Beating staff crunch with cross-training

Beating staff crunch with cross-training

SINGAPORE - In an innovative attempt to beat the labour crunch, a hotel has started training its security guards to be bellhops, and putting its bellhops on security duties.

For doing a wider range of work, these employees at The Holiday Inn Singapore Atrium in Outram Road got a 10 per cent to 18 per cent pay increase. They also work the same number of hours.

The hotel was yesterday held up by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) as a model in boosting productivity.

Hotel general manager Sam Davies said the hotel "almost gave up" on hiring its own guards in 2009 when it could not find enough Singaporeans for the job. Security was outsourced to contractors.

But a year later, it decided to take another crack at hiring its own security staff so as to have better control over their quality.

To make the guards' job more attractive, it upped their pay last year but also added new duties and a requirement to pick up other skills. All nine of the hotel's guards have since undergone 40 hours of concierge and bell-service training.

Meanwhile, it also decided to widen the role of bellhops to boost their productivity and let the workers earn higher pay. Five of its 10 bellhops have attended security training.

Bellhop Nelamogan Dharmalingam, 54, who has been a doorman, car jockey and bellhop at the hotel for 28 years, was the first to sign up for the security course last year because it was a refreshing change.

He easily passed the police licensing test for guards. Other than bell-service duties, he does guard duty when there is a shortage of guards. His monthly salary rose from $1,500 to $1,690.

Mr Faizal Mas'odi, 35, took a similar path, but in the reverse direction.

Hired as a guard, he went through concierge and bell-service training. Other than patrols, he carries luggage for guests and delivers newspapers to rooms when he patrols the corridors in the morning.

"At first it was difficult having to serve customers, but the more I do, the better I get," he said. "It is still basically about customer service."

He earned a promotion and his monthly pay rose from $1,300 to $1,800.

The hotel showcased these and other productivity measures to labour chief Lim Swee Say and unionists on Friday. Mr Lim said the cross-training of guards and bellhops could be implemented in other hotels too.

"Don't keep it a secret," he quipped to Mr Davies.


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