Agility keeps its talents nimble
HOW DO YOU HIRE AND RETAIN STAFF IN A COMPETITIVE SECTOR?
Get, grow and keep might sound like a theme from a hoarders’ reality television programme, but to us at Agility – the global integrated logistics firm – the concept forms part of a wider initiative to build a sustainable pipeline of talent for the future.
Through our “get, grow and keep” initiatives, we believe we are catering to our employees’ desire to seek opportunities and to feel recognised and appreciated.
As we expand across Asia, we plan to meet about 70 per cent of our management leadership needs by promoting internally.
In the six years since Agility began amalgamating more than 40 large and small companies we had acquired, enormous efforts have been made to grow people by providing continuous training and development opportunities.
Still, from the initial recruitment stage, it is crucial we hire the right people. When hiring candidates, we look for motivated individuals who are enthusiastic about delivering customer service.
To help staff acquire the knowledge they need to progress with their careers, we have also set up an in-house e-learning platform. We are not only telling our employees they have opportunities for career development, we are also supporting and encouraging them with their journey.
Employees are able to log on to learn about different aspects of the logistics industry customer service. Frequent town hall and employee engagement meetings are also arranged, where managers provide information relating to company developments. Transparency and engagement are vital to maintain a clear understanding of mutual goals and benefits.
Launched last year, our 12-month management development programme (MDP) provides participants working in Agility’s China operations with an opportunity to progress into positions of responsibility by allowing them to develop skills such as problem-solving and decision-making. They also undergo soft skills training, including communication skills development, team leadership and people management.
The programme aligns the professional and personal development needs of the individual with the objectives and growth needs of the company.
In an industry generally dominated by males, about 30 per cent of the programme participants are female.
Based on the needs and aspiration of each participant, an individual development plan is structured that includes work-based projects and self-learning using a predefined set of learning programmes.
This is by no means easy to undertake. The logistics industry is a 24/7 activity, so participants need to juggle their work and family commitments with some intensive learning programmes. We make it clear there is a lot of hard work involved that requires commitment from the company and employees.
As well as seeing our employees benefit, we need to ensure participants put their new skills to practical use. A score card and updates from line managers and peers are used to gauge progress.
A unique concept of the programme is the way that it has been structured. It is delivered by the people from Agility for the people of Agility, with some elements of external training.
To achieve the company’s goals, senior Agility managers have undergone their own training to become trainers, project advisers, coaches and mentors. The programme comprises four phases – residential training, on-the-job learning projects, assessments, as well as coaching and mentoring.
The aims of the MDP include developing well-rounded leaders to take on greater responsibility in or beyond their specialised areas – the ability to raise the standard of excellence and build best practices in critical areas, such as operations, customer services, as well as financial, commercial and people management.
There is also the need to develop future management talent to continue strengthening cross-functional and intra-country collaboration within and beyond Greater China. Currently, we operate in 24 countries across Asia, including 50 offices in China in 30 locations employing more than 16,000 staff.
Nurturing from within would also help Agility to overcome a shortage of suitable management talent.
Although logistics has been cited by the government as one of Hong Kong’s cornerstone industries, a lot of people with the right management characteristics prefer other industries. Logistics is not a sexy sector, so we are left fighting for top talent from a small pool of candidates.