Strong employer branding is the key to attracting talent in a tight labour market

Author: Liana Cafolla | Date: 16 Nov 2016

Classified Post HR Conference 2016 hears from Mabel Wong, Lane Crawford’s VP of talent and organisational development

Hong Kong’s retail sector has been hit hard by the recent slowdown in China’s economy and the fall in the number of visitors. With a tight labour market, the sector has struggled to attract talent.
 
At Hong Kong’s home-grown luxury department store Lane Crawford, a broad range of training programmes keep the company’s employees firmly on board, Mabel Wong, vice president of talent and organisational development, told the Classified Post HR Conference.
 
The company has a strong heritage and story that helps it attract talent. Founded in a bamboo hut in 1850, it was Hong Kong’s first department store. After moving into a prime harbourfront location a year later, the store quickly gained a reputation for excellent service and for offering a selection of beautiful products from around the world. This history is emphasised during employee inductions to give newcomers a sense of the company’s difference, says Wong, and the upmarket product range of global brands exposes employees to a wider world.
 
More broadly, building trust and a collaborative environment are key elements of the organisation’s engagement strategy, said Wong. “When this is extensive and mutual, employees feel it and bond with the company,” she said.
 
As well as a graduate leadership programme, which Wong said has been very successful in attracting talent and building a pipeline, employees are taught at the Lane Crawford Academy, which exposes them to three pillars: core values and brand, business management, and leadership programmes designed for every level.
 
Each role has a clearly defined list of technical requirements, an outline of the role’s importance to the business, the career path, collaboration with other roles, and opportunities for moving upwards or sideways.
 
Training, meanwhile, is fun and interactive, with role play based on real-life situations. “Sometimes it’s very theatrical” said Wong. “If an employee is trying to sell a ball gown and has never been to a ball, how can they understand the customer’s needs?”
 
The learning programme is complemented by a broad wellness programme with full management involvement. “The management believe that the wellbeing of our employees is equally important as our financial results [so] there’s very little selling that we have to do to make it happen,” said Wong.
 
The programme includes yoga classes held during working hours throughout the day, manicures and pedicures offered in-house for a nominal fee, Pilates classes, mediation sessions held before the working day starts, psychometric evaluations to help people work better together, and social and charity events held “almost every day of the calendar year.”
 
Diversity is supported at all levels of the organization. In stark contrast to the 10 to 12 percent average in Hong Kong, half of the leadership team is female, including the chair, and benefits cover dependents, spouses and domestic partners, said Wong.