Management trainee (MT) programmes in large corporations often appeal to high-calibre graduates.
For Sun Hung Kai Properties Limited (SHKP), one of the largest property companies in Hong Kong specialising in premium residential and commercial projects for both sale and investment, the entry criteria for management trainees is stringent.
A strong academic background is only one of the many criteria. "We are seeking bright and knowledgeable recruits, making sure also that they can develop a mentality that is aligned with our corporate philosophy," emphasises Ivy Cheung, manager of human resources services, internal affairs department of SHKP. "Our business values such as customer first and team work are not just buzzwords. The implementation of these values is dependent on our people. In return we create and maintain an ideal work environment for these values to thrive."
To identify the right individuals, a comprehensive selection process with built-in elements to distinguish the cultural fit and competence of applicants is well in place.
Successful candidates embark on the one-year career development journey spending the first two months focusing on specific departmental orientation. This period helps instil tradition and expected levels of operational excellence in a recruit's particular host department.
A company orientation follows. Kenneth Ho, SHKP's training and development manager of the group training section, internal affairs department, points out that in the two weeks of intensive orientation MTs meet with senior management and managers from various business functions, liaise with human resources and group training staff to familiarise themselves with company culture and carry out property and site visits. Through such an immersive programme, the MTs are able to acquire an in-depth understanding of the corporation's entire business scope while simultaneously learning the company culture.
"Following the orientation, there are continuous learning possibilities for the MTs. Not only do they develop the required functional competency as an officer in their host department during on-the-job coaching, they are also guided towards adopting the appropriate mindset and skill sets through an array of training opportunities," Mr Ho explains.
Breadth and depth
In addition to in-house training, external courses and events are also regularly organised. For instance, MTs are required to complete a three-day experiential training programme designed to enhance team spirit.
Last October, a SHKP team participated in the ultimate teamwork challenge — the SmarTone-Vodafone HK Challenge which took place on Lantau Island. The competition, as part of the Intelligent Sport World Series, demands strategic thinking, planning, organisation, teamwork and physical endurance for teams to accomplish their assigned tasks.
"The competition was intense both physically and mentally," recalls Julian Xing, one of the 2007 MTs who participated in the HK Challenge. "I had the chance to closely examine my strengths and weaknesses as well as those of the other four team members."
"It was certainly an enlightening encounter that broadened my view on life," notes Oliver Yao, also a 2007 MT and team captain in the HK Challenge. "The skills I learnt during the challenge are vital tools that I now draw upon in my professional life."
According to Mr Ho, such experiences are shared among the MTs in the monthly review meetings that encourage interpersonal communication and strong bonding between MTs.
In fact, the reviews also serve as checkpoints for the MT programme to formulate the best career plan for each participant. Individual performances are assessed before necessary adjustments are recommended. As a result, all members of the MT programme receive personalised schedules and assignments tailor made for them and their respective departments.
SHKP employs a range of evaluation tools to monitor each trainee's progress, such as transparent feedback channels for MTs, their supervising managers and the human resources team. MTs can also apply knowledge learnt during their orientation period at the end of the programme by submitting a graduation project.
"The MT programme provides a fast track for talented individuals," Ms Cheung remarks. "To succeed in this environment though, you should be prepared to learn at high speed."