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 With several clusters of COVID-19 infections emerging in May 2021, and a worrying trend of unlinked community cases, the Singapore government announced that the country would be going into “Phase 2 Heightened Alert” from 16 May to 13 June 2021 to reduce the risk of further transmissions. For schoolchildren, this announcement meant the resumption of home-based learning, while working from home was the default once again for the working population. For the retail industry, however, this announcement led to stricter safe distancing measures, affecting business as many would opt to remain at home to stay safe. Making the Best of an Opportunity In response to the new developments, Popular Singapore’s Retail Management team stepped up our efforts in the safe distancing and management measures at the outlets to keep all our staff safe. However, a late-night call came from Westgate Mall’s management office on 22 May 2021 threw our original plan into disarray, as we were informed that the mall had to be closed for 14 days due to the rising number of unlinked infections detected. The sudden notice left our staff with just one day on 23 May 2021 to prepare the outlet for the temporary closure. Plenty of questions remained unanswered about the degree of exposure of our outlet staff and how to redeploy them during the closure. Soon thereafter, a memorandum came from the mall’s management office with the Ministry of Health’s decision to forbid the redeployment of our Westgate branch staff to other outlets. In addition, all our outlet staff were instructed to undergo swab tests and to monitor their health during this period. The Retail Management and Human Resources teams immediately sprang into action, making the most of the time of the 13 POPULAR Westgate staff while keeping them safe. Popular Singapore took the opportunity to engage the POPULAR Westgate staff in a series of online training sessions to build esprit de corps, while reinvigorating the team to prepare them for the future challenges. A Week of Learning and Discovery Conducted entirely via online conferencing, the full week of online activities started off with the self-introduction of the POPULAR Westgate staff, where they also shared their daily responsibilities, as well as the fun facts about the history of the POPULAR Westgate outlet and of the shopping mall itself. There was no set boundary as the staff were encouraged to share and discuss the various aspects of working in POPULAR. As the session progressed, the staff also shared interesting information like the story behind the POPULAR Westgate outlet’s unique fixtures, furniture, and decorations. Many staff were also delighted to learn that the POPULAR Westgate outlet was the first POPULAR outlet featuring an UrbanWrite store within. The session touched on more serious topics as well, like emergency situations management and workplace safety. The training sessions proved to be a valuable learning opportunity for our staff as, for some of them, that experience was the first time they had utilised an online conference platform. Each of the sessions was filled with enthusiasm and laughter as our staff went about learning more about the various house brands to improve their product knowledge, which would help them provide better service to our customers. Moreover, as the Westgate staff worked in different shifts, the online training sessions gave them the rare chance for all the outlet staff to learn together. United We Stand The challenges brought about by the unprecedented event turned out to be an occasion to bring the entire team closer. Through the various training sessions, the Westgate staff banded together to weather the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, the POPULAR Westgate staff had feedbacked that they did not only gain new knowledge about their outlet and their work during the series of training sessions, they had also fostered closer bond with their colleagues after learning more about one another. The experience of the POPULAR Westgate staff’s training sessions has a far-reaching impact as Popular Singapore looks set to replicate them for all other staff in POPULAR outlets across the country. Though everyone understands the importance of lifelong learning, having fun while you learn new knowledge will go a long way to ensuring that POPULAR maintains our advantage in the challenging business climate. This episode has demonstrated the tenacity of the POPULAR family to turn a challenge into an opportunity, because we can overcome anything as one big POPULAR family! 135 popularnews - 17 

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