Ya Kun was founded in 1944 by Loi Ah Koon, as a coffee shop that served coffee, tea, eggs, and toast. Ya Kun International moved to Singapore in 2001, where it now has 32 outlets, and has 27 franchise outlets in other parts of Asia. Its overseas outlets are located in Indonesia, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
Ya Kun has a family-style work environment and an established "promotion-from-within" policy. There is also a strong emphasis on teamwork, where helping one another is the norm, even between employees across outlets and departments. The top management reinforces this teamwork culture at Ya Kun. The organization also has a very flat structure, where staff feel comfortable approaching their superiors to discuss their problems or suggestions for improvements.
Job openings for the outlet staff are advertised in Chinese and English newspapers, as well as through recruitment notices at Ya Kun outlets. Applicants who respond to the advertisements are invited for interviews. Applicants go through two rounds of interviews—one with the senior area manager and one with the operations manager. Job applicants are screened primarily for their level of commitment and willingness to work shifts. Other desirable qualities include integrity, diligence, and honesty. Prior experience in the food and beverage industry is not essential. Ya Kun believes that if an applicant is committed and willing to learn, the necessary skills to excel in the job can easily be taught. Successful applicants then go through 2 weeks of training and remain on probation for 3 months. Most of Ya Kun Singapore's outlet staff are more than 30 years of age because mature workers generally have better work attitudes and exhibit a higher level of job commitment. Also, the majority of the outlet staff are Singaporeans, with a small proportion from Malaysia and China. Most of the outlet staff are full-time workers, with some part-time staff hired to complement the full-time staff when they go on vacation or become ill. The usual operating hours of each outlet are from 7 A.M. to 11 P.M., and the staff work 8-hour shifts. Each outlet has about 10 staff working each of the two shifts. The emphasis on good attitude and character in the selection of outlet staff has helped Ya Kun build a pool of hardworking and committed workers. Loyalty, honesty, and fairness are the most important attributes sought in selecting store managers from among the outlet staff. All these help keep the staff happy and committed to the company, which Ya Kun believes has translated into their serving customers well.
The main challenge Ya Kun faces is recruiting employees with the right attitude, because the technical skills required are relatively easy to learn. Some applicants are unwilling to work shifts, making it difficult for Ya Kun to hire them: shift work is inevitable in the food and beverage retail industry.
5-27. How would you forecast the manpower needs of Ya Kun?
5-28. What are the advantages and disadvantages of Ya Kun's hiring part-time workers?
5-29. A good attitude and commitment are two important attributes that Ya Kun looks for in its job applicants. Is a job interview an effective method to assess these two attributes? What else can Ya Kun do to get reliable information on these two attributes?
5-30. What suggestions would you make to Ya Kun to improve its recruiting processes?
Sources: The information in this case was obtained through online interviews with staff from Ya Kun; Ya Kun Kaya Toast, http://yakun.com.sg/, accessec November 2009.