Working success in Hong Kong is not only a matter of financial issues; but there is also an emphasis on family and generational continuity as an expression of success. Moreover, not to be outdated by the never sleeping Hong Kong, success comes along with being switched on, full of energy and motivated at all times.
Continued changes in recruitment trends in Asia
Demand for executive skills will continue gravitating towards talented locals who have educational and career exposure abroad, and a good command of English and (Mandarin) Chinese. “While business success in Hong Kong, like most other places, is defined by the financial bottom line, there is also an emphasis here on family and generational continuity as an expression of that success,” outlined Brian Renwick, Hong Kong Managing Partner of the global executive search firm Boyden. And how has the recent economic downturn impacted on the nature of recruitment in Greater China in general, and Hong Kong in particular? According to Renwick, who has practiced HR at the most senior levels in Hong Kong for the past two and a half decades, new recruitment is clearly down though not as adversely affected as other business locations across Europe and North America. “Emerging family-owned businesses wanting to further standardise their HR processes, combined with our HR consulting capability has enabled Boyden to ride out the downturn, particularly in executive search, during the last year,” he added. Within Hong Kong, moreover, the anticipated start of the Government’s key-transport cross-border rail and road infrastructure investments by 2010 is expected to generate demand for professionals in engineering project related fields. With signs of economic recovery, Renwick sees the continuation of a recruitment trend that has long been underway in Asia during the last decade amongst multinationals. “Unless you have a direct cross-posting from another part of the same company at the most senior level, the days of the pampered Western expatriate are long gone,” says Renwick. “For instance, with the economic rebound in China, demand for executive skills among multinational companies have and will gravitate towards talented Chinese mainlanders, experienced Mandarin-speaking Hong Kongers, Singaporeans or Malaysians who have educational and career exposure abroad, and a good command of English,” he concludes.
Consistently high standards with a personalised touch
“To be successful in Hong Kong you have to be switched on, full of energy, and motivated. Hong Kong is a place that never sleeps, a place that keeps moving forward and when you stop, Hong Kong can be overwhelming. It is not a place that dwells on the past, but one that always looks to the future. It is a place where the only limits are your ambitions and ability,” says Giovanni Viterale, Resident Manager of the Conrad Hotel in Hong Kong. The luxury Conrad brand of the global Hilton hotel chain differentiates itself on quality of service, where clients are greeted with the highest of professional standards, but with a personalised touch. This, according to Viterale, requires a consistency of service that can only be delivered by personnel who are long-term, are loyal to the brand, and have the aptitude for anticipating and fulfilling the needs of the Conrad Hotel’s return and regular guests. “When we recruit, we go to great lengths to find people with the right attitude, an open mind and willingness to learn new skills, and the drive to take on different responsibilities. Management’s job, including those of our HR Department, is to give them the training and the tools to excel and extend that already innate passion for service,” adds Viterale. The result of this culture of excellence is the lowest staff turnover of any hotel in Hong Kong, and during the inevitable economic cycles, there is little impact on staff numbers or tends in recruitment. “When there is a downturn in guest numbers, we look after our staff and prepare them for more responsibilities into the future. In turn, they look after the hotel when we are very busy and will go that extra distance to make sure that new guests return and become regular patrons,” he adds.
Iron determination to protect its intellectual property
The protection of intellectual property, meticulous management of the brand and employee commitment for the long-term are key elements to Ferrero’s continued marketing into Asia. Organically growing the company, cultivating a corporate culture that emphasises product excellence, innovation and freshness, and investment in R&D are key elements to business success for Ferrero, the Italian manufacturer of chocolate and other confectionary products. Listed in 2009 by the Reputation Institute as the world’s most reputable company, Sergio Boscarol, Regional Human Resources Manager of Ferrero Asia Limited in Hong Kong, proudly points out that unlike its competitors, the Torino-headquartered company has grown to its current size without having to undertake acquisitions or merge with competitors. “Any professional joining us would do so knowing that he or she is joining a multinational with a very distinctive business approach and company culture. When I hire, I always take great care in explaining that being part of Ferrero should be a long-term choice. Making each and every Ferrero employee proud to work for the company, is our best assurance of future success”, adds Boscarol. Ferrero does not manufacture in Asia and does not plan to do so, as it continues to protect its intellectual property with iron determination. The careful management of its brand together with a lead in product innovation over its competitors are key elements to Ferrero’s continued marketing into Asia. Nonetheless, Boscarol notes that Ferrero’s recruitment priorities in Asia will be no different than those of its European base. “We look for people who can function and contribute in a product and people-oriented company as opposed to a process-oriented, organisation-driven one. Ferrero is all about the management of a small number of high-quality brands which we constantly seek to fine-tune and improve. We look for people who are able to think relentlessly on how to do things better, and by extension better than our competitors,” concludes Boscarol.
