Let your children try whatever they want to do; step in when you must, but let them fail a little and learn from it. That’s what Dr. Robert Yap, chairman of local logistics company YCH Group, believes will build resilience. He shares why resilient and enthusiastic minds count more than top grades in his organisation.
What do you look for at an interview?
When I hire, I look at whether people have fire in their eyes. I don’t care too much about academic qualifications. If you are enthusiastic and have the basic knowledge and skills, we can train the rest of it. But if you have no interest, even if you come in with your best skills, it’s pointless.
Why is enthusiasm so important?
The Chinese philosophy of "先苦后甜" or "bitter first then sweet", that attitude is very precious. It doesn’t matter if you have a diploma or ITE (Institute of Technical Education) certificate, or if you come from an Ivy League university. But it matters if you are motivated, eager to learn, inquisitive and unafraid of hard work.
The experience you gain is actually more important than your academic training. Yes, basic training is important but do you need a degree before entering the working world? With enthusiasm for learning, you can get a degree, or even a Masters after you have started working. It’s just a different pathway.
How do you actively seek enthusiastic and hardworking staff?
As an employer, if you ask me whom I’d hire – a fresh university graduate versus someone who is from this track – I can tell you I’ll hire the person with the hands-on experience.
We are creating an industry training center for SkillsFuture with the Workforce Development Agency (WDA) to develop sustainable talent for the future. We want to take in students from the ITE and polytechnics, put them through an enhanced internship and then the “Earn and Learn” programme. This connects them to the industry as early as possible.
What are the skills that are most relevant to your industry?
At YCH Group, our mantra is “Innovate to survive”. You have to innovate so you can lead the team. But how do you innovate if you don’t dare to try? If you don’t make mistakes, it means you’re not doing anything different. In our management team, we allow people to make mistakes.
What happens if you don’t allow for mistakes? People don’t act.
Do you find Singaporean youth ready to try and innovate?
Yes, but our youth today needs to be more resilient. In the old days, times were harder and our parents were just looking for ways to survive. Today, youths have probably never experienced the same kind of hardship. Parents are more protective because we are well-to-do. We can afford to be protective!
But parents need to realise we cannot control the future. We have to let our children fail sometimes. If children fail, they must learn and come back stronger. Then they will able to handle the future on their own. That should be the formula – to not insulate them, so they can survive when they face hardship.
As a father, do you ever struggle with your children’s future?
I “grew” the company so obviously, my inner desire is that my children can grow the business further. I have many conversations with my children about what they want to do, and they also come to me for advice.
My eldest son is a lawyer and expert at IP (intellectual property) so I involve him in crafting our IP strategy. But whether he will join the company eventually, we have not decided on it yet. If he’s not interested, there’s no point in forcing him.
My daughter is very creative and wants to study dance. She is very passionate about it. As a typical Singaporean parent, my first instinct was to discourage her but I know I can’t dictate my children’s future. It all depends on their interests.
Many parents still struggle with planning their children’s future because they feel they know better. As an employer and a parent, what can you say about that?
A high-paying job might earn your children good money, but they won’t be happy because they are not suited for it. And what makes you think other options cannot earn them good money? That assumption is wrong in the first place.
If they are really on the wrong track, parents need to step in to guide them. But if it’s really the child’s interest, parents should actually let the children try it out.