Frontrunners in the business arena have one thing in common ¡X they all provide quality service to its customers. Not as obvious, though just as important, they look after their employees.
For Otis, the world's largest manufacturer of escalators, elevators and moving walkways, this means recruiting the best people and creating an environment whereby employees want to stay and develop with the company.
"We take pride in being the global market leader for 155 years," says Carrie Mak, senior human resources manager, Otis Elevator Company (HK) Limited.
Human resources are valued highly at Otis as the company knows hanging on to the best talents is the way to maintain its top position. "At Otis, people are regarded as the most important asset," Ms Mak says. "Therefore, we go to great lengths to hire and train the right people. We strive to give a supportive environment where employees are encouraged to develop their skills and talents to the full," she adds.
Creating this environment involves a number of initiatives from small-scale in-house training workshops to Otis University. In-house development workshops are open to all staff and tend to focus on enhancing soft skills such as leadership and communication. To keep these workshops relevant and up to date, Ms Mak and her team conduct in-depth studies of staff appraisals, pinpointing areas that need improvement.
On a more specific basis, the company has in place a mentorship programme named "Management associate program" for candidates with no industry experience to obtain a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of Otis' operations before taking up more senior positions. "The programme is an exciting chance for high-calibre individuals to quickly enhance their technical know-how and expertise through discussions, special assignments and on-the-job training," Ms Mak says. "We also provide them with opportunities to develop other skills. For example, they have many chances to hone their presentation skills through practice and feedback."
In a similar fashion, the company also runs its own Otis University, a worldwide talent development programme for middle managers and above. Content covered is at a higher level than that in the mentorship programme and includes in-depth coverage of areas such as sales management, field management, engineering, supply chain management and major project management.
Tarence Wong, general manager of The Express Lift Company Limited, an Otis subsidiary, recalls his experience from a sales management programme at the Otis University last year. He says, "It's amazing to have Otis people from around the world sharing their views and experience. We have sales professionals from some 20 countries including the US, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, France, Italy, Spain, Turkey, the UK, Belgium, Korea, China and Australia. Through the discussion of cases in different countries, I learned many new ideas and insights that I had never thought of in the past."
To promote lifelong learning outside of the workplace, Otis has two sponsorship initiatives for staff taking part in external training. The first named "Employee scholar program" supports employees in associate's, bachelor's or advanced degree programmes by covering all academic and tuition fees incurred. These staff are further entitled to paid time-off every year to study and they receive company shares upon completion of the programme. The second "Education assistance scheme" provides financial subsidies to employees studying in sub-degree programmes.
Along with a learning culture, Otis' top human resource priority is ensuring a healthy work-life balance for its staff.
The company organises regular bonding activities such as Friday afternoon social gatherings, monthly gatherings for management to meet with field employees, and family day. Ms Mak says such events have multiple benefits including reducing stress levels, boosting team spirit and fostering a closer tie between employees.
Otis also adopts a family-friendly policy, providing employees with generous benefits like paternity leave, newborn baby bonus, child textbook sponsorship and parental leave to attend children's school functions.
"Looking after our people well is just as important to us as maintaining the highest standards of ethics, safety and service that we provide to our customers," Ms Mak says. "Our many years at the top of our industry have shown us what it takes to remain successful, and employees who come to work for us know that they are coming to a good place. Just like our elevators, we like to take people to new heights."