Madam Helen

In today’s business context, we tend to write off people who do things that violate our ideas about aging as “special cases” or oddities. Their stories don’t apply to the rest of us.

But that is not the case in NamNam Singapore. The wrinkles on her face may indicate her age, but her eyes give nothing away. Bright and full of life, it is hard to believe that Madam Helen Fong Chiew Chun is NamNam’s oldest employee.

The 74-year-old, who lived through the Japanese Occupation, has been working in the food industry for the past 21 years. With 2 children and 4 grandchildren, Madam Helen Fong was kept busy as a housewife and professional for a large part of her life. “Now that most of them are working or have their own families, the house became quiet,” said Madam Helen Fong.

Madam Helen Fong joined us at our NamNam Suntec City outlet in 2014.  She picked up the skills with no difficulty and became adept at preparing the hot dishes on the menu. She said: “My colleagues help me when they see me carrying things or when I can’t keep up with orders. I plan to keep working for as long as I am healthy.” Though her job may be repetitive and physically draining, Madam Fong enjoys what she does as it keeps her active.

“Elderly workers bring experiences into many jobs that younger workers can’t duplicate. Even if they are not tech savvy compared to those of the 20-year-olds, they share different skills which are valuable. ” Said Nam Q Nguyen. He continued, “in fact, older workers’ productivity is more consistent than younger workers.”

Maybe so, but what about their performance over time? Surely, older workers would remember less and take longer to learn than younger workers. Wrong! In fact, the older adults’ cognitive performance will be more consistent over time than that of the younger ones. Why? Probably because the older workers’ wealth of experience enabled them to design strategies to solve problems. In addition, their motivation is higher than the younger workers’, and they were more stable and less erratic.

“It comes with experience,” says Nam Q. Nguyen, Founder and Managing Director of Annam Pte Ltd. “Older employees soundly thrash their younger colleagues. Every aspect of job performance gets better as we age,” he declares.

The primary challenge we face with senior employees is that sometimes they find it difficult to complete certain tasks or they might face issues in working certain shifts due to family commitments or health reasons. However, at NamNam, we continuously improve on our work processes and make necessary adjustments to the work schedules in order to accommodate to our group of senior workers.

As Singapore moves towards a knowledge-based economy, experience is becoming more vital than physical labour, which mature talents have in abundance. It thus no longer makes sound business sense to dismiss or hold an employee back because of their age. There are challenges to retain and employ senior workers, but the benefits outweigh the costs.


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