KOI Thé - Bringing Happiness with Every Cup
Words by Julia Chan

How KOI Thé Nurtures Tea Culture and Talents

With the vision to bring happiness to everyone with a cup of fine tea, KOI started its first store in Taiwan in 2006. Within a short 1-year period, it expanded its brand internationally with its first overseas store in Singapore.

In 2015, the company’s founder, Ms. Khloé Ma, officially changed the brand name to KOI Thé to put an emphasis on tea to better convey its brand philosophy and nurture tea culture.

Challenges finding staff in a competitive job market

Due to the growing popularity of premium bubble tea over the years, KOI Thé now operates more than 50 retail outlets locally. With such a huge network of operations and the fast expansion to add more retail outlets, KOI Thé had to employ more staff either on a part-time or full-time basis. With manpower shortages across all the F&B industry, how could KOI Thé find the right talent it needed?

Ms Hong Yiping, HR Business Partner of KOI Thé, shared her challenges during the recruitment process.  “As the pool of candidates is limited with our fast (and often last minute) expansion, we must be open to hiring people from different industries. And this increases our cost due to additional training or adaptation phase required,” she said.

How the Career Conversion Programme (CCP) can support your company’s hiring needs

Fortunately, KOI Thé partnered with NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) under the Career Conversion Programme (CCP) to help address manpower shortages as well as to tackle skills gaps among job seekers from other industries who were interested in taking on available jobs at KOI Thé.

KOI Thé partnered with NTUC’s e2i to hire and train talents such as Ms Chew Wan Qi (pictured) to support the company’s expansion

“With the CCP scheme, it helps the company to partially defray the cost of hiring without compromising the necessary trainings of a new hire, which is essential for them in terms of adapting and understanding the industry demands and challenges, as well as the company vision and culture within a reasonable timeframe,” Ms Hong said.

Since it cost less to train new recruits now, KOI Thé was able to extend their pool of candidates. “As hiring and training of new hires involve cost, especially if we hire people from a different industry or those who wish to switch career path, with the CCP funding, it helps ease the company’s budget towards being more receptive to provide opportunities to a larger pool of candidates,” Ms Hong explained.

Grooming Talents with the Career Conversion Programme

Mr Nah Wei Chang, 26, used to work in accounting before deciding to join KOI Thé as a service crew

Mr Nah Wei Chang chose to make a career switch from accounting to F&B to see if the new industry would suit him. However, he needed guidance and confidence on how to handle the challenges normally faced in the F&B sector. The drastic change in industry choice also prompted his family and friends to question why he chose a career switch.

After Mr Nah was introduced to the CCP by one of his friends, he picked up new skills in his new-found career via the courses he attended under this programme. He highlighted the strong support and mentorship from his previous store manager, Ms Toh Tong En, and shared he learnt how to be more confident and how to approach people in a more professional manner. “As I did not have any F&B experience before, my progression was quite slow compared with others. Tong En was always patient when guiding me and helping me to pick up new skills in a new learning environment,” he said.

From his positive experience with CCP, Mr Nah believed that good leadership at work could create a better environment for employees

Some candidates hired by KOI Thé under the CCP were also from the F&B sector. Ms Michelle Tan, 24, was a former staff from a Japanese restaurant who joined KOI Thé one and a half years ago as a service crew and had not looked back since.

Ms Michelle Tan switched working in a Japanese restaurant to KOI Thé as she wanted to learn something out of her comfort zone, and how to make her favourite drink, bubble tea

Interestingly, one of her motivations to join KOI Thé was to make her favourite bubble tea herself. During her tenure with the company, she had learnt and improved her soft skills through comprehensive training programmes which allowed her to progress at her own pace and build up her confidence.

Ms Hong added, “Our HR works closely with the hiring manager to discuss the main job duties and performance expectations. We also collaborate cross functionally to design a detailed training plan that enable new hires to adapt to the new environment faster. One of the training items includes in-house operating procedures at the outlet, which enables the new hire to understand the core function of the business.”

Ms Michelle Tan shared that one notable training she attended was customer service, where she learnt how to serve customers in a professional manner

Ms Tan’s colleague, Ms Chew Wan Qi, 23, shared how the CCP training helped her in her new role. “The training that I attended allowed me to understand how to deal with stress and it helped me when I encountered stressful incidents,” Ms Chew said.

Ms Chew Wan Qi had a positive experience with the CCP where she learnt communication skills and problem-solving skills

“We learnt communication skills and problem-solving skills when working at the outlets and handling customers’ requests. Michelle and I were also able to discuss and ask each other anything that we were unsure about, and we will also ask our course mentor,” she elaborated.

Another CCP trainee who benefited from the CCP was Mr Gan Pu Yan, a part-time F&B service crew who switched to a full-time position for a more stable job. Besides learning customer service skills, he was grateful to receive patient guidance through the learning process.

Mr Gan Pu Yan, who switched from a part-time to full-time job, demonstrated customer service skills learnt during the CCP

“My store manager Yan Ling and mentor Kelvin were very patient and guided me to adapt to the new environment. They always understood my issue and would explain in a patient manner. Besides, they would provide feedback for improvement when I did something wrong. Both of them were always willing to share their experience with me,” he said.

How support from NTUC’s e2i can help companies grow and thrive

Ms Hong shared how KOI Thé’s partnership with NTUC’s e2i had supported the company. “Our CCP partnership started around 5 years ago and was introduced to me by one of the e2i officers who was helping our company to enhance workers productivity by adopting HR solutions, such as e-attendance and e-appraisal system, with the support of government fundings.”

“The service rendered by e2i was fantastic and holistic. We gained various information not only about the funding support from the government but also other aspects of F&B professionals such as Wine knowledge programmes and Certified F&B Mystery Judge that aim to build a community to uplift the overall standard of F&B industry,” Ms Hong said.

Learn more about e2i’s business solutions at e2i.com.sg/businesses

Learn more about KOI Thé at koithe.com

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