AS Watson

Ensuring a bright future with tomorrow's leaders

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 August, 2008, 12:00am

International retail and manufacturing group gains edge by offering job rotation and overseas training

The retail industry is competing for young talent fiercely and companies which provide job rotation opportunities and overseas training enjoy a definite advantage.

With a history dating back to 1828, A S Watson Group has evolved into an international retail and manufacturing business with operations in 16 markets across Asia and Europe. The group has more than 3,300 retail stores which include health and beauty chains, food, electronics and general merchandise and beverages from water and soft drinks to some of the world's finest wine labels.

The group launched its management training programme eight years ago and is going into its fifth cycle of recruiting new talent. About 30 trainees were taken in for each of the programmes in previous years.

The group is vetting more than 500 applications for its 18-month fast-tracked 'Future Leaders Programme' that starts next month.

'This is an international programme, so it goes beyond Hong Kong to the rest of Asia,' said group resourcing director (Asia) John Goff. 'So we get applications from graduates of all the universities in Hong Kong and the rest of Asia too, such as Singapore, Taiwan and mainland China.'

The group is looking for flexible people who can learn fast and have about two years of working experience because they are seeking international opportunities.

'We need them to be passionate, we need those people who have a hunger to succeed,' said Mr Goff. 'We're also looking for people who have got a track record of delivery and achievement.'

A range of written tests are done to choose suitable candidates. Following the tests are practical case studies and team activities conducted at assessment centres before finally the interview stage.

'They get formal training programmes, formal workshops and intervention in functional skills and leadership,' said Mr Goff. 'They'll get the opportunity to work in different markets in Asia and Europe.'

A line manager coach would be there to assist trainees with their day-to-day work and a senior executive mentor would provide overviews and help with the long-term development of the individual through sharing ideas and offering advice. Continuous job support is available so that trainees would have the opportunity to learn when completing projects and activities.

Trainees are guaranteed a managerial role in the company, depending on their development and pace of growth. 'We always confirm roles for them because for us it's an investment in them, and for them it's an investment that we want to see them enjoy the benefits as well because they've put 18 months of hard work into this.'

Trainees are allocated different business units where they become management trainees. 'So people have moved from Watsons to ParknShop to Fortress,' said Mr Goff. 'But from the administration perspective, obviously, it's sensible to put them in a business unit because then they get a line manager coach ... they don't necessarily stay there ... if their development is better suited in another division, or they've got better opportunities.'

Patrick Lui, buying manager, ParknShop Macau, graduated from the management training programme in 2005. He was a trainee in one of the government's training programmes until he joined the training programme launched by A S Watson.

'I would like to go into the commercial field,' said Mr Lui. 'This training programme was very attractive to me because it only took 18 months. To me, retail is very attractive because it is fast-paced and very challenging.'

Mr Lui had the opportunity to join an overseas training assignment at Badaracco, a wine trading company in Switzerland. 'It is really fantastic to work in another country,' said Mr Lui. 'It's all about wine and it was very challenging to work there because I was the only one sent there but it was really fun.

'If you are very interested in retail, you should apply and be prepared to take a challenging job here,' said Mr Lui. 'It's not an easy job as it would be very comprehensive and you have to deliver what your boss wants, what they expect you to do and you have to achieve a lot as well.'