Career Path

Female executive looks to groom young charges with character and traits of leadership

by Nicolette Wong

Clara Ngan, director of group human resources and administration, Miramar Hotel and Investment Company, Limited
Photo: Courtesy of Miramar Group
Mentoring is all the rage in the contemporary corporate environment. An opportunity to work closely with an executive member of a company also provides budding professionals a leg up the leadership ladder. Clara Ngan, director of group human resources and administration, Miramar Hotel and Investment Company, Limited, is well aware of this.

Ms Ngan landed a position of management associate in the group's general manager office in 1996—at a time when the group embarked on an exhilarating journey towards organisation re-engineering.

The group's general manager noticed her flair for engineering transformation and gave her an opportunity to shine. "For two years, I worked closely with the senior management team, primarily to centralise our business functions and systems. This gave me a great deal of insights into business operation and helped me to understand how human resources managers work as partners of a business operation," she recalls.

Personal touch

Human resources management plays a key strategic role in fostering corporate growth and the dynamic, multifaceted profession attracts an increasing number of young graduates from a broad range of educational backgrounds every year. Ms Ngan cautions however that aspiring individuals must possess an open frame of mind, oodles of confidence and the ability to show sensitive to other people's feelings.

"Professionals in this field must also be compassionate and be able to come up with practical solutions to bridge any gap between the company's goals and the employees' expectations," she notes. "HR is all about building a platform for understanding and balance."

Today, Ms Ngan is responsible for managing the human resource requirements for the group's business portfolio, mapping the needs for future development, and overseeing staff training and career progression within the group's head office and other operations. Her other duties encompass meeting regularly with department heads to understand their needs, strategic planning, and organising corporate activities that help to drive corporate development. She feels her character traits have contributed to a fun and interesting career.

New talent

A senior executive in her own right, Ms Ngan refuses to rest on her laurels. In particular, she continues to seek opportunities to nurture the younger generation to become future leaders. She is currently working on the group's brand new management development programme, which adopts a contemporary and dynamic approach to talent development, aiming at providing high-potential individuals a chance to work with the group's senior executives in a meticulously designed buddy system.

She explains that Miramar Group's management associates will gain a broad overview of the group's businesses during three-month rotational stints in various business functions, working as assistants to senior executives.

Practical exposure is reinforced by workshops and additional courses including hospitality management training conducted by Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, leadership programmes and various team-building exercises.

As someone who learnt a great deal during her early training, Ms Ngan takes much pride in the design of the MD programme which she believes will help associates get a good insight into Miramar Group's operations, organisation and strategic planning by enabling them to work alongside the group's key decision makers. By the time they finish the training, they should be well equipped to take up assistant manager duties in their chosen career fields.

To give the associates responsibility and job ownership, they will be expected to help with the development of the group's social corporate responsibility programmes, among other initiatives.

The greatest gift

Ms Ngan regards the MD programme as a highlight of the group's talent-management agenda and finds it fulfilling to mentor emerging leaders. The structuring of the programme-with a focus on immersing the trainees in different group businesses has also been especially rewarding, she feels. "I wanted to create a systematic, new model to groom managers, preparing them for future responsibilities by equipping them with essential knowledge and skills in a relatively short period of time," she adds.

Miramar Group's vast range of job opportunities call for candidates with a wide spectrum of qualifications and personal attributes, but a willingness to learn is essential for all, stresses Ms Ngan.

"In most jobs, recruits can pick up the necessary skills as long as they remain enthusiastic and interested. The key is for young talent to learn from their colleagues and seniors about how to function as part of a team, so that they can truly contribute to the company," she remarks.

Ms Ngan reveals that Miramar Group has also stepped up other talent management measures in recent years in a bid to ensure that the group meets staff requirements for sustainable business growth. For instance, frontline employees have access to leadership workshops and team-building activities, as well as various practical training programmes.

"We're looking for people with a sense of mission and innovation to carve long-term careers with us," she concludes.

Taken from Career Times 29 April 2011, B8
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