Many businesses today recognise that building a strong and recognisable brand image is a key factor in enhancing their competitiveness and achieving success.
Janna Cheng, senior group manager — human capital, Urban Group, says people are the group's brand, one that stands for quality and professionalism.
"Property asset management is a people business in which our staff represent our corporate values and strengths," Ms Cheng says.
Urban Group possesses 40 years' brand heritage. It has been in the Hong Kong property asset and facility management industry since 1966. Supported by New World Group, Urban Property Management Limited was established in 1981 and began serving New World's property portfolio. Since 2000 it has re-defined its corporate brand position and widened its service scope from a professional property management company to a consolidated group of companies offering a diversity of services such as property asset and facility management, project management, engineering, building repair and maintenance.
Currently Urban Group has around 3,000 employees, more than half of them property management staff. Ms Cheng says the group's talent management philosophy is to recruit the right people for the right positions, and drive them to continuous development.
Its recruitment policy is to consider four attributes — the applicant's qualifications, professionalism, experience and willingness to accept responsibility. Other factors weighed include the aptitude for customer service and problem-solving skills.
To reflect the group's belief that people are its core asset, and that the acquisition, investment and utilisation of "human capital" is beneficial to both employees' career development and the group's business growth, Urban Group introduced the concept of "human capital" in 2002. The human resources department became the "human capital" department to demonstrate how the group values the employees and continuously invests in training and developing their potential.
In particular, two main human capital strategies have been developed: human quality enhancement and human knowledge management. The former means that the group seeks to recruit elites and adopts a performance-based compensation and benefits mechanism while encouraging employees to keep acquiring new knowledge so as to enhance the quality of Urban's human capital. Meanwhile, human knowledge management aims at encouraging employees to acquire new knowledge through the group's "value cloning" and "corporate culture rejuvenation" programmes.
Individual and team award schemes such as the "outstanding employee award", "staff innovation award" and "excellent service enhancement team award" have been developed to recognise the efforts of staff and drive them to move further ahead in work performance.
Ms Cheng adds that the group also rates staff performance by using its "strategic employee evaluation and development (SEED) programme", a mechanism whereby employees can list their improvements in qualifications and capabilities as part of their personal efforts in developing their careers. Urban Group also has in place a performance-based discretionary bonus system. In line with this, remuneration and promotion packages are also determined according to individual work performance.
Today, Urban Group's four corporate strategic goals are to provide competitive and cost-effective services; be innovative in service design; to enhance value; and to initiate employees' total commitment to continuous improvement under the Urban premier management modelTM (UPMMTM).
UPMMTM emphasises the combined forces generated by its "professional people, quality process and outstanding performance". The group takes the "total quality management" approach for its continuous improvement direction which embodies seven core drivers: visionary leadership, six-star standard, exceed customers' expectation, property asset management, continuous improvement, green lifestyle, and community care.
To encourage employees to achieve Urban's business goals and embrace its values, it is essential to maintain effective employee communications. This is efficiently accomplished via its Intranet (Urbannet), the unique i-UrbanTM portal, corporate newsletters, corporate reports, management forums and regular departmental meetings. The group also organises a range of staff activities such as sports fun days, annual dinner, Christmas party and internal competitions to enhance team spirit and cultivate harmonious employee relationships.
The "2005 best employers in Asia" award by international human resources consultant Hewitt Associates and the platinum and gold awards in the "Employers Gold Star Award" in 2003 and 2004 respectively reflect the success of the group's human capital management strategy.
"We treat our employees as family members taking on the roles of a customer services ambassador, property asset protector, problem solver, community manager and quality partner," says Ms Cheng. In addition to award recognitions, Urban believes that happy employees return with happy customers. She explains that customers' comments towards the service standards are very positive based on the results of their annual customer satisfaction survey.