Placing staff into the right positions, then developing their potential with appropriate training while creating an enjoyable working environment through open and regular communications is the enviable management philosophy of one of Hong Kong's most successful air cargo terminal operators.
Roger Chan, general manager ¡X finance and administration, Asia Airfreight Terminal Co Ltd believes good management in staff development is a key to the outstanding customer services the company delivers.
Asia Airfreight Terminal Co Ltd (AAT) operates at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) under a franchise from the Airport Authority, providing a comprehensive range of services from physical cargo handling to documentation processing for airlines operating from HKIA. To cope with the dynamic operational environment, the company places heavy emphasis on boosting its staff's competence and stretching their potential to the full.
"People are one of our core values and assets. We believe a happy company makes happy customers. Therefore, we always put a premium on people," Mr Chan adds.
He points out that as a winner of the Labour Department's Good People Management Award, AAT's successful staff management policy springs from the mutual respect and understanding the company enjoys with staff, adding that such policy helps to facilitate staff retention and promotes a learning culture in the company.
"It is essential for a company to convey its core values and mission to its staff, and to let them know what contributions they should make to the company and what benefits and opportunities they will gain in return," he points out.
Meet business needs
To extend its service quality to customers in handling continuous cargo throughput, AAT extended operations to AAT Terminal Two this January. Its new facilities include 170 truck docks spread across four levels, 60 workstation decks, a pallet container handling system served by four elevated transfer vehicles, and an automated storage and retrieval system separated into two blocks to increase the number of input and output stations, and served by nine stacker cranes that allow access to 3,600 storage positions. Meanwhile, a new truck control system using RFID (radio frequency identification) technology is now in use to control and monitor traffic flow within the terminal. Including established facilities in Terminal One, AAT's total handling capability has now been increased to over 1.5 million tons a year.
While this upgraded technology and its leading-edge facilities equip AAT to maintain its position as a leading air cargo terminal operator, the key to its further growth is the ongoing provision of quality services, whereby it will continue to win customers' hearts and loyalty to the company. "We closely monitor and consistently exceed customer expectations," Mr Chan emphasises. Hence, AAT is now switching its focus to upgrading customer services, making it the core objective of its in-house training plan for all in-service staff.
Under the company's training policy, both junior and senior staff must undergo 20 hours' training every year covering those areas related to their jobs. Under the expanded training scheme, all staff will be given a series of customer service courses to ensure still better handling of customers. Additionally, there will be a large increase in numbers in the customer service division, taking the total number of staff to 600.
While helping staff identify their training needs and shaping their competence, AAT provides subsidies or initiatives for them to keep up their enthusiasm for learning while augmenting their sense of belonging to the company. These include informal meetings with senior staff, in-house gatherings or recreational activities like voluntary services. Mr Chan also highlights special tea-break meetings which give internal staff an opportunity to regularly meet the CEO in an informal setting and express opinions on their workplace experiences. Another initiative is the well-received performance award scheme, a quarterly exercise that honours outstanding staff with monetary rewards or honourable mentions.
In view of the government's continuous support for the logistics industry and the growth of the airfreight industry on the mainland, Mr Chan believes career prospects in logistics remain upbeat. He recommends that potential candidates take into account the track record of such companies as AAT, where the style of better understanding, respect and regular communications provides an opportunity for staff to develop their careers.