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O'Brew Culture: A Blend to Overcome Learning Barriers

Adopting a people-centric approach to skills enablement, and how employees tackle barriers to learning.

A People-centric Approach to Skills Enablement

Founded in 2019, O’Brew Culture is a relatively new player in the café business. Despite its small size, it has weathered the storms of the COVID-19 pandemic well and is gearing up for future growth.

O’Brew Culture’s business resilience can be attributed to its progressive owner, Steven Kuan’s keen eye for market trends. For example, the café rode on the 2020 popularity of “Dalgona coffee” and launched a series of Dalgona drinks which has kept its business strong. 

Picture of Barista making coffee at O'Brew Culture

Image courtesy of O'Brew Culture

Besides spotting consumer trends, Steven is also good at spotting talent. 

I believe in enabling people with skills to perform their job with confidence and pride,” Steven declared. “The better trained my staff are, the better service they can provide—which ultimately benefits the [business].” 

When other cafes were struggling with manpower issues, Steven adopted a non-traditional recruitment approach and hired Park Seongcho (Parker), who is hearing-impaired, as his first full-time employee.

Redesigning Work for Inclusivity

Equipped with knowledge about design-thinking, Steven adopted a person-centred approach and modified the café’s ordering and serving processes around Parker’s abilities.

For example, customers are greeted with signage informing them that Parker is hearing impaired and the languages he can understand. They are offered an LED writing board to communicate with him and he rings a bell to alert them when their orders are ready. 

Two people in a discussion behind the counter in a cafe

Image courtesy of O'Brew Culture

Today, Parker runs the café independently and handles the daily operations without any difficulty. Working at the café has also given him the opportunity to learn about café management and stimulated his interests in coffee roasting.

Learning Does Not Stop With Disability

You may think it makes poor business sense to hire and invest in the training of a hearing-impaired person. 

For Steven, he thinks otherwise. 

“I’ve always had the ambition to expand, and when that time comes, I want Parker to manage the outlets.” 

To prepare for business expansion, Steven completed a WSQ Essentials of Franchise Management course and upgraded himself with digital marketing skills to advertise his café through social media. 

In supporting Parker’s skills development, Steven jumped through more hoops than what a mainstream employer would have to as it was challenging to find courses suitable for learners who are hearing-impaired.

Person roasting coffee at a coffee machine

Image courtesy of O'Brew Culture

So when Steven found a coffee roasting course that fit Parker’s learning interest, he took the extra step to add subtitles for the video learning materials for Parker. Steven also took the course with Parker so he could simultaneously learn about the subject matter, and more importantly, to help Parker address any questions he might have.

Finally, to ensure Parker had sufficient time to master the topic and prepare for the course assessment, Steven even hired part-timers to relieve Parker from his day job so he could study without disruptions. 

Always Brewing the Next Steps

Steven’s experience with Parker has led him to register as an Open Door Programme (ODP) employer, enabling him to create another opening to recruit one more hearing-impaired staff. It is a small step forward, but he is optimistic that his efforts will continue to pay off in the long run when his business expands.

We certainly think so too and wish Steven and Parker all the best!

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