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Let staff own projects they work on
Published on Friday, 27 May 2011

Since Cook Medical is expanding in Hong Kong and the Asia-Pacific market, we give extra attention to new hires to ensure they start off well and are equipped to represent us in the right way. The business involves sales of pioneering medical products, such as stents to prevent aortic aneurisms, or items to assist in in-vitro fertilisation, to clinics and hospitals, and therefore requires a special combination of technical knowledge and personal skills.

Policies

The job may be sales-based but it is not just about earning commission. We are here to help patients have a better life, which means our 30-odd staff in Hong Kong and the 400-plus around the region know that their work is both important and meaningful.

We look for people who are a good cultural fit for the company and understand the need to keep high ethical standards. A sense of trust is essential in everything we do, from dealing with doctors to providing the best patient care. That develops from having a family-like atmosphere and a flat organisational structure, which encourage even recent joiners to put forward innovative ideas and allow them easy access to more senior decision makers.

Practices

Essentially, we are not selling in the usual commercial way or directly to patients, so there has to be extensive training about the different medical products. This can last up to 16 weeks, and could involve hospital visits to see actual cases, tests of product knowledge, and maybe even writing a "thesis" to explain practices and uses in different countries. It requires a high level of technical knowledge to talk to doctors, nurses and health care professionals in the purchasing chain about something like aortic aneurisms or urinary system complaints.

We also emphasise compliance training and our internal code of conduct. Other aspects, such as developing interpersonal skills and building relationships, depend on each new hire's sales background or industry experience, and could take from a day to a week. To promote engagement, we make sure new staff have the chance to meet overseas visitors and people in each of our strategic business units. This helps them appreciate the scale and growing reach of the company and, importantly, the opportunities and how they fit in.

Outcomes

About 40 per cent of our Hong Kong workforce is from the "post '80s" generation - highly educated, energetic, and provide just the kind of innovative thinking and fresh ideas we need. They are not hard to manage. If they pass the selection process and apply themselves to the training, we are ready to empower them and let them "own" the projects they are working on.

We don't ask them to come to the office every day. Instead, we put our trust in them to organise their time and take responsibility for performance. As a result, we can say we have a vibrant, enthusiastic, hard-working team.

We attract new hires who want to be in a business where they will have the opportunity to develop and really can make a positive difference to people's lives.