Extra incentives to lure manufacturing staff

by Mary Luk

Silvia Chan, assistant administration director, Karrie International Holdings Limited

It takes a combination of remuneration, training and a strong corporate culture to attract the best candidates

One of the major problems faced by any fast growing company is the need to keep hiring talented recruits at the rate required.

That becomes even more of a challenge when the industry sector is less in the public eye than others and cannot rely on finding graduates straight out of university with relevant qualifications. Different tactics are needed, and these should not rely solely on offering attractive financial rewards.

Silvia Chan, assistant administration director for Karrie International Holdings Limited, says the company has few direct competitors in the local market. However, one effect of this is a limited number of candidates to choose from, and that not all applicants have the necessary skills.

"It's hard to find suitable people with relevant experience," Ms Chan says. "For example, our logistics executives don't just handle transport. They have to deal with the whole supply chain and oversee purchasing, inventory functions, materials management and liaison with key customers about scheduling to ensure products are delivered on time." She adds that this requires knowing all the rules and operating procedures plus having the commercial sense to keep all costs tightly under control.

Karrie's main business is to manufacture and sell metal and plastic products. These include the casings for personal computers and servers, as well as the cassettes and paper feeders for photocopiers. The company also provides electronics manufacturing services (EMS) for fax machines, laser printers, tape drives, multi-functional phones and point-of-sales systems. This business supplies well-known global giants such as IBM, NEC, Konica Minolta and HP, and currently accounts for over 60 per cent of production.

Increased outsourcing

Ms Chan says that this reflects the trend for multinationals to subcontract work to plants in China to take advantage of lower costs and high production capacity. "Nowadays, mainland plants used for outsourcing provide a full service from design and moulding to production and delivery," she explains.

Karrie's sales turnover has grown from HK$0.6 billion in 1999/2000 to over HK$2.5 billion in 2004/2005. At present, there are over 200 staff in the Hong Kong headquarters and about 5,000 production and manufacturing employees in two plants in Dongguan. A third facility will start operations in September 2006, making it necessary to hire 500 more staff, including professionals in logistics, procurement and purchasing.

In order to attract managers with experience and an entrepreneurial spirit, the company awards share options to mid-level and senior executives. The standard 13-month pay was abolished in 2002, while a performance-based bonus system is pegged to corporate profits. "Employees with outstanding performance now receive a higher bonus than under the old system," Ms Chan notes.

She admits that recruitment and retention is not just a matter of offering financial incentives. Therefore, a new corporate culture has been established to encourage certain types of behaviour. Staff are expected to make decisions instead of passing the buck; they must focus on generating benefits rather than simply saving costs; and they are told to share information actively, as a way of reducing inter-departmental conflict and minimising risk.

Training programmes

A three-part training programme for all staff at each level will be introduced later in 2006. Managers will be taught more about team building, time management and decision-making, and will have the chance to share work experiences in a structured way. Middle managers will be teamed with two mentors-one for hard and one for soft skills.

Looking to the future, the company also has to groom up-and-coming executives. Selected graduates join a three-year trainee programme. The first year covers a range of topics to familiarise them with the industry and then moves on to different areas of specialisation. The overall aim is to develop all-round knowledge and versatility.

To further promote harmony and team spirit in the workplace, the company will organise regular meetings or corporated days to update staff on business developments and future goals. These efforts also enhance communication and the general sense of involvement.

Ms Chan adds that the company strongly believes every member of staff has a special talent. In recognition of this, Karrie launched a "Nothing Is Impossible" competition in 2005 to encourage staff never to give up when facing problems. Examples of how individuals and in-house teams have successfully lived up to this slogan have now been published as an ongoing source of inspiration for others. To motivate staff and encourage wholehearted involvement, the main theme for this year's competition will be "Heartfelt Dedication in All Details".

Making future

  • Increased business as multinationals outsource more
  • Share options offered as an incentive to recruit and retain executives
  • Introduction of performance-based bonus system
  • Training programmes and mentoring schemes to
    assist career development

Taken from Career Times 09 June 2006
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