MANAGERS at food and beverage chain Secret Recipe have added a few radical ingredients to their approach in assigning duties and positions to staff members.

They used to base assignments solely on who was available and what the company needed, but that changed about three months ago.

The firm started to deploy manpower more systematically with greater care taken to assign staff to roles that suited their talents.

The seismic shift is thanks to the Chief People Officer programme, a year-long human resources course undertaken by chief executive Sim Sin Sin. 'In (food and beverage), normally people are just staff, and they come and go quite fast. We never realised that we should match their talents to their jobs,' said Madam Sim.

'But during the course, I realised that we should be looking at that. Nowadays, we try to put people in the right job, and it's much more systematic.'

Madam Sim said she can see that her staff are enjoying their work more and that the attrition rate has fallen.

About 14 other Singapore executives and managers joined Madam Sim in graduating as the inaugural batch of chief people officers yesterday.

Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon, Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports, handed out certificates to the participants yesterday.

The course, conducted by Human Capital Singapore (HCS), is a 10-module programme based on the Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) framework for the human resources sector.

About 550,000 workers have undergone WSQ since it was launched by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) in 2005.

WDA works with partners in sectors such as retail, aerospace and human resources to devise training programmes. A recent survey showed higher adoption rates among firms for WSQ programmes.

HCS is expanding the scope of the initiative. It signed a memorandum of agreement with the Institution of Engineers Singapore yesterday to develop people management skills for engineers and technical professionals.

The first programme will kick off next month. Like the Chief People Officer course, it will be based on the human resources WSQ framework and cover topics like reward and incentive systems.

Mr Lim Shiyi, 28, an engineer with a statutory board, has already signed up for the course. '(It) will teach us some skills that we will use - perhaps not now, but definitely some time in our career,' he said.

Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Manpower Lee Yi Shyan, who witnessed the signing of the deal, said Singapore's engineers are taking on management and regional management responsibilities as they advance.

'The need to equip our engineers with business and cross-functional skills becomes apparent,' he said.