Careers with an international outlook
by Grace chan
Leading travel retail group nurtures young management talent
Aspiring young graduates with an eye on the luxury retail sector and the necessary skills to succeed in a high-profile, fast-growing company are competing for admission to DFS's management trainee (MT) programme.
"Only people with a genuine passion for the industry will excel, and we are looking for strong leadership and effective communication skills in our prospective recruits," says Alice Chan, manager, learning & development, talent management & administration, DFS Hong Kong Limited.
The luxury travel retailer's business goes hand in hand with global tourism. With the future looking rosy, particularly in Asia, DFS is highly aware of the importance of developing quality talent. Its one-year MT programme was launched in 2004, with the aim of nurturing leaders to facilitate the group's ongoing expansion in the region.
Competition for entry to the programme is stiff—only 10 outstanding candidates will be chosen this year.
The company started running career talks at selected mainland universities in 2007 and the coming year will choose four additional candidates from across the border to join the programme and receive training in Hong Kong.
Learning the ropes
Given DFS's global network, prospective MTs should be aware that their positions are highly mobile. "Last year, we had the chance to arrange our trainees to work in our operation in Macau for a few months to assist with a new store opening. Chances are that they may be rotated to a DFS office aboard," Ms Chan points out.
The limited training timeframe means MTs have to be fast learners and ready to take up management roles once they have completed the programme. They are assigned four key attachments during the year, with most time spent in store operations and global merchandising.
Store operations experience is key, as this is where trainees work in a variety of frontline roles, from that of a sales associate to supervisory positions, and where they are familiarised with the knowledge necessary for managing a team.
"Trainees work at our downtown DFS Galleria, as well as at the airport store, managing two diverse customer portfolios," notes Ms Chan. "This enables them to hone their communication skills and to learn how to build customer relations in a multicultural environment."
Apart from on-the-job training, MTs are also given responsibility for various ad-hoc projects. Recent examples include helping to open a new store in Macau's City of Dreams and compiling a global training manual on enhancing customer service.
"Our aim is to unleash our trainees' potential in a short period of time and, importantly, to explore their time- and project-management abilities," Ms Chan says.
She adds, "As a result of our ongoing expansion in Asia, there is a myriad of development opportunities at DFS." In fact, one of the company's merchandising directors was a former trainee who had worked in various roles in six different countries and reached her current position in 10 years.
The company's talent management department helps trainees map out a clear career path by discussing their aspirations with them and evaluating their performances on an ongoing basis. Members of the senior management act as mentors to provide support and guidance, while managers from different departments act as coaches to direct MTs towards accomplishing their assignments.
"We offer many opportunities for rotation across divisions, as well as overseas secondments. Our multi-brand business offers a diverse learning environment for those who aspire to luxury brand retailing," Ms Chan concludes.
Stephanie Chan (Global planning—fine watches)
Michelle Chan (Chinachem Galleria—ready to wear and luxury jewellery)
Jasmine Lam (Global merchandising—luxury watches and watch makers)
Stella Yuan (Chinachem Galleria—beauty)
Kathy Chan (Global merchandising—fine watches)
Alexis Hou (Sun Plaza Galleria—beauty)
Taken from Career Times 15 January 2010, B13