Supporting NSMen employees: insights from Seoul Garden Group

Photo courtesy of Seoul Garden Group

According to a DBS poll, manpower issues continue to challenge Singaporean SMEs. In such a lean environment, the additional consideration of employees’ National Service (NS) commitments may seem like an additional burden.

However, Zingrill Pte. Ltd., commonly known as Seoul Garden Group Pte Ltd, takes a decidedly different view. The company, who now owns 3 brands and has a presence in 8 countries worldwide, is also a keen supporter of Singapore’s Total Defence. 

Their achievement of the prestigious International Franchisor of the Year at the Franchising & Licensing Awards (FLA Awards) 2019 shows that even in the labor intensive F&B industry, supporting NSmen is achievable.

A focus on family and friends

According to Mr Andrew Lee, CEO, Seoul Garden Group, the company places its family and friends – their internal and external customers – as their focus and priority.

“Seoul Garden Group has an all-inclusive culture that focuses on training and people development. Team members are cross-trained and are encouraged to work alongside with each other. This allows one to stand in without much difficulty during the absence of fellow team member as well as the ease of re-allocating resources,” he said.

He added that in the case of NSmen who are called to fulfill their National Service commitments, such practices allow team members to commit their time and energy to NS duties without worrying about work responsibilities, even if they have been stationed in overseas outlets and have to return to Singapore.

The company also engages their team through strong communication. “By engaging our Family and Friends (both internal and external customers) enables us to understand their needs and wants. This is made possible through regular interactive and discussion sessions with all key stakeholders, which includes the diners at our outlets,” said Mr Lee.

Staying up to date

Besides its inclusive HR practices, Seoul Garden Group also keeps abreast with current and potential trends in consumer behavior, product development, and so on, in order to be up to date with the latest happenings both global and local.

Like other establishments in the competitive F&B sector, they rely on technology to stay agile. Said Mr Lee, “Digitalization is part of Seoul Garden Group direction moving forward, which includes digital marketing, e-Menus, feedback systems, and ordering systems.” 

“Currently, we are developing a new Total Digital Solutions (TDS) system, which will include CRM, ERP and e-Payments,” he continued.

Expanding regionally

Technology is also employed in Seoul Garden group’s regional expansion, helping keep channels of communication open even over large geographical distances. Discussing some of the challenges expanding out of Singapore, Mr Lee shared that “We need to be mindful of the market difference. Different markets have different customers’ taste profile that we may need to localize in some of our menu. Also due to difference in living standard, we need to work our suitable market strategy based on the pricing strategy of the market.”

Additionally, language and training issues come into play as well when moving beyond Singapore. “There will be communication challenges due to the language difference. The level of competency and ability of people and staff will differ as well. Thus, we need to adjust our level of engagement with these countries,” he said.

Staying committed to home

While Seoul Garden Group has achieved accolades internationally, they remain committed to their home. Shared Mr Lee, “As a home-grown company, National Service and Total Defence form the cornerstone of Singapore’s continued stability and prosperity, which is essential for businesses to prosper. Seoul Garden Group has it as a basic duty for us to support local initiatives, embrace NS and provide a conducive working environment for our team.”  

This support comes out clearly in their HR policies towards NSmen employees which recognize their contributions. Said Mr Lee, “Here at Seoul Garden Group, we value the skillsets that NSmen can bring to the workforce, such as communications skills, teamwork, leadership qualities, resilience and adaptability in a culturally diverse setting, which will be beneficial to any organisation.”

He also highlighted that many of these positive qualities are nurtured during National Service. “We are always looking for candidates with the right fit of skills and attitude. It is especially beneficial to have the qualities which are picked up during NS when expanding overseas, as we need adaptable and resilient staff,” he said.

For its efforts supporting NS and Total Defence, Seoul Garden Group obtained the NS Advocate award for Small and Medium Enterprises at the 2019 Total Defence Awards. This award is offered to recipients of the NS Mark (Gold), that recognizes businesses and organisations that have pledged and signed the Declaration of Support for National Service and Total Defence, as well as implement policies and human resource practices that support National Service and Total Defence.