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Producing future leaders

Published on Saturday, 01 Nov 2014
Andy Ma
Belle Chhoa

MT programmes help two HK companies mould well-rounded and committed managers.

A management trainee (MT) programme is the perfect option for university graduates looking to commit to a company to gain in-depth understanding of an industry and follow a clear career path. 

Local companies Hang Lung Properties and Hong Kong Airlines were invited to introduce their MT programmes at the Career Forum. 

Trustworthiness, critical thinking, the ability to communicate well and work as a team, and a genuine desire to get to know the industry and stay committed to a company are the traits both companies are looking for in trainees. 

“We are really aiming to train a pool of young talent to be ready to be part of the management in eight to 10 years’ time,” said Bella Chhoa, company secretary, general counsel and assistant director of corporate affairs at Hang Lung. 

Chhoa has overseen Hang Lung’s MT programme for more than three years. During that time, the number of staff at Hang Lung has increased from about 2,000 to over 4,000, averaging more than 400 new hires every year. 

“Our management team needs to catch up with the steady growth of our business in the mainland and Hong Kong. We need a pipeline of young people who are able to think on their feet and are trustworthy to take the helm,” Chhoa said.

The 18-month MT programme provides on-the-job training in various business function units in Hong Kong and the mainland. Trainees get to communicate closely with top management from various departments, as well as with HR officers to ensure they are on the right career track. 

Upon completion of the programme, the trainee will be offered an officer position, with the prospect of being promoted to manager or senior manager after six to eight years, depending on their performance. 

“Our candidates must be interested in a long-term career in the property industry, and be willing to rotate among different business function units within the group,” Chhoa said.

Proven ability to work as a team is a must, she said. As part of the interview process, shortlisted candidates are invited to spend one day together as a team at one of the company’s shopping malls. The management will then observe how they interact with each other, and how they demonstrate their leadership skills when faced with different tasks.

HK Airlines offers a three-year MT programme. The fast-growing airline has increased its staff from 1,100 in 2010 to 2,500 in 2014, said deputy general manager Andy Ma, who also oversees HR at the airline. “Aviation studies is still a relatively new subject in Hong Kong’s tertiary education,” Ma said. “That is why it is very challenging for airlines to hire management-level staff. We have a lot of vacancies to fill.”

Successful applicants spend the first two months learning about airline operations, followed by 26 months of hands-on training in various projects. 

In the final eight months of the programme, they are posted as assistant managers to outstation locations such as Beijing, Shanghai, Taipei and Tokyo.

Throughout the programme, the trainees spend half a day each month with the company’s president to discuss their thoughts on the company and the industry, Ma said.

Upon completion of the three-year programme they will be promoted to manager, or to assistant to a director to develop their management skills. 

Ma said the programme is attractive to those who are passionate about the aviation industry, who love challenges, are interested in working in a multicultural setting that involves frequent travel. 

“Our staff are from over 180 nationalities,” Ma said. “Working in aviation means you have to have the capacity to resolve conflicts and handle crises in unforeseen circumstances.

“We have, for example, chosen to start the programme in early July, when the peak travel season coincides with the city’s typhoon season. It can get really, really scary when you are stuck in the airport during a typhoon – the flights are delayed, passengers are stranded and pressure is high. 

“The stress in this industry is not for everyone. However, if you are truly passionate about the aviation industry, we promise that you will have a fruitful time with us as our management trainee.”

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