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Space to grow

Knight Frank’s hiring strategy aims to retain top talent

Frank Wong started his career in the retail leasing field in 2003 at the height of Sars, when business sentiment in Hong Kong was at its lowest in years. He worked for Sun Hung Kai, Wharf, and Hysan before joining Knight Frank three years ago.

"My major duties were letting shops premises - APM in Kwun Tong, Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui, and Lee Theatre Plaza in Causeway Bay," says Wong, now the director of retail services at Knight Frank. In his current role, he also handles agency and consultancy work.

"Sometimes we act as tenant representatives and try to maximise the tenant's interests, and other times we work on sole leasing agency projects," Wong says. "We also work on revitalisation projects such as the Central Police Station on Hollywood Road."

In addition to recruiting tenants for the project, Wong and his team need to suggest a targeted trade mix - what kinds of food and beverage outlets and retailers should be sought to lease space in the structure.

"The Central Police Station project aims to transform one of the largest remaining clusters of historically significant building for heritage, contemporary art and leisure," Wong says. "We hope the community will enjoy the art and cultural activities in Central Police Station."

In terms of consultancy work, Wong advises landlords on various factors. "If a landlord wants to convert an industrial building into a retail arcade, we would propose the trade mix, layout, and targeted rental projection so they can compare the rental income the building would generate as a retail arcade," Wong says.

The world's largest privately owned global property agency and consultancy firm, Knight Frank has a network of 244 offices in 43 countries.

"We have more than 7,000 professionals handling in excess of US$817 billion worth of real estate globally per annum," says Sarah Chan, director and head of human resources, Knight Frank in Greater China.

"Our business can be divided into two major areas: agency and professional services. On the agency side, we have sales and leasing teams serving clients on residential, commercial, industrial, retail properties, overseas properties and investment opportunities," Chan explains.

"For professional services, we have teams that provide land advisory, valuation, property management, asset management, portfolio optimisation, research and consultancy, and business consultancy services," she adds.

While the company is "cautiously optimistic" over the property market in the coming year, it prefers to take a long-term view on hiring.

Regardless of market conditions, it continues to hire outstanding talent and fresh graduates for its graduate surveyor programme, designed to nurture future talent.

"It takes years to nurture talent in property consultancy," Chan says. "Instead of taking a short-term approach and overreacting to market sentiment, we adopt a long-term perspective in our hiring strategy."

According to Adam Lee, director and head of land advisory services at Knight Frank, not all property staff need a professional qualification. "They just need working experience," he says. "For professional staff, we look for someone with an academic qualification in surveying from the Polytechnic University (PolyU), the University of Hong Kong (HKU) or City University (CityU)," Lee adds.

Both PolyU and HKU offer bachelor's degrees in surveying, while CityU offers associate degrees. About four graduates are hired from these three institutions each year.

"They undergo two years of graduate training, rotating to different departments to gain experience and on-the-job training," Lee says. "After two years, they attend an Assessment of Professional Competence, organised by the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors, to become chartered surveyors."

After they qualify, surveyors must continue to undergo training. Different topics are offered each month.

The company's HR department offers strategic advice and total solutions to its business managers. This includes staffing and recruitment, compensation and benefits, performance management, learning and development, and staff engagement.

"As a professional firm, we put emphasis on the continuous learning and development of our staff," Chan says. "We organise training to keep our people abreast of the latest markets updates and knowledge. We sponsor employees to attend courses to attain job-related professional qualifications."

On staff retention, the company takes a two-pronged approach: monetary and non-monetary.

"A pay-for-performance culture has been installed to ensure employees are motivated by monetary rewards to align with job duties and performance," Chan says. "For the non-monetary aspect, we focus on developing an environment to engage staff, including career development and learning, recognition of achievers, celebrating success, and a fun work atmosphere."