HOW DO YOU BUILD A WORKFORCE FOR THE AGES?
As the city's oldest public utility, the Hong Kong Gas Company - commonly known as Towngas - provides a comprehensive range of products and services. We currently have more than 2,300 employees in Hong Kong and 120 joint ventures in 20 mainland provinces.
Because Towngas provides a unique offering, especially in the non-generic parts of our business, we have to train or, indeed, "make" our own people to take the company forward.
First and foremost, safety is at the core of everything we do and ingrained across all of our systems and processes. We must also ensure our programmes and strategies align with business objectives and achieve the outcomes expected by our employees, clients and various stakeholders. And to build a workforce that can navigate through the ages, it is crucial to recognise our employees' achievements, nurture respect and integrity, and encourage continuous learning, entrepreneurial spirit and teamwork.
To build a sustainable workforce, one must recruit the right people. We are clear about the type of people we want. Most importantly, they must fit our company culture. For instance, our graduate training programme annually attracts about a thousand applicants, from which we select about five - and it is not always the most academically talented who get selected.
Our seeding system focuses on independently minded individuals who show empathy towards others, often through voluntary work, and an ability to be a team player. When recruiting technicians, we note that many of our employees will visit our clients' homes, so they must be clean-cut and uphold our strict guidelines.
Not simply saying we care but showing we care about our staff is also an integral part of building loyalty. Our aim is to maintain a culture of wen xin - the Chinese concept of taking care or creating a warm family-feeling.
In recognition of implementing family-friendly employment policies and core values, Towngas was the only public utility to be given a Distinguished Family-Friendly Employer Award by the Family Council.
As part of our planning ahead, we have implemented a number of practical programmes to provide a ready source of expertise. In addition to technical training, apprentice technicians learn from experienced professionals. In a similar way, graduate management trainees are mentored by senior management staff members.
But simply introducing programmes without clear objectives does not work. For instance, to evaluate the need and suitability of our leadership strategies, our managers have taken part in leadership assessment.
Recently, Towngas received a BEST award from the American Society for Training and Development, the world's largest association dedicated to workplace learning and professional development. We were recognised for our enterprise-wide successes from our employee learning and development programmes in our China operations. We believe the award reaffirms that our corporate culture and efforts to ensure the excellence of our human resources practices are on the right path.
Based on feedback from focus groups, external parties, key clients and government, we have established our "Towngas Leadership Competency Plus" model, designed to help our managers to thrive and survive in the industry. Participants attend leadership forums and workshops covering management, political acumen, and positive-influencing execution skills. Over the years, our activities have expanded from g