BreadTalk Group's steady rise to the top

BreadTalk Group's success has been nothing short of impressive, but the group plans on growing much bigger.

The first BreadTalk outlet, opened in Singapore some 18 years ago, was an immediate hit with customers, largely thanks to the pork floss bun, an unassuming cream-coated bread roll topped by a generous sprinkling of dried, fluffy meat flakes.

Since then, the confectionary brand has evolved into one of Southeast Asia’s largest food and beverage (F&B) consortiums.

Today, besides the original bakery business, BreadTalk Group also owns several other highly popular dining brands, including Taiwanese Michelin-star restaurant Ding Tai Fung, concept food court establishment Food Republic, coffee shop Toast Box, and fast food joint Carl’s Jr.

HR has played a crucial role in the business’ expansion over the years, overseeing some 7,000 employees working in almost 1,000 outlets across 17 countries, says Chan Wing Git, Head of HR.

Despite HR’s earlier successes, Chan says his team continues to drive new programmes and systems.

This objective gathered more momentum this year, following the appointment of Henry Chu as the new Group CEO in July.

HR transformation has become the order of the day – and the year ahead.

That's because Chu, who himself holds a degree in HR, recognises people management as a top priority. According to Chan, his superior has always emphasised that as an F&B company, customer service is key, making employees the backbone of the whole business.

Succession planning and talent development have always been areas of focus for the company, but with Chu now at the helm, they have grown in importance. 

“Our new CEO wants us to differentiate ourselves. To do that, we need to invest a lot more into our people's development,” says Chan.

Chu is familiar with BreadTalk Group's operations. He first served as the bakery division's CEO from May 2010 to April 2012, before re-joining as the Group Managing Director last October.

HRM Magazine: HR Insider BreadTalk Group from HRM Asia on Vimeo.

Another reason behind the ongoing drive for transformation lies in the need for HR to align the business’ respective markets and their individual HR policies and strategies.

Chan says that while the group's old growth formula allowed it to expand into new territories rapidly, that also led to distinct HR practices and overall misalignment between markets.

The Singapore and China operations, for instance, both run on different HR systems.

“This presents a problem because as Group HR, I don't have visibility of employee data outside of the Singapore headquarters,” says Chan.

“Each time I need an update, I have to send out a template and have the individual teams get back to me. The data captured is also limited.”

So one area where change is already happening is in the company's HR systems.

In Singapore and China, the team has already begun moving information onto a well-known industry solution used by many Fortune 500 organisations.

The new platform will harmonise the various HR approaches used by the different markets, while consolidating talent information and providing functionalities like data reporting and data generation.

“We need to move out of the old systems because if you want to become more global, then you need to align all the different parts,” says Chan.

“Our aspiration is to become a Fortune 500 company, and that's why we use the same platform as them.” 

Check out the full interview with BreadTalk Group’s Head of HR Chan Wing Git in the October 2017 issue of HRM Magazine. The full article will also be published online on October 16.

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