LAN KWAI FONG GROUP
Fun, identification with the client and a strong creative mindset
The Lan Kwai Fong brand attracts those who have a creative and entrepreneurial mindset, and who are able to celebrate adventure and fun in life. “To be successful in Hong Kong often simply means financial performance, but in our company we strive for something else – Fun. In all facets, from restaurants and bars, to luxury tropical residences and commercial developments, we look at what our customers want, and deliver the best and most fun experience possible through our creativity and innovation.” This is the view of Terrence Loo, Director, Marketing and Sales of the Lan Kwai Fong Group, a Hong-Kong based company which was founded by prominent Canadian-German, and now naturalised Chinese citizen, Allan Zeman. Lan Kwai Fong clusters a diverse range of bars, restaurants and other entertainment venues to fashion what is arguably one of Asia’s most enticing night-life districts within the heart of Central, Hong Kong. With the group expanding to re-create its magic on mainland China, including its new flagship project in the central-west mega-city of Chengdu, the philosophy behind Lan Kwai Fong’s success remains unchanged. Loo notes that when it comes to HR, the company seeks out people who embody the fun and pizza that Lan Kwai Fong’s diverse patrons, whether overseas visitors, the city’s expatriate community, mainland Chinese tourists or local Hong Kongers, want to be a part of. “We look for staff-members who have the same social frame of mind as our clients,” he emphasises. Another key factor underpinning LKF’s success is the active Lan Kwai Fong Association, which empowers the area’s diverse business and community stakeholders to cooperate in creating a year-round party atmosphere through key calendar events which are jointly organised, marketed, managed and sponsored. “Whether in Hong Kong or the mainland, the Lan Kwai Fong brand attracts those who have a creative and entrepreneurial mindset, forever on the lookout for the unique experiences that the wider world has to offer. Equally important is the brand’s respect for, and celebration of, those cultural elements that are uniquely local,” adds Loo.
PR PEOPLE CONSULTANCY
Flexibility and openness to address the changes in the world
The industry of public relations is increasingly in need of versatile and talented profiles with the ability to prepare and present strategies at an optimum level. Being able to keep pace with the constantly changing environment is the key to success in Hong Kong, where east meets west. “Public Relations requires an open-mind with a strong passion, a commitment to clients and, the capacity to empower quality staff” says Uhi Hui, founder and CEO of PR People Consultancy. To grow in the field of PR, managers must pay particular attention to the following points:
• Believe in and focus on people’s potential
• Train up leaders who can inspire and lead
• Motivate and nurture teams
• Create a good working environment
• Grow, train and support the team
“PR is a people-oriented industry, in which the costs and risks are mostly related to people. Networking is an important part of the strategy to build awareness”, adds Uhi Hui. Furthermore she states, “We saw an opportunity in this crisis”. Indeed, there is an increasing number of foreign companies that need PR consultancy in order to penetrate the China market. Moreover, there is an increasing demand for PR by major Chinese companies that are, all of a sudden, in need of understanding and investing in domestic and foreign markets.
Impeccable levels of service
Ferragamo seeks people who have a broad cross-functional understanding of the retail business, who bring added-value at every business phase and who deliver impeccable levels of service. Through its Hong Kong regional headquarters which manages distribution and retail across Asia and Oceania outside of Japan, the Florence-headquartered Salvatore Ferragamo is the world’s third largest luxury goods company. It plans to continue its expansion into Asia where, in China alone, eight new stores will open next year. “Ferragamo still prides itself in being a brand entirely designed and produced in Italy, but this doesn’t mean that creativity is confined to a few offices and artisan labs in Tuscany. A global luxury brand can succeed only if creativity extends from its design and production process and becomes part of its management culture, at every functional level and geographical location,” says Alessandro Paparelli Regional Human Resources Director Asia/Pacific. “This means that Ferragamo’s Asian teams are no exception whether they market in Taipei or look after customers in our Mumbai store. We count on their creativity in maintaining our brand’s reputation and delivering a memorable service to our customers,” he notes. In the immediately foreseeable future, Paparelli notes that both luxury and non-luxury US retailers will be planning their entrance and presence in Asia to compensate for shrinking domestic markets while many (European) luxury brands are back with even more new store openings. “The talents that we want to bring aboard in Asia are those people who have a broad cross-functional understanding of the retail business, an obsession for bringing added-value in every phase of the business, and a focus on maintaining impeccable levels of service,” Paparelli adds.
Realism and extolling of sustainability
Hong Kong has culture of entrepreneurialism and a maturing business realism that is moving away from the celebration of excess towards the extolling of sustainability. “Hong Kong is an extremely dynamic hub that efficiently connects people, services and products to the rest of Asia, and business success can also be measured in terms of reach into this region of immense opportunities,” says Stephen Jones, the Hong-Kong based Asia Regional Managing Principal for global design studio Woods Bagot. “Hong Kong also has a culture of entrepreneurialism and a ‘can do’ attitude that propels the ambitious in ways I have not seen anywhere else. There is no ‘tall poppy’ syndrome here and Hong Kong celebrates its success stories,” he adds. Hong Kong has a diverse cosmopolitan professional community of skills and experiences from around the globe that supports cross-cultural, social and generational cooperation in daily life and in business. With 15 years of professional experience in Asia, Australia, the Middle East and Europe, Jones also observes that for some, Hong Kong has a social milieu where the balancing of business, friends, family, and self can be quite demanding. So how is Hong Kong as a professional service hub faring in the midst of the current economic downturn? According to Jones, while architecture and design has been impacted along with the rest of the economy, confidence is certainly returning with clear signs that China has rebounded back into healthy economic growth. And how, might this regained momentum be reflected in architecture and design as a profession in Hong Kong and Greater China? “For a city such as Hong Kong where image is so important, the jolt to business and professional confidence also brought with it a maturing business realism that is moving away from the celebration of excess towards the extolling of sustainability,” reflects Jones. “The market in Asia is on the lookout for new ideas in energy-saving and other means to lessen our collective impact on the environment. Businesses that have these goals as central to their drive to innovate will be the new rising stars of the region,” he concludes.
Published in the hard-copy of Work Style Magazine, Winter 2009