Creative firm hammers home the point to staff
As Hong Kong seeks to become the city of choice for international trade fairs and exhibitions - last year it staged more than 300 events - the creative teams that lie behind exhibitors' conceptual layouts and presentation designs are becoming increasingly important.
Pico is one of the creative and marketing forces behind the scenes, making sure clients stand out. It is a highly competitive field, one in which effective staff training makes the difference for designers and clients alike.
'Our clients expect a certain level of service - we have to differentiate ourselves from our competitors by delivering a special level of knowledge, skill and creativity, and this critical requirement underscores our approach to staff training,' said Pico's chairman Lawrence Chia Song Huat. 'Being a globally respected company means we must deliver something special, and without quality training we can't hope to succeed. That's why we invest so much in training our staff.'
The company has expanded far beyond exhibition design and management. Established in Singapore in 1969 and Hong Kong in the mid-1970s, Pico has gone global, employing 3,000 staff in more than 30 cities worldwide, branching out in interior architecture and design, logistical planning, construction and lighting.
Certainly, global growth and client expectation have affected Pico's training programmes.
'As a global organisation our range of work covers many areas,' Mr Chia said. 'We know how to lay out a theme park, arrange the interior of museums or deliver exhibition events. Our people need knowledge, skill and creativity to do these things so our training needs to accommodate them too.'
To achieve this, Pico's training is comprehensive, covering all aspects of the job description, including things that might be considered superficial.
'To ensure that staff can meet clients' expectations and perform to their potential, our training has expanded, covering the most basic elements and [at] all staff levels. For junior staff we even cover such aspects as how to hammer in a nail properly,' he said.
Pico's contemporary training programme began taking shape more than 20 years ago and has been adapted over time. This evolution has enabled the company to tailor its training to focus on all aspects of company work.
Some programmes are universal and for the benefit of Pico's staff worldwide, while others have been tailored for the locality or city concerned. For example, a two-year management trainee programme has been crafted for the Singapore and Hong Kong offices to train executives for a long-term career within the company - in part because they serve as Pico's head offices.
In universal terms, the talent enrichment programme (TEP) has become Pico's training flagship, providing a clear internal career path to senior and even director levels. The TEP gives staff a grounding in Pico's history, culture, business identity, directions and strategies before going into detail on relevant aspects of company business for the individual concerned.
Aside from the TEP, training programmes focus on different professional levels, covering areas such as branding, customer relationship management, conflict management, negotiation skills, project management, effective business presentation, professional image, business etiquette and work-life balance. Other training courses prepare employees for promotion, ensuring that they can master their own position and their junior staff. Important aspects concern delegation and empowerment, improving managerial skills with Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ), inspiring people, conflict resolution and coaching for peak performance.
Staff on all levels are strongly encouraged to enrol in training courses, and incentives provide further impetus.
'To show our encouragement to staff for enrolling in training programmes, we give them extra credits and recognition,' Mr Chia said. 'Training is also taken into account in their annual performance review, and enrolled staff are often given a higher rating for their willingness and eagerness to learn.'
The company allocates staff 'time off' to undergo training. The company foots the bill for air fares, hotel and relevant transport costs if the training is overseas.
Tenets of training
Training needs to deliver a special level of knowledge, skill and creativity so that staff can meet customers' expectations in a competitive marketplace
Pico's flagship Talent Enrichment Programme provides staff with a clear career path for promotion up to director level
As Pico employs 3,000 staff in more than 30 cities, training involves both local and universal programmes, in addition to being 'comprehensive' and covering all aspects of the job
Staff are encouraged to enrol in training programmes through performance credits and recognition, and generous allocation of 'time off'