Hong Kong's long-established transportation centre and logistics industry is evolving in response to the changing business environment. Ports in close proximity, such as Shenzhen and Shekou, are taking up part of the regional distribution role, offering a more direct access and economical mode of shipping for China related goods.
Although rising operational costs in Hong Kong increase the tension, CK Tong, managing director (Hong Kong and Macau) of DHL Exel Supply Chain (Hong Kong) Limited is optimistic about Hong Kong's leading position in supply chain management. "We are still enjoying relaxed customs regulations as the only free port in Greater China," he points out. "Therefore, we need to capitalise on this flexibility and shift our focus to high value services. That means our strength lies in handling shipments that require short turnaround time. These include pharmaceuticals, high-technology and high-value products and perishables."
Thriving local tourism is another factor contributing to the optimism with statistics showing massive numbers of tourists are visiting the city. The material need and distribution requirement to support their consumption during their stays, including apparel, electronic merchandise and food supplies, inevitably stimulate an increased logistic demand.
Rapid economic growth in Macau is also having a positive impact on the industry. "Material movements are involved in every stage of the entertainment business, from delivery of construction materials for casino building to room facilities in hotels," Mr Tong says. "With Macau's small population and a shortage of skilled labour, many business opportunities will overflow to Hong Kong. This is definitely a growth-engine."
Today's more knowledgeable customers demand better service for a lower price. According to Mr Tong, these requests can only be satisfied by a team of professionals capable of articulating their work at different levels. At DHL, potential people are motivated to take up matching responsibilities and they aspire to gain corresponding career prospects and monetary rewards.
To nurture a sufficient number of future leaders, DHL has in place a comprehensive "management development & succession planning" programme. In this, top 10 per cent of employees are granted interviews with management, including Mr Tong, giving them a chance to demonstrate their ability. With a sound understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the short-listed candidates, the management group then work with the HR department to develop individual development goals and training and development activities for each successful candidate.
"Under this programme, mentoring is one of the key development activities that help accelerate individual development and enhance performance. We hope by this mentorship we can boost competence as mentees can interact with someone they don't usually work directly with. Plus, in the process of completing the development activities, the participants learn to share ideas and practices. It is an effective method for them to exercise teamwork and gain a deeper insight of the DHL culture," Mr Tong explains.
To capitalise on the opportunities, Mr Tong believes that people joining the field must be willing to work outside of their home base. He stresses, "Mobility is key in this industry. You need to move to wherever the opportunity is. In DHL, a truly global company, you need to be multilingual and able to work in a cross-cultural setting."
Since DHL provides high-value solutions to its customers, talent should also be well-rounded in commercial, operational and financial aspects. Mr Tong believes that solution-based service is highly hinged on people's industrial knowledge. "For example, before our business persons offer a solution to a fashion retail customer, they go to the retail shop and do a thorough study of the products. Gathering comprehensive information as detailed as the sizes of the merchandise, the team look for the best way to manage the whole supply flow and then provide the recommendation to the customer," he says.
Consistent with a promote-from-within policy, DHL strives to maintain a nurturing work environment for all employees. There is a management trainee programme for fresh graduates who have a vision in the logistics field. The three-year programme only takes on around 10 trainees for the whole DHL Logistics group in Hong Kong and participants rotate through different sections to receive various on-the-job training. Each year, more than 1,000 applicants apply for a place in this programme.
"I believe that DHL is a great place to work, not only because it is the market leader in the industry. As well as financial stability, we have many chances for both the company and staff to grow. People who have a desire to progress will definitely enjoy the scope of choice in our business," Mr Tong says. "At DHL, employees are our most important assets. We aim to be an employer of choice and are determined to create a pool of talented and motivated employees who continues to help us provide best-in-class services to our customers."