Money Moves

Forward-thinking finance stalwart nurtures human capital

by Nicolette Wong

Manulife - staff training and retention strategies
Kam To, head, human resources Hong Kong
Manulife (International) Limited
Photo: Edde Ngan

Employee development a firm basis for financial services giant's ongoing growth

Targeted and flexible staff training and retention strategies are vital aspects of staff development in a competitive and volatile financial industry. Benefiting from 115 years of experience in the industry in Hong Kong, one premier provider of wealth management and financial services understands the importance of training and employee engagement.

Effective investment in staff starts with the nurturing of individual career aspirations as basis for the company's business growth, says Kam To, head, human resources Hong Kong, Manulife (International). "Employees often have their own perspectives on the kind of training they need, so we need to listen to them and carefully consider their ideas," he adds.

Considering its extensive workforce, Manulife structures its training programmes to cater for staff on different levels. The New Managers Curriculum consists of a series of modules for new managers to expand their skill sets, while the Leadership Essentials programme helps budding leaders to hone their personal attributes. Sharing sessions and workshops on topics such as emotional intelligence (EQ) management facilitate all-round development, while courses focusing on work-life balance complement core-competency training sessions.

Flexibility is a key feature of Manulife's training policies. Individual departments and staff members can choose to embark on the organisation's courses or to enroll in external programmes. "Our human resources department runs more than 100 classes in our learning centre every year and it's a priority for us to make these courses attractive to our staff," Mr To remarks.

Rewards and recognition

Professionals must be creative and continue to strengthen their skills, and as well as their interpersonal attributes, in order to succeed. Manulife founded its CEO Award for Innovation in 2011 to encourage staff to come up with feasible new ideas that can benefit the business. The panel judges assessing the proposals are senior executives from different units, and the finalists get the opportunity to present their plans to the chief executive officer, Mr To explains.

The award has greatly promoted collaboration among staff. Last year's participants formed cross-departmental and cross-functional teams to draw up the various aspects of their proposals. It has also been an incentive to incorporate creativity in Manulife's culture. "Our employees are motivated to work towards business innovation, benefiting both themselves and Manulife and earning recognition within the organisation."

Team spirit is key to the company's staff-retention philosophy. Manulife has a diverse retention strategy and its staff turnover is consistently lower than the market average, Mr To points out. "Apart from financial considerations, work stress is a primary reason for turnover. We therefore make an ongoing effort to ensure that our employees are comfortable in their working environment and feel that their efforts are appreciated."

Past engagement initiatives include a recent snack festival to promote socialising among staff and to ease the tension of working life. Manulife encourages employees in different units to get together to exchange views and experiences during working hours.

Staff engagement

For the past eight years, the human resources department has been conducting an annual staff-engagement survey to collect employees' feedback on a wide range of topics, from work arrangements and company policies to training and work-life balance programmes. Management is dedicated to responding to staff expectations and its efforts have had a stabilising effect on the workforce, says Mr To.

"More than half of our employees have been with Manulife for at least five years, which is an excellent figure in our industry. The key is to show our staff that we truly care about their well-being and expectations, and that we're willing to act accordingly."

Manulife also goes the extra mile to offer insurance and other protection for its workers. Staff benefits have been increased over the years and dental and optical insurance, as well as annual body checks, are offered to permanent staff on all levels.

Mr To believes career stability is a great reward for ambitious staff. In the 10 years that he has been in his role, he has seen steady salary increases for all employees, even in times of financial crises. The company's investment in training also serves as solid recognition for high performers, as well as proof of Manulife's commitment to their career advancement.

"In turn, we encourage our staff to recognise their colleagues' efforts, for example by sending thank-you cards. Our wish is for all our employees to be treated as part of the family," he concludes.

A contented workforce

  • Manulife's training programmes structured to cater for staff on different levels
  • CEO Award for Innovation encourages employees to come up with creative ideas to benefit the business
  • Diverse retention strategy ensures turnover is consistently lower than the market average
  • Company provides recognition, as well as insurance and other protection for workers

Taken from Career Times 29 June 2012, A3

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