With more than two million tonnes of air cargo being handled through Hong Kong last year, it is clear that the city remains a world-class logistics hub with an unrivalled network of international connections. There is also every reason to be optimistic about future performance with total air cargo throughput in the first quarter of 2005 showing an increase of 9.5 per cent compared with the corresponding period in 2004. And despite competition from regional airports, statistics indicate that 70 per cent of the cargo moving via Hong Kong originates from the Pearl River Delta region, meaning that the SAR's status as a leading gateway to the South China market has not yet been significantly eroded.
Because of this, the major industry players are actively recruiting in a bid to capitalise on the current opportunities for expansion. As Luiz Tung, managing director for FedEx Express, Hong Kong and Macau points out, young talent is important for the development of a logistics company, in part for the enthusiasm and innovative ideas they bring. "We believe in developing the potential of employees to the fullest so that they can grow hand in hand with the company," he adds.
With business volume growing and customer demands changing, there are many openings for both fresh graduates and other candidates, who may have little previous experience in the logistics industry. For example, FedEx is currently looking for couriers, customer representatives and marketing professionals. Apart from being customer-oriented and good team players, candidates should also possess excellent problem-solving and communication skills. A genuine interest in the logistics business is regarded as essential, since employees must often perform extra duties in challenging circumstances. "As a leading player in the industry, we are dedicated to finding creative solutions and providing reliable, on-time delivery that goes beyond customer expectations," Mr Tung explains.
Dedication and hard work are duly rewarded, and the company has a policy of internal promotion for local employees. Any new vacancies are announced within the company each week and external recruitment only takes place if no suitable internal candidate can be found. Many of the current team of managers at FedEx Hong Kong started out in frontline roles as couriers and made the most of the training and other opportunities provided by the company to move up steadily. "In the Asia Pacific region, 91 per cent of all our management-level executives began in non-management positions within the company and many of them joined us in Hong Kong," Mr Tung explains.
Comprehensive training programmes support this emphasis on developing talent. These are tailored to meet the needs of employees at different levels and kick off with an orientation course on the company's structure, policies and culture. Newcomers will then receive detailed on-the-job coaching from more senior staff, which is specific to their division and particular job function. For customer service recruits, there is a six-week programme which includes regular tests and coaching on the computer systems used for day-to-day operations.
Employees being groomed for management positions will later take additional courses focusing on all-round business knowledge, operational planning, interpersonal skills and the principles of leadership. Online training via the FedEx intranet system gives employees access to over 500 courses, which cover topics such as strategic planning, customer satisfaction, project management and benchmarking.
Continuous learning is seen as the key to getting ahead in today's dynamic logistics industry. "Many of our staff are also enhancing their knowledge and skills through training courses provided by local institutes and the government," Mr Tung says. "Professional qualifications are an increasingly important asset in our industry, and there is plenty of scope for fresh graduates with aptitude and the right attitude."
His advice for young people who want to pursue a career in logistics is to adopt early on the principle of life-long learning and to keep their eyes open for any opportunities for self-development. To back this up, FedEx not only offers its multitude of in-house training courses which can lead to promotion, but also makes available tuition reimbursement of up to US$2,500 for each employee, so that they can take external courses. "We are constantly looking for ways to develop the company and the people within it in order to keep pace with the rapidly changing business environment," Mr Tung says. "In the logistics industry, every day is a new challenge."
As the competition for talent heats up, the leading companies are trying to attract high-calibre candidates by offering improved remuneration packages and by promoting the advantages of working for a major corporation with worldwide links. According to Mr Tung, there are comprehensive benefits for all employees, ranging from insurance and retirement planning funds to medical and dental care, plus employee discounts at a variety of companies and reduced shipping rates. "We also name FedEx aircraft after outstanding employees," Mr Tung concludes. "This is another way of giving recognition and helps in encouraging the mutual growth of the company and our staff."
- Logistics industry is experiencing steady growth and is
recruiting to meet demand
- Comprehensive training sets new recruits on the right
track and prepares them for future management positions
- Around 500 courses are available online and funding is
offered for external programmes
- Policy of promoting from within has allowed junior staff
to reach senior executive posts