Career Advice Job Market Trend Report

Jeweller wants to find gems for expansion

Starting from humble origins, with its first retail outlet in North Point many years ago, Luk Fook Group has transformed itself into an international conglomerate through a rapid expansion of its gold and jewellery business on the mainland.

Today, the company has 654 branches on the mainland, another 33 shops in Hong Kong and outlets in Macau, Singapore, Canada and the United States, with 3,500 staff.

To meet the needs of its discerning clientele, Luk Fook not only has to offer products of the highest quality but also service standards to match.

"Jewellery items are luxury products, so it's natural that customers have high expectations," says the group's deputy general manager, Shirley Wong.

"We have to make sure that every detail is attended to regarding the quality of the product or our service. In our business, reputation and quality guarantee are what our customers count on and look for. They are the prerequisites for running a high-quality jewellery chain."

The chain's business focus remains squarely on the mainland market, where Luk Fook sees new opportunities as wealth spreads inland from the coastal areas.

The company plans to open more branches in first-tier and second-tier cities, even as it develops its sales network in third-tier and four-tier locations. In line with this rapid expansion, Luk Fook says it needs to reinforce its human resources.

Even in Hong Kong, rule number one for prospective staff is the need to speak fluent Putonghua. Wong says the language requirement is a must as more than 50 per cent of business volume here comes from mainland customers. "Of course, candidates with relevant experience have an advantage," she says.

"Working in this fast-paced field, all of our designers, craftsmen and even sales staff have to be highly sensitive to trends and know what's going on out there. They also need to have good analytical power and communication skills."

New recruits undergo induction courses to help them better understand the company's business and vision. They are also taken to Luk Fook's Panyu factory in Guangdong to get a start-to-finish overview of its operations.

Employees receive regular training to develop their skills and know-how in areas such as product knowledge, customer service, handling complaints and solving problems. Financial sponsorship is also available for staff to take professional courses, such as those accredited by the Gemological Institute of America.

Online training is another aspect of Luk Fook's human resources strategy. Wong says this is helpful for mainland-based staff because they can get company updates without being restricted by location.

"Apart from teaching staff on jewellery knowledge, our online training serves more like a classroom to teach anything from dealing with customers to sales methods," she says. "It even demonstrates the method of issuing a receipt."

The group provides a regular assessment system to evaluate its workforce's professional knowledge. To gain an independent assessment of service quality, the jewellery chain has joined the Mystery Shoppers Programme, organised by the Hong Kong Retail Management Association. Annual staff appraisals review performance and consider opportunities for career advancement.

"We want staff to understand that the company cares and recognises their achievements and contributions by rewarding them with best staff awards and long-term services awards," Wong says. "We know that employees are our valuable assets. We want them to have a sense of belonging."

Following strong company results, staff pay was raised by an average of 5 per cent in January.

Rolls Royce seeks dynamic individuals

The wanted signs are out for leather workers and other quality craftsmen at the headquarters of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars in Goodwood, West Sussex, as Chinese demand fuels a rapid growth in sales for the luxury carmaker. Last year, sales of the Phantom and Ghost models on the mainland soared an astonishing sevenfold, year-on-year.

China has now overtaken Britain to become the company's second-largest market after the United States, and Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Muller-Otvos predicts that it will take the number one spot by 2014.

Apprenticeship programmes are being expanded in Britain as Rolls-Royce, a unit of German carmaker BMW, ramps up production to keep pace with demand from the mainland and other emerging economies.

There are eight dealerships on the mainland, a number which is set to increase as the company expands its dealer network in second-tier cities this year.

A spokesman for Rolls-Royce says some dealers on the mainland have already increased floor space and this might mean substantial investment, especially where showrooms are in prime areas, as they are in Hong Kong.

When it comes to recruiting staff, the company says it looks for dynamic individuals who are passionate about the brand.

Employees can share in the company's performance through bonus incentives, in addition to personal performance bonuses. Courses are offered to enable them to upgrade their skills and develop supervisory and leadership abilities.

But with quality being the company's watchword, the spokesperson says it can be a steep learning curve for new staff.

A lot may have changed since Rolls-Royce started business back in 1904. But its motto - Strive for Perfection - coined by co-founder Sir Henry Royce, remains the same today, pervading even its hiring policies.