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MT Opportunities

Opportunities in store

by Grace Chan

Hands-on experience puts retail recruits en route to success

Every retailer faces an ongoing battle to stay competitive in a fast-changing business environment.

Leading pan-Asian retail group Dairy Farm, which operates more than 4,800 outlets, including supermarkets, convenience stores, restaurants and home furnishing stores, employs the latest technology and business practices to stay ahead of the game.

Aside from this, the group has a strong, structured management trainee (MT) programme to develop a committed and well-equipped workforce and offers a wide range of career opportunities.

"Given our diverse business portfolios, we have massive scope for development at Dairy Farm," says Philip Chiu, senior human resources manager, compensation & benefits / recruitment, the Dairy Farm Company Ltd.

"Our dynamic business nature appeals to aspiring young professionals who are adaptable and enjoy challenges. Job satisfaction is immediate in our field," adds Carman Yu, the group's recruitment manager, recruitment.

Opportunities abound

With a solid succession plan in place, Dairy Farm invests considerably into fostering future leaders, focusing on finding and developing the right talent.

"For 2009, we handpicked around 10 management trainees and more than 20 store trainee managers," notes Mr Chiu. "We will continue to hire and develop talent so as to meet with business expansion." In particular, the group aims to create 40 to 50 management trainee and store trainee manager positions next year.

Selected trainees undergo 18 to 24 months of training, rotating through different divisions and departments including operations, merchandising, marketing, business development, commercial warehouse, human resources, finance and IT.

"Operational experience is essential for a career in retail and we require our MTs to acquire a hands-on appreciation and understanding of store operation by working in frontline positions to get to understand our customers' needs and to deal with the everyday logistics," Mr Chiu says.

Ms Yu points out that trainees work on "real" projects in order to stretch their potential and build up their experience. They also submit progress reviews detailing what they have learnt and make recommendations on the workflow for every attachment. "Senior managers act as mentors and coaches to supervise their development and advise them on challenging issues," she says.

"We are looking for candidates with a genuine passion for the retail industry. All the stages of our recruitment process are designed to identify people of the right calibre," Mr Chiu notes.
Dairy Farm rewards quality employees with extensive career opportunities. "We provide an assortment of development plans and run a number of social events to help staff build team spirit and a sense of social responsibility," Mr Chiu adds.

Exciting field

"What fascinates me about the retail industry is that business results are immediate," says Pamela Wong, sales & promotion manager, Mannings. "This aspect of the job motivates me and provides great satisfaction."

Ms Wong, who holds a business and administration (marketing) degree from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, joined the Mannings management trainee programme in 1998.

"Mannings' progressive management approach has earned it a leading position in the market, and I have had the opportunity to grow with it," she says. "The intense competition in the sector continues to challenge and inspire us, driving us to remain upbeat."

Ms Wong recalls being exposed to the full scope of Mannings' business activities during training. "It can be tough, but store experience is essential, as this is where we learn to understand our customers' needs and expectations."

With Mannings continuing to expand both in Hong Kong and on the mainland, Ms Wong looks to further exploring growth opportunities within the company. "The HR department engages us in ongoing discussions about our career aspirations and our mentors help guide us towards our goals. I believe there are exciting possibilities ahead of me," she says.

Fresh impetus

Judy Li (7-Eleven, 2009)
Qualification: Economics and finance
The University of Hong Kong

"I was attracted by the rotational structure of the MT programme, since this ensures exposure to a range of practical business knowledge. I believe 7-Eleven's rapid expansion will lead to many career opportunities for me. I'm currently attached to the operations department and I found the frontline work experience invaluable. In a two-week span, I worked as a sales assistant, a cashier and then a store-in-charge at five different 7-Eleven outlets. The training has been intensive, and I've had ample opportunities to learn from my supervisors and master new skills. I am sure there will be lots of learning opportunities when rotating to other departments."

Diana Chong (Wellcome, 2009)
Qualification: Business management
Singapore Management University

"It was my keen interest in the retail business and customer service that prompted my move from Singapore to Hong Kong to join Wellcome. I'm now attached to the operations department, undergoing frontline training at the ThreeSixty store. Apart from daily contact with customers, my duties include tasks such as chopping meat and choosing melons. I believe that it is only by getting my hands dirty that I can grow towards realising my career goals. Wellcome's ongoing expansion in Asia can open up opportunities anywhere in the region."

Kaleb Tse (IKEA, 2008)
Qualification: English for professional communications
City University of Hong Kong

"Every stage of the MT programme has helped me to strengthen my abilities to accept greater responsibility in future. My training in the operations department has equipped me with a range of product knowledge. Interacting with customers every day has given me the opportunity to hone my communication skills and to adapt our service on an ongoing basis to meet their needs. I look forward to consolidating the knowledge gained from working in all the different divisions and subsequently contributing fresh ideas to IKEA."

Ginny Chong (Mannings, 2007)
Qualification: Business administration (marketing and management)
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

"I'm always ready for a challenge and the fast-moving nature of the retail business suits me fine. The MT programme familiarised me with Mannings' operational structure, while exposing me to other departments such as marketing and finance. Most importantly, I get great satisfaction from our daily sales performance and from customers' comments on our service. The best thing about working here at Dairy Farm is that I feel valued—the management team takes my suggestions seriously although I am still at a junior level."

Taken from Career Times 18 December 2009, p. B4


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