Ya Kun’s humble beginnings were in 1994 in a coffee shop started by Loi Ah Koon, who served coffee, tea, eggs, and toast. Ya Kun International was incorporated in 2001 in Singapore and currently has 32 outlets in Singapore and 27 franchise outlets in other parts of Asia. The 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 serve as role models to reinforce this teamwork culture in 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 their outlets. Applicants who respond to the advertisements are invited to interview. 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 includes integrity, diligence, and honesty. Prior experience in the food and beverage industry is not essential. Ya Kun believes that if an applicant is commited 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 their customers well. The main challenge Ya Kun faces in its recruitment efforts is finding employees with the right attitude, because the technical skills required are relatively easy to learn. Some applicants were unwilling to work shifts, making it difficult for Ya Kun to hire them: Shift work is inevitable in the food and beverage retail industry.