SME Diaries: How I kept preschool staff engaged and recruitment efforts going amid Covid-19

SME Diaries: How I kept preschool staff engaged and recruitment efforts going amid Covid-19

Sme Diaries, Skool4kidz

16/1/2022 3:04:00 AM

SME Diaries: How I kept preschool staff engaged and recruitment efforts going amid Covid-19

In this instalment, Ms Brenda Tay, the recruitment and staff engagement leader at preschool operator Skool4Kidz, describes how she kept recruitment efforts going and employees engaged in an industry roiled by constantly changing Covid-19 rules.

Stepping into a totally different industry gave me great opportunities to pick up skills and knowledge, and open my eyes to different perspectives.I soldiered on, and took the opportunity to diversify and sharpen my skills to assume the role of recruitment and staff engagement leader at Skool4Kidz.

Our workforce initially spun into a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment like everyone else.Home-based learning regulations also evolved rapidly and it was confusing at times to keep track of the latest requirements.As the person responsible for recruitment and staff engagement, I had to think outside the box.

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I made a major decision to move into the early childhood industry in 2019. Looking back, joining this front-line industry has been one of the best decisions ever as the sector is expanding. I was previously in supply chain operations and finance, and had more than 25 years’ experience in people management. Stepping into a totally different industry gave me great opportunities to pick up skills and knowledge, and open my eyes to different perspectives. It was not easy at the start. Getting used to industry specifics such as picking up childcare and infant care knowledge, while embracing a new culture, felt like I was heading back to school. I soldiered on, and took the opportunity to diversify and sharpen my skills to assume the role of recruitment and staff engagement leader at Skool4Kidz. Within a short period, I had the invaluable opportunity of streamlining recruitment processes and rolling out a suite of engagement activities to better support our employees. When Covid-19 struck, the company was not spared from its impact, which has brought many changes to the workplace, including our human resources processes. Our workforce initially spun into a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment like everyone else. Infection controls and Covid-19-related regulations changed constantly, and these took a mental toll on our staff. As the early childhood industry is classified as front line, our preschools were open even as restrictions of varying degrees were in force. Home-based learning regulations also evolved rapidly and it was confusing at times to keep track of the latest requirements. The steep learning curve in moving to online teaching was especially challenging for our teachers and my role expanded into counselling overnight. As the company sought to hire more people with the opening of new preschools, some candidates deferred their job offers or declined to start work owing to the uncertainties of the pandemic. As the person responsible for recruitment and staff engagement, I had to think outside the box. Continuing collaborations with the Early Childhood Development Agency, statutory board Workforce Singapore and the Employment and Employability Institute to support the early childhood industry helped me with a plethora of online recruitment initiatives. The biggest challenge for me was to ensure that employee care and concern activities ran smoothly. I was given the task of converting these to online events without losing the human touch. Our once-a-year company day even went online with about 700 staff members taking part in a full day of activities. I was the main host and felt like a duck paddling madly underwater while exhibiting calm. My confidence has since grown, and I can crack a joke or two spontaneously to lighten things up for our virtual participants. I am mindful that uncertainties still lie ahead as the situation keeps evolving. But I believe that if we have a mindset to adapt and reinvent ourselves constantly, the future is ours to harness. Never say too old or too late! ABOUT THE WRITER: Ms Brenda Tay, 57, is the recruitment and staff engagement leader at preschool operator Skool4Kidz. If you are an SME owner or manager with an experience to share or know someone who wishes to contribute to this series, write to voices