Career Path

HR practitioner wears many hats

by Grace Chan

Agnes Lee, assistant manager, human resources
Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Co Ltd
Photo: Edde Ngan

Staff counsellor, recruiter, trainer, trouble-shooter and reinforcer of company policy — these are all aspects of Agnes Lee's role as assistant manager, human resources, Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Co Ltd.

"I am passionate particularly about my counselling role. Listening to my colleagues, offering them advice and helping them face life challenges bring me great satisfaction," says Ms Lee. "Serving the people I work with has always been my career focus."

Ms Lee has been dedicated to the field for more than 15 years. She kicked off her career as a human resources and administration generalist for a clubhouse where she stayed for a whole decade. She was subsequently promoted to human resources and administration manager.

"Having worked my way up from a junior level, I was able to put myself in the position of staff on all levels. This helps me to develop a thorough understand of their needs and concerns," she says.

It has always been at the top of her agenda to facilitate harmonious working relationships. For instance, while she was working at the clubhouse she devoted much of her time to improving relationships among staff as well as between general staff and the management, in addition to her routine HR and office administration duties.

She concedes that there were difficult times but these provided invaluable training opportunities. "Working with colleagues from diverse backgrounds helped hone my interpersonal skills," she adds.

Moving forward

Ms Lee joined Chow Tai Fook only last year but she was quick to confirm her place in the company and finds that her current position allows her more time to focus on human resources.

"Administrative work can be somewhat distracting and time consuming particularly when you have a full schedule to manage. I truly enjoy being able to spend more time on fostering constructive employee relationships," she explains, adding that she learnt the importance of teamwork from participating in several marketing events during her tenure at the clubhouse.

"Devote yourself wholeheartedly to your job and you will reap the rewards"

Thanks to her "multi-role" experiences from her previous jobs, Ms Lee's professional life is ornate with all sorts of skills.

Among her biggest challenges, she recalls, was when the clubhouse was taken over by another company. "Staff layoffs were inevitable in a situation like that. Approaching the issue openly, I clearly explained to everybody what the changes entailed, so I managed to resolve it in a way that nobody's feelings were hurt."

The acquisition provided Ms Lee an opportunity to move forward. She found a job with an educational institution, where she spent three years as human resources and administration manager, prior to signing up with Chow Tai Fook.

Today, she is in charge of a full spectrum of HR functions, including manpower planning, recruitment, performance management, compensation and benefits, employee relations, training and development, as well as formulating and implementing HR strategies that will ultimately facilitate sustainable growth for the company.

Making the grade

Ms Lee sees ample opportunities for developing her own career in the company, since the Chow Tai Fook HR department in Hong Kong serves more than 2,000 staff.

The most challenging part of the job is to understand the role of each member of staff. "Some of my colleagues possess very specific and rare job skills, such as the jewellery masters in the production department," Ms Lee explains.

She notes that academic qualifications and good interpersonal skills alone are not enough to move up in the human resources sector. "Dealing with people requires persistence and a detail-oriented mindset. You'll also need to master an array of soft skills to make sure that you achieve effective communication on all levels."

A caring attitude helps to reinforce team spirit and loyalty to the company. "When you are faced with staff with differing viewpoints, you must be able to take a step back, think positively and focus on resolving the issue," she says, adding that watching inspirational movies helps her to develop positive thinking.

HR professionals today function as the company's business partners.Believing that a strong business sense can facilitate the formulation of optimal HR policies, Ms Lee has therefore obtained an MBA degree despite her tight working schedule.

She enjoys being proactive in building trusting relationships and, when time allows, she has one-on-one sessions with staff to increase her understanding of their needs. "Devote yourself wholeheartedly to your job and you will reap the rewards," she advises.


Taken from Career Times 17 July 2009, p. B12
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