Maintaining workforce integrity

by Martin Williams

Janet Bibi Ferreira
director, human resources and marketing
Baker Tilly Hong Kong
Photo: Nolly Leung

People-oriented firm strives for quality in friendly learning environment

In spite of keen competition, younger companies can make their marks in the commercial world with the right human resources support.

Although the name Baker Tilly Hong Kong may be relatively new here, the firm has celebrated its 30th anniversary last year. Baker Tilly Hong Kong became an independent member of Baker Tilly International only five years ago when local accounting firm Glass Radcliffe Chan merged with a boutique insolvency business operated in Hong Kong by Baker Tilly in the UK. Today, Baker Tilly Hong Kong employs about 200 people.

The local operation continues to build on its philosophy of maintaining strict integrity while keeping staff motivated by cultivating a pleasant working environment.

"We have an open-plan office," says Janet Bibi Ferreira, director, human resources and marketing, Baker Tilly Hong Kong. She explains that, unlike other accounting firms where staff are constantly on the move, most their staff have their own workstations.

"We are mainly a CPA (certified public accountant) firm," notes Ms Ferreira, who has been with the company for more than 20 years.

Baker Tilly Hong Kong 's clients range from small- and medium-sized enterprises to publicly listed companies. The firm also helps overseas companies establish wholly foreign-owned enterprises and representative offices in mainland China. Ms Ferreira works out detailed staff schedules to ensure that employees don't spend too much time away and to ensure that Baker Tilly Hong Kong has adequate resources to take on clients' assignments.

Quality paramount

When it comes to clients and staff, the firm looks for people who share its philosophy, says Ms Ferreira, pointing out that Baker Tilly Hong Kong's key value is integrity.

Early last year, Baker Tilly Hong Kong set up a client-assessment committee to ensure the firm could serve specific companies that approached them. "Clients like to hire respectable accountants with quality staff and customers," she notes.

Since moving into her current role in 2006, Ms Ferreira has made a point of introducing human resources concepts into Baker Tilly Hong Kong's business operations. "Employees share their thoughts with me, so I'm confident what we are doing ties in with what our staff want," she adds.

For instance, the firm's kitchen is stocked with fruit —m ainly a pile of bananas —a s well as a basket of snacks chosen after consultation with employees. The "banana mountain" has received an overwhelming response from staff. She says, "We want all our staff to enjoy working here and take time to develop and grow with the firm."

Ms Ferreira believes it is important for staff to have a healthy work-life balance and not to spend a disproportionate amount of time at work. "When we look at attendance, we can see who is consistently working too long in the office. If staff members work a lot of overtime, I want them to take a long break at some point," she says.

Tip the balance

When recruiting staff, Ms Ferreira considers more than just academic results. "I also look at the individual's personality attributes," she says. "Someone with the right attitude will be more focused and able to make good progress." In her experience, people who have learnt the trade from smaller firms and with only an associate degree education can be as diligent as recruits with bachelor's degrees from larger firms.

Employees moving across from other firms may initially find adapting to the culture of teamwork at Baker Tilly Hong Kong hard going. Where they may be used to completing assignments by themselves and then reporting to partners, they will find managers at Baker Tilly Hong Kong assessing, guiding and questioning them every step of the way. "This one-on-one training helps them develop into a more competent individual as well as a dedicated team player," Ms Ferreira emphasises.

This year alone, more than 1,000 jobseekers applied to Baker Tilly Hong Kong. Following careful screening, Ms Ferreira interviewed 150 candidates and recruited about 30.

She remarks that Baker Tilly Hong Kong has a keen focus on staff development. New staff members find themselves immersed in a friendly learning culture. The firm has in place a buddy system to ensure that every new recruit is well looked after by a more senior member of staff with whom they can discuss work-related and personal issues.

Aside from regular training sessions, Baker Tilly Hong Kong also runs lunch sessions during which staff have the opportunity to share their work experiences, learn from each other and build a stronger bond within the firm.


Taken from Career Times 10 October 2008, p. A4
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