Property / Construction
Taking service to the next levelby Nicolette Wong
Hong Kong's prospering real-estate market generates growing customer expectations, putting pressure on property management companies to perform to ever higher standards. Many players in the field now find comprehensive staff training essential for motivating staff to raise the bar in customer service.
Aaron Chiang, head of human resources and administration, Hong Yip Service Co Ltd, agrees: "Staff training is extremely important because our business is built primarily on service provision through our staff, and our customers get to know us through interaction mainly with our frontline personnel."
The leading property and facilities management company, a subsidiary of Sun Hung Kai Properties, aims to provide one-stop, top-quality services to clients at all times. To ensure a consistently high level of service, the company requires all its newcomers to undergo an initial orientation on the company's philosophy, standards of service and pledge to customers prior to operational training. Hong Yip also designed a comprehensive mentorship programme through which recruits are assigned mentors and learn to execute specific tasks during their probationary period.
To keep abreast of market change and challenge, staff enrol for structured programmes covering anything from generic skills such as handling emergencies and customer service, to management techniques like succession planning and team building. "We also organise seminars where speakers from the government, statutory bodies and professional organisations address staff on topics such as new government initiatives on building maintenance and the Race Discrimination Ordinance," Dr Chiang adds.
In view of the growing number of premium residential properties, Hong Yip has put in place a specialised programme, which focuses on the provision of exceptional customer service at high-end estates.
To demonstrate top management support for staff training and in a move towards formal recognition of in-house training in the industry, the company in 2007 founded the Hong Yip People Development Academy. The objectives of the endeavour are to strategise staff training and consolidate the company's efforts in ensuring that the company's comprehensive and avant-garde training and development programmes tie in with frontline needs and business growth.
The academy is supervised by a board of directors and is chaired by the company's vice chairman and CEO. Independent experts, including top academics and representatives from professional institutions as well as industry experts are brought in for programme development and reviews. To make learning most practical and market-relevant, the company considers employees' opinions when evaluating the curricula, and staff are asked to elaborate on their expectations and individual needs for further training via an annual survey.
Dr Chiang believes that there is a general lack of standardised qualifications in the profession particularly those on the operational level. "This essentially prompts us to establish a framework to further our people's professional prospects," he says. "This also explains our support to the government's Qualifications Framework."
Hong Yip is currently the only Hong Kong property management firm that offers an in-house property management training programme which is accredited under the Qualifications Framework and included in the Qualification Register.
This level of commitment to staff training and development has paid dividends. For instance, the company won the Employees Retraining Board's "Best Employers Award" and was named one of the "Manpower Developer 1st" companies last year. Its people development programme also won a "Customer Relationship Excellence Award" by the Asia Pacific Customer Service Consortium. Its horticulture training programme also led to an "Excellence in Training Award" in the American Society for Training & Development's international contest.
Since career advancement in the industry is linked directly with training and qualifications, Hong Yip employees who aim to move into management positions are required to pursue further studies, professional memberships as well as professional recognitions such as those conferred by The Hong Kong Institute of Housing and UK-based Chartered Institute of Housing. Operational staff in turn are expected to complete formal training from recognised institutions. Since 2008, Hong Yip has also been running a property management training programme in collaboration with the Vocational Training Council (VTC) for members of the general public. Plans are underway to work in partnership with the VTC and the HKU SPACE to organise property management programmes at Level 3 of the Qualifications Framework. "Our aims are to tap new talent in the market and to raise the professional status of practitioners in the industry to a level that can truly reflect its professionalism," Dr Chiang reveals.
The way upward
Taken from Career Times 4 March 2011, B5