Inspiring SME Stories - Ikeda Spa

StaffOnDemand Blog

In our third part of our SME Stories, we speak to Eric, Director of Ikeda Spa on his secrets to hiring the very best talents in the industry.

"Ikeda Spa’s hiring philosophy is all about cultural fit."

The nature of the service industry necessitates the ‘personal touch’, and demands a high service standard that is not easy to achieve, especially in a tight labor market like Singapore.

One thing that Eric have kept constant at Ikeda Spa, a thriving luxury spa chain that have won over 15 acclaimed spa awards in a short span of 6 years, is his involvement when it comes to talent recruitment. Every staff is personally interviewed by Eric before he/she joins Ikeda Spa proper, underscoring the importance that Eric place in ensuring that only the best candidates get to work for Ikeda Spa.

Understandably, that is no easy feat to execute, but Eric’s efforts have clearly paid off handsomely in an industry that demands service excellence, with Ikeda Spa sweeping clean a whole slew of prestigious awards reserved for only the top echelons of the spa industry.

StaffOnDemand: For an establishment that has come to be synonymous with excellent service standards, what is your hiring philosophy for Ikeda Spa that has been pivotal in such great success, and what do you look out for in an ideal candidate?

Eric: Ikeda Spa’s hiring philosophy is all about cultural fit. Apart from job competencies such as skills and work experience, a candidate’s attitude and values also rank highly in our assessment during interviews. At Ikeda, we have two sets of interviews: the skills interview and the culture interview, and candidates must pass both.

The culture interview is based on Ikeda’s 10 Core Values; if an applicant doesn’t pass the culture fit, they will not progress further in our assessment, regardless of how much of a technical fit (in terms of skillset) they may be. An excellent cultural fit helps us create a strong corporate culture, which is one of Ikeda Spa’s competitive advantages.

Therefore, we seek that the candidates’ personal values are well aligned with our corporate culture. With the right attitudes and values, the candidates can better assimilate into our Ikeda family with facilitation through our rigorous training and induction programme.

The ‘Nice Guy’ Test

In addition, we always make sure that our new hires aren’t only a good culture fit but are also good people.

To do so, we usually employ a technique, which we refer to it as simply, The “Nice Guy” Test.
The basis of the “Nice Guy” test is that while you can make the best impression during the interview, but if you are rude to the receptionist, you ain’t getting the job.

As part of the “Nice Guy” test, we make our applicant to fill in a long application form despite having received their resume and intentionally make them wait for 10 to 15 minutes. This is the time during which our receptionist can interact with the applicant. At the end of the interview, the interviewer will circle back to the receptionist and ask how he or she was treated, and what he/she thought of the applicant.

If our receptionist had a bad review of the applicant or was treated badly by the applicant, then we will not hire that person, even if the applicant made an excellent impression during the interview.

On Corporate Wellness

StaffOnDemand: Ikeda Spa is also a strong proponent for Corporate Wellness Programmes in the work environment, and is a proud sponsor of the HRM Asia’s Corporate Wellness award for the 2nd year running. What corporate wellness programme do you run in your own ship, and what tips do you have for SMEs that are looking to pilot or kickstart their own corporate wellness programme?

Eric: We value the importance of corporate wellness programme and have a myriad of corporate wellness activities planned for our staff throughout the year (e.g. Company retreats, health talks, medical assessments, yoga sessions etc).

Moreover, we also organise friendly competition amongst our staff to encourage our staff to get into good shape and health. For example, recently, we held an inter-outlet contest ‘The Biggest Losers’ where staff from each outlet compete to stay updated with latest healthy recipes, as well as workout together as a team and attempt to win by losing the most weight as a collective group.

In a hyper-competitive business environment, it is essential for employers to cultivate and support the wellness of their employees if they are to survive and thrive in the future economy.

Structuring a corporate wellness programme for your company requires deeper thought than just providing staff with a traditional gym membership - Employers also need to understand the differentiated needs of workers and the importance of empowering employees with free choice over what they want for their corporate wellness needs.

The Spafinder Wellness survey (2014) found that roughly 9 in 10 employees who tried a new wellness activity of their choice felt inspired to continue it on a consistent basis and try other healthy classes/activities. So start looking for new and exciting wellness programmes that really cultivate intrinsic motivation amongst your employees to adopt healthy livestyles and achieve personal wellness. Throw ideas around in office and you will be surprised what your employees can come up with for corporate wellness activities!

Another common misconception is that corporate wellness activities are inherently expensive - It doesn’t have to. For example, you can have a walking meeting, where staff walk about instead of remaining stationary! The key to a successful corporate wellness programme is all about the fun and creative element so your employees will want to be involved.

As employers in the wellness industry, we are in an unique position to educate other employers about wellness within the context of work. For more information and ideas for corporate wellness activities, you may reach out to our corporate wellness advisors at

StaffOnDemand: We see that Ikeda Spa offers scholarships amounting to $18,000 and an additional $8,000 as a very attractive sign up bonus for the ideal candidate. Could you share more details about the scholarship?

Eric: Over years, we have been building our employer branding with the local polytechnic and vocational institutes. The scholarship is just one step towards our vision to attract young and capable talents into this service industry. It is disheartening to hear that many diligent students are struggling with their studies, not because of their academic abilities but not having enough rest as they needed to work part-time in order to support their family. In alignment with Ikeda’s core values ‘Be humble and be grateful’, we are just doing our part to contribute and give back to our community. At the same time, we hope to foster these young talents into one of our future leaders in our business. Vivien, a Republic Polytechnic student, who recently joined us as our marketing executive, has also benefited from this programme. You can read more about her story on

Long Term Goal of Creating Ikeda University

StaffOnDemand: How do you assess each employee on their aspirations and develop a career development plan for them? What is the benefit(s) for the firm in doing this for their employees?

Eric: Our long term goal is to create Ikeda University because we envision our career development framework resembles a university more closely than a traditional corporate training department. We designed department-specific content to aid in career development. Our development path allows vertical and lateral (promotion between and within their job families) movement. Rather than talking about lack of workforce readiness of our new hires, we have developed a curriculum that ensures workforce success for anyone who is a good fit with the Ikeda culture.

For example, therapists who express interest to become spa consultant will have classes on consultative selling techniques, whereas therapists who want to promote to the position of a spa trainer will be provided with courses like “Effective Workplace Training”.

Every staff are given about one to two years to display their potential. Upon understanding the staff's strength and weaknesses, we would suggest what could be a suitable development path for them. We also pay close attention on the staff’s career aspirations and concerns, working alongside with the staff to individually customise his/her career development pathway and select the relevant trainings necessary for the staff to excel.

By having a structured career development path, which allows flexibility of movement within and between job families, staff are intrinsically motivated to remain with us and work harder for their own advancement. This helps us to retain our valuable staff.

Interested to be part of Ikeda's Big Family?

Check out their job opportunities here