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New page for Shenzhen kids

Published on Friday, 21 Dec 2012
Michael Page regional MD Louisa Yeung (back, centre) with fellow volunteers at Min Ai.
Photo: Michael Page
Mark Tibbatts
Photo: Michael Page

While rapid business growth in Hong Kong and Southern China is keeping staff at Michael Page busy, they’re still somehow finding the time to provide hands-on support for disadvantaged children.

Mark Tibbatts, director of the global recruitment firm, says monthly half-day visits to the Min Ai Welfare Centre in Shenzhen provide mutual benefits for both the children and Michael Page staff.

 “As an integrated cross-border company, we were looking for a small mainland charity organisation we could build a relationship with and help support through volunteer work,” he says.

The Min Ai Welfare Centre was chosen because of its focus on children, which aligns with Michael Page’s local charity objectives.

“In a non-structured way, we socialise and interact with children who are mainly autistic or have cerebral palsy. We make ourselves available as tools to assist the teachers who look after the children,” Tibbatts says.

Each visit usually involves a group of six or seven volunteers from different business areas within Michael Page.

Tibbatts says one of the key benefits for staff is the opportunity to operate as a team in a non-work-related environment.

“People from different areas of our Hong Kong and Southern China business leave work behind for half a day and come together to do something worthwhile in the community. I believe the experience strengthens our sense of making a difference by working together both as a team and an organisation,” he says.

Unlike the fundraising the firm does for other charities, the Min Ai initiative provides staff with hands-on experience. Even more importantly, volunteers are able to put their own lives into perspective.

“We tend to be very focused on our day jobs and often don’t see the reality of those from the more challenging areas of our community,” Tibbatts says.

Planning and doing the half-day visits to Shenzhen have been easy, he adds. “There is very little business disruption because the volunteers come from different areas within the company. Also, in the grand scheme of things, there is rarely anything so important that it can’t wait half a day.”

Louisa Yeung, Hong Kong and Southern China managing director, also sees the wider benefits of volunteer work. “Our staff tend to be young, dynamic, career-orientated individuals. This is good for our business, but it can also mean they are inclined to focus on financial and personal rewards,” she says.

As Michael Page looks for long-term engagement with its employees, Yeung says participating in volunteer work is one way of investing in their people. She says spending time and playing games with disadvantaged children is a way for volunteers to develop character and interpersonal skills.

Yeung believes that, in the long term, a company with a reputation for community work makes it easier to recruit and retain top talent. Other benefits include reducing the cost and disruption of recruitment and retraining due to better staff retention.

“We like to grow our business organically by hiring young, capable talent and supporting their careers,” Yeung says, who herself has been with Michael Page for nearly 16 years.

Zhang Mengjun, Min Ai Welfare Centre deputy principal, welcomes the Michael Page initiative, saying their kids feel uplifted when interacting with people from outside the centre.

“The experience gives the children more confidence to get along with others, which will help them to acquire further educational and life skills,” Zhang says.

His wish is to see more companies in the region follow Michael Page’s example. “We would like to see even more people show their concern for these special kids, spend time with them and help them to integrate into society.”

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