Insights Roundtable: April 2018


Syafiq Yussoff

Founder, Riverwood Pte Ltd

Born out of a hunch that e-commerce be next big thing, Syafiq Yussoff, started Riverwood seven years ago with just a team of 4 workers and 2 vans. Amidst stiff competition and the volatile business environment, Syafiq pressed on, often seen on the ground to make deliveries, and working consistently to upgrade operations by leveraging on technology.


Today, Riverwood has over 120 workers and more than 60 vehicles, servicing big-name clients like Amazon Prime and Sephora.

From a 4-man team to now a team of over 100 in manpower; what has been, and is your HR philosophy now?

When I first started, all I had in mind was the intent to hire, and the conscience to create a people-centric work environment where both management and staff will grow together. Therefore, hiring was all about the extra hands – followers who take instructions from me. Later, as my company grew, I realised that it was important to put proper processes in place, to hire the right people and delegate work according to their capabilities and expertise. I now look to hire people with leadership traits and consistently look out for, and work to bridge gaps in our existing processes to improve service quality.

Presently, Riverwood is empowering our managers to take ownership of the operational standards and hiring of new talents – ultimately to develop company leaders. As we progress towards internationalisation, I care about building a diverse yet collaborative team, and this takes consistent and open communication to help my staff get better at developing the overall strategic vision of Riverwood, and to convey and translate this vision to their team members and customers.


How different is your style of managing full-time employees, and managing freelancers? What would be your biggest challenge in managing employees?

I don’t see a difference – whether full-time or freelancer, I am still managing people. In fact, I see my management style to differ in terms of communication. How do my managers and myself communicate to staff effectively, so that we can design and allocate jobs and tasks according to their respective capabilities, and push them further in terms of personal and professional development? This takes consistent and open communication throughout all levels, and I make it a must to master this art, so my employees can be more flexible in execution and focus on their priorities, while deriving more satisfaction from what they do.


My biggest challenge is to bridge the gap of communication between the management and the drivers. We have developed internal programs which allow cross-level understanding and offer support in all areas. Another challenge is to help newcomers who have made mid-career switches to the logistics industry to adapt to their new work style and environment. We constantly remind each other to be empathetic and considerate.  

Riverwood has adopted various technological solutions. How has technology helped Riverwood, and contributed in having the advantage over other competitors?

Technology has granted greater flexibility and autonomy to my staff and is the key to Riverwood’s success. Communications now transcends borders – video conferencing with international clients, freelancers and even potential new hires. Digitised documentation makes data storage much easier, and we are already using Google Analytics to understand the webpage surfing patterns of visitors to our website, so we can better leverage on the ‘nudge’ in our digital marketing to increase business growth. Regarding client relationships, we have a sophisticated CRM system that allows my sales team to track and monitor conversion progress timely. Such information allows us to work with prospects and solidify client relationships effectively.


We gather feedback from our staff and external stakeholders, then evaluate, propose and implement changes that aid us in increasing productivity, efficiency and service quality. This helps to further sharpen our competitive edge and continue to be a formidable opponent to our competitors. However, all these cannot be done without technology; technology is what enables Riverwood to provide our customers with an efficient, seamless integrated logistics solution.


Mike Tang

LinkedIn Power Profiles 2017

Mike brings more than 15 years of progressive HR career to add value to organisations, education institutions and candidates, driving tangible outcomes for talent management, job search, career development, strategic networking, branding, as well as workplace readiness and success. He is also extensively featured as speakers in campus talks, customised workshops, large-scale conferences and media.

As a HR practitioner, what has been, or, is your HR philosophy?

My HR journey has its fair share of ups and downs, adapting HR practices to help businesses grow. When I first started at a junior level, I took on a very task-oriented approach, focusing more on operational excellence and hands-on expertise. I would volunteer to do more and lead projects across functions when opportunities arose, hence gaining overall strategic business exposure. As I rose through the ranks progressively, I found myself spending more time with line management, engaging them and empowering them to manage and grow their teams better. While strategy was important, I ensured that what we did counted towards the management understanding of HR matters, aligning our efforts and supporting them to make good people decisions. Culture building, change management and line management capabilities takes priority.


These few years are transformational, as I focus more on leveraging on technology and analytics, employer branding, strategic talent sourcing, and business leadership for targeted growth towards the next level.

How has HR evolved over the years, and what are your thoughts on SME HR activities?


Generically speaking, HR functioning has evolved a lot through the last few decades, from reactive management to strategic business partnering. As more business leaders learn leading organisational practices for more effective workforce planning, they discover the strategic impact of HR on business results. While the practices have evolved, it takes leadership for change to be fully realised. However, some companies and organisations have not progressed; some leaders holding executive positions have not embraced new HR thoughts, top management resisting changes made to existing strategies and structures, as well as legacy HR systems and processes. 


HR has organised itself around 4 key themes - Administrative Excellence, Employee Champion, Change Catalyst and Strategic Business Partnering, balancing the strategic and operational focus, as well as people-process integration. We commonly see such scales in large organisations and multinational companies who have available resources to structure more dedicated teams, as well as deploy models of resource efficiency and expertise such as shared services and centres of excellence.


The SME HR structure tends to be more generalist in nature, covering the full spectrum with less manpower, with line management co-leading certain aspects of HR functions. These are successful examples of HR business partnering with the business leaders taking more ownership to ensure efficiency in their teams and business operations. Traditionally, SME HR is less structured, given the mode of decision making by senior management for more flexibility, as well as the wide range of activities handled by the HR generalist function.

If there is one advice you could share with SME bosses and HR managers on their movements for 2018 and 2019, what would it be, and why?

The volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous business environment today warrants SMEs to apply effective HR strategies to attract, manage, engage and development. SMEs now carry out a critical mission to put the right people in place to help drive business results. Businesses also must learn to understand and prepare their line managers to better handle and engage the millennium workforce for win-win success.


Expertise and resource constraints are some key barriers for SME, hence efforts by the government and key HR industry players to provide more resources and guidance are a big boost towards the right direction. The key would be to raise the quality of HR leadership in SMEs and innovate the practices fast enough to ensure optimization of economic competitive advantages. In alignment with Singapore’s Smart Nation initiatives, SMEs should continue to look towards transformation with leaner processes and digitalisation and tap on national HR capability programmes to update SME leaderships. For a start, SMEs can look to optimise on HR analytics. The goal for all business leaders and HR practitioners is to ultimately develop a healthy ecosystem of talent for differentiated candidate and employee experiences.


We must to look beyond short-term and fire-fighting; it is about what can work sustainably better in the near and far future. In short, we should enhance thought leadership to be future ready.