The recruitment process is never expected to be easy, but in recent months the business of hiring and retaining the best people has become more competitive than ever. Therefore, in addition to their usual activities, HR professionals are having to think about new strategies to attract, train and reward the type of people needed to take their companies forward.
In this respect, BOC Credit Card (International) Ltd (BOCCC) is probably some way ahead of the game. They have already laid the groundwork over the last few years with a long-term plan that addresses these issues and also includes training courses designed to maximise staff productivity. The company is currently implementing its latest talent management programme and Angus Wai, head of human resources, explains that it consists of three essential elements-to identify, classify and develop those with talent.
The first part concentrates on the interviewing tools and techniques used to identify high-calibre candidates. Instead of relying only on conventional face-to-face interviews, a new set of psychometric tests, ability tests and standardised structured questions has now been introduced for all applicants looking to take on key roles.
To classify talent, Mr Wai states that a system has been put in place which applies a version of the "80/20" rule. In this case, it involves directing a higher proportion of resources to exceptional staff who continually outperform others and contribute most to the company. "It does not mean that average performers will get less," says Mr Wai. "It just means that the top performers will be given increased bonuses as a reward."
In terms of development, tailor-made programmes are being devised to give staff with high potential a chance for fast-track promotions. They will also be equipped with the necessary range of skills to move to other departments within the company and thereby gain broader experience.
Everything comes together under a specialised talent development plan which requires the company to take a proactive role in looking after staff. The basic aim is to maintain close contact with outstanding performers and make sure they get the training opportunities, work experience, academic qualifications and technical skills necessary to advance.
As far as general training is concerned, the programme focuses on four main areas: soft or management skills dealing with communication, presentation and teamwork; technical skills providing specific product, promotion and credit card system training; office skills covering IT packages such as Excel, Word, and PowerPoint; and language courses for different levels of proficiency.
Mr Wai believes that language training is vital for customer service staff and understands the benefits of good communication skills. The programme therefore includes courses in conversational Putonghua. These emphasise accuracy and ensure that staff are able to understand and respond effectively in a fluent and professional manner.
Efforts are also made to develop the emotional quotient (EQ) of employees to help them cope with the demands of their day-to-day work. "Staff must be extremely patient and ready to assist at all times, so the status of their emotional health is very important," Mr Wai notes.
One of the methods used has been to take a new approach to coaching. For example, a psychologist was recently drafted in to run courses on altering mindsets and to reinforce positive thinking. "Employees must have the right attitude when dealing with customers," says Mr Wai. He also points to research into consumer behaviour, which indicates that one dissatisfied customer is able to influence the opinion of 14 other people, and believes this is "highly likely in this industry".
In order to understand the learning and development needs of individuals, Mr Wai and his team have put together a proactive system to analyse training needs. It takes into account career aspirations and aims to deal with issues on a case-by-case basis. Depending on a person's job responsibilities, available courses are then either marked down as a priority or as an additional benefit which will help personal development.
The system also guides forward planning in formulating overall training strategies for the coming year. It enables the management team to plan and design in-house schedules, assess future needs and decide which external courses to organise.
In a bid to distinguish itself from the competition, BOCCC is also looking at a number of workforce issues. "We think that customer satisfaction is a direct result of employee satisfaction," notes Mr Wai. Since customer service representatives are generally the first point of contact for customers, they are receiving additional training in how to create the right initial impression. "The job they do can make or break the business and so they are our life-blood," he says.
The company is committed to upholding a people-oriented mindset and providing care as well as significant rewards and recognition. Consequently, regular recreational and social activities are organised and the management team actively encourages staff feedback to ensure different views are taken into account.
Mr Wai points out that some companies in the industry have recently converted their training divisions into profit centres, providing courses for non-employees interested in the field. "The function of our training is to be a 'value centre' providing required skills for our business departments," he says. "Focusing on internal needs is the most important goal."
- Long-term strategy for training and development needs
- Main objective is to identify, classify and develop talent
- Tailor-made programmes designed for individual requirements
- Best performers can expect higher rewards and faster promotions
- Psychologist brought in to help with matters of emotional