Would you consider a laptop an essential item for your in-camp training? (touch your heart and answer honestly).
As an NSman myself, I still remember bringing a laptop into my annual in-camp training (ICT), along with English compositions to mark from my job. (Disclaimer: definitely not into any restricted zones.)
I wasn’t the only one having to juggle work commitments and my duty to the country either.
Work never ends, after all, even when we go for ICTs.
As a responsible person, I did take my training seriously, and the camaraderie of training with my buddies definitely kept me going.
That said, work was always at the back of my mind, and it was exhausting to head back to my tuition job on the Saturday right after my ICT ended.
Looking back, I wished that my company could have made this transition easier.
More companies showing support towards NS
This led me to do some research on how companies in Singapore are supporting NS.
Thankfully, some companies are more NS-friendly than others, and it’s an encouraging sight to see.
Here are some examples of NS-friendly policies, including:
- Gym and fitness clubs’ memberships
- Cash incentives for performing well in IPPT
- Taking ICT performance into consideration for performance assessment
- Other cash incentives for good IPPT results
As an employee who is also an NSman, initiatives like this would have made me more garang (game) to keep fit, and to faithfully attend my ICTs, instead of, well, deferring them.
Getting time off to take part in IPPT and rest after ICT also helps employees to recuperate after tiring training sessions and be in the right mindset for work.
I’m quite sure most NSmen, and especially those in combat-fit vocations, would agree with this.
Lastly, NS-friendly policies are great for employee morale.
I mean, who wouldn’t want to work in an organisation that actively helps us balance our work, NS commitments and fitness?
Such companies can be accredited with NS Mark Accreditation, which recognises businesses and organisations with policies and human resource practices that support National Service and Total Defence.
There are two tiers of accreditation, the NS Mark and the NS Mark (Gold), with the latter recognising companies which give an even higher level of support for NS.
Being accredited with NS Mark Gold also meant that the companies will be eligible for the prestigious Total Defence Awards (TDA).
This is the highest national accolade that acknowledges exemplary corporations or individuals for their outstanding support towards strengthening the defence of our nation.
Well, that was a mouthful.
Let’s take a closer look at how companies can work towards being awarded the TDA.
How Starbucks earned their NS Mark (Gold)
Recently, I had the chance to interview Starbucks Singapore, a recipient of TDA 2022.
When asked about the company’s journey towards their NS Mark (Gold) accreditation, Starbucks’ general manager Patrick Kwok shared with me:
Over the years, we observed many of our employees (whom we call partners) that joined us as students had to inevitably leave for NS. Having a partner-first mindset, we want to welcome them back post-NS and have them continue advancing their career with us, providing them the familiarity and confidence to pick up from where they left.
These observations led the company to introduce the NS Leave of Absence and Tenure Continuity Scheme in 2017.
Under this scheme, if a partner rejoined the company within one month of NS completion, Starbucks would recognise and continue his tenure from his pre-NS employment period.
Though the scheme was launched in 2017, Starbucks made this available for eligible partners who ORD before 2017 as well.
This allows partners to enjoy enhanced employment benefits such as faster eligibility for long service awards and increased annual leave entitlements compared to peers who did not join Starbucks pre-NS.
It may sound like a small gesture, but employee recognition goes a long way.
Since its launch, Starbucks has had over 40 partners who have benefited from the scheme.
Kwok is particularly proud of how schemes like this can promote longer service, even for partners who joined before the scheme was launched:
In October this year, the scheme helped one of our partners reach his 25th year work anniversary. This partner joined us when Starbucks first opened in Singapore, and through (this) scheme, his tenure pre-NS was recognised, allowing him to reach (this significant) milestone.
As part of its commitment towards supporting NS, Starbucks has in place pro-NS processes, as Kwok noted:
When an NSman partner informs his manager that he has to take time off for ICT, the manager works with the store partners to adjust their shifts and accommodate accordingly. Where needed, other store teams will also come in to help. This is what we do to support each other as a Starbucks family.
I think it is a great way to encourage NSman partners to faithfully attend their IPPT and ICT training. Additionally, Starbucks considers the ICT schedule of their NSman partners when rostering their shift work. This allows NSman to have adequate rest before and after their ICTs.
Kwok told me that ultimately, Starbucks wants to create a culture of belonging and show partners they are valued:
We have a diverse pool of partners here at Starbucks, ranging from 16 to 82 years of age. And that’s what we pride ourselves on, a place where everyone feels welcome. Our partners are at the heart of the Starbucks experience, and we are committed to investing in our partners’ well-being and success.
We believe that by taking care of our partners, they will take care of the business too.
How does he feel about Starbucks receiving the Total Defence Awards?
We are honoured to be recognised for our efforts (in) supporting our NSmen partners. Being a leading lifestyle brand in Singapore, we are also proud to be able to play our part to contribute to Singapore’s Total Defence efforts.
And we encourage all Singapore based companies to do the same too, within their means and capacity.
This insight into Starbucks’ partner culture warmed my heart, and encouraged me that more can be done (and is being done) to support NSmen like me.
Towards a network of Supportive Employers
They are not the only ones working behind the scenes, as there have been past networking events such as the Supportive Employers Networking reception, where 90 employers across 70 different companies shared their journey to build a stronger NS-friendly workplace culture among businesses, to support NS and Total Defence (TD).
This has allowed many employers to learn and emulate the best practices of NS-friendly companies and tap on government schemes to enhance their business operations as well as better support their NSman employees.
A quote from Mr Edmond Looi, Director, DVUCA Pte Ltd (one of the speakers from the event) sums up the motivation for companies to pledge support for NS:
“As the saying goes, “If there were no country, there would be no home”, the same applies to business. If there is no stability and security in the country, businesses will not thrive.”
In addition to being eligible for the Total Defence Awards, NS Mark accredited companies can also receive the following benefits:
To find out more about the Total Defence Awards and the NS Mark accreditation scheme as well as how your company can pledge support towards National Service, click here.
This is a sponsored article by MINDEF.
Top image via Daniel Seow and MINDEF Facebook page.
If you like what you read, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Telegram to get the latest updates.