Giordano going the extra mile for staff

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 September, 2007, 12:00am


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Maintaining a quality staff and ensuring its stability are corporate manpower priorities that unfortunately often make odd bedfellows.

For employers, the Catch-22 is that the better the quality of their employees, the more difficult it is to retain them due to market competition for manpower. Giordano International has successfully kept this issue at bay even though its reputation as a 'Shaolin Temple', or top training school, in the apparel retail sector makes its employees prime targets for other employers seeking quality talent. Its group human resources director Ngan Lei-tjen said the company had taken sustained measures to promote staff retention, and these proved to be especially beneficial during retail booms like the present.

'We provide a challenging working environment that helps our staff grow and mature quickly. We know that Giordano staff are coveted by other companies so staff retention has always been a management focus for us,' Ms Ngan said.

To this end, Giordano has been implementing a range of measures aimed at fostering employees' morale, loyalty, mutual support, development and competencies which are all major factors with a bearing on their stability. Their effectiveness is evident from the company's stable turnover which has remained on a par with the industry average even during the present market boom, according to Ms Ngan. These measures, she said, also complemented the strong service culture and demanding working environment at Giordano, helping, in particular, new staff to adapt to these challenges quickly.

'We have a strong culture for teamwork and mutual support. Everybody is motivated to be constantly alert to the needs of other colleagues and to be ready to offer a helping hand,' she said. 'We are especially caring towards our new colleagues, who are given direct responsibilities quickly after they have joined the company. While this puts them under rigorous work demands, they are also supported and assisted by their colleagues and supervisors to help them settle in and grow quickly.

'All this goes towards creating a happy working environment which is essential for retaining staff. We believe that non-monetary incentives are more important than monetary ones for promoting staff satisfaction and loyalty.'

Established in 1981, Giordano operates more than 1,700 outlets in the Asia-Pacific region employing 11,400 staff. In Hong Kong, it has close to 100 shops and 1,000 staff aged mainly between 20 and 40.

The company conducts an annual survey on staff to help it keep track of its performance as well as employees' perception of their jobs and the company. The findings from last year indicated that staff were proud of the corporate brand, enjoyed working in an energetic team, and appreciated the learning opportunities provided by the company. These were all in line with the needs typical of young workers such as those in Giordano.

Ms Ngan said the findings were a useful reference for mapping out retention measures. For example, there was an award programme to encourage all staff to take up further learning, and positive promotion of a service sub-culture within the back office team to facilitate its supportive interaction with frontline colleagues, thereby enhancing a cordial working environment for all. The company also organised talks and visits to exhibitions to help frontline staff enhance their aesthetic exposure, and encouraged the staff's participation in community services to complement the caring culture it promoted.

Based on a belief that morale boosting initiatives are often best undertaken and sustained by the staff themselves, the management encourages employees to organise such activities by keeping its hands off apart from providing the necessary resources.

'We have learned from experience that if we take the lead in such initiatives, our staff will lose their drive as soon as we stop doing so,' explained Ms Ngan, adding that the similar mindsets and strong creative energy of the young team greatly facilitated the success of this approach.

She said the investment in staff retention made good business sense: 'We have been able to maintain a steady pool of quality staff to uphold our excellent service and brand image, while keeping staff costs at satisfactory levels.'


Staff retention a long-term management focus

Retention measures aimed at fostering employees' morale, loyalty, mutual support, development and competencies are implemented

Stable turnover has remained on a par with the industry average. Staff costs also kept at satisfactory levels.

Annual staff survey provides a reference for retention strategy