger presence in China, where it has just opened a store in Shenzhen. In Jakarta, Indonesia, it is in talks to open the third franchised outlet.