With a booming economy and low unemployment rate, staff turnover and competition for top performers are challenges for human resources personnel in the merchandising industry.
A strong employer brand is therefore indispensable when it comes to attracting the best talent, says Richard Fong, vice president of human resources & administration, Clover Group International Ltd.
In Mr Fong's experience, jobseekers in the merchandising industry can be categorised into two groups: active and passive. It is relatively easy to find active candidates for available positions, and the recruitment process is usually comparatively short. Such candidates are keen to make themselves available to their target companies and comply enthusiastically with interview schedules and assessment processes. Passive candidates, however, tend to be star performers that are working for competitors. They are usually not interested in spending time to entertain new opportunities.
Headquartered in Hong Kong, Clover has been a leading player in the lingerie industry for more than 50 years. In line with its globalisation plan, the company is now competing with others in the field to position itself as the ideal choice for passive candidates, says Mr Fong.
In order to attract industry high-flyers, Clover is fine-tuning its recruitment strategies while at the same time positioning itself as an employer of choice.
Instead of primarily relying on job advertisements in the traditional media, the company is also looking at its corporate alumni and working through employees to recruit passive candidates.
Since past employees know the company and its culture well, they tend to fit back in quickly, while current employees understand the company's values and can serve as "ambassadors" to help recruit potential candidates.
Mr Fong describes Clover as one of the few Chinese companies in the territory that place extra emphasis on human resources. "Companies always look at the three Ps — profit, products and people, with people usually coming at the bottom of the list. However, at Clover our people are always a top priority," he stresses. Clover's business philosophy is that if people are treated well, they will put extra effort into their work. In turn, the company reaps the benefits through increased profits.
As the company's recruitment network continues to expand, Mr Fong believes that it is also important that staff retention is addressed in its recruitment message, in order to reinforce Clover's employer branding status. "If you recruit the best people, but you can't retain them, it's better not to recruit them in the first place, because it is an expensive exercise and affects the company's brand in a negative way," he explains.
Mr Fong highlights the importance of total remuneration. In addition to basic wages and benefits, Clover also provides its staff with an "enhanced work experience". The company endeavours to foster a better relationship with employees and cultivate a pleasant work environment.
In particular, the company recently established a new employee relations committee to promote good employee branding. "The committee comprises representatives from all the company's departments. We give them a free hand to discuss everything related to the well-being of our employees, daily work-related issues and initiatives to maintain a work-life balance," Mr Fong says. "The committee serves three purposes: staff serves as company ambassadors to enhance Clover's total work experience, they help build team spirit and they develop their own leadership skills."
Other initiatives include a new human resources platform to facilitate internal communications and work procedures to enhance staff's job skills.
"We will also develop more after-work activities and corporate citizenship programmes as part of our HR agenda to help bonding between staff and to develop team spirit," Mr Fong adds.
The company is also in full swing to build a new global culture to be embraced by existing staff, says Mr Fong, pointing out that most of Clover's employees have been with the company for many years and have made their jobs their careers. While they have developed strong bonds and a specific company culture, which are advantages for the company, there are challenges when it comes to the expansion towards a new corporate culture.
Company initiatives to retain newly recruited staff include overseas travel and training to gain global exposure and providing employees with training and development packages to enhance their career prospects. "As a preferred employer, we aim to empower our staff, develop their supervisory and management skills and transfer best practice skills and knowledge to them, to achieve mutual growth," Mr Fong notes.