If one thing sets successful companies apart, it is their ability to recognise talent and provide the support necessary for every employee to achieve his or her potential. They make this a core component of human resources policy and realise that giving staff continuous opportunities to learn new skills is one of the secrets to creating genuine job satisfaction.
SmarTone-Vodafone - with more than 1,600 staff in Hong Kong, Macau and Guangzhou - has made human capital development a top priority.
'We want to discover each person's talents,' said Rita Hui Ching-yee, general manager of human resources. 'We have different development plans for each division.'
She said that selected retail staff were put through an eight-month training programme, which included classes, practical experience and even a period as an acting supervisor. Participants also worked on a special business project for six months. The objective might be to improve a work process or find new ways to motivate the team and increase sales performance.
'It gives them a chance to apply the theories they have learnt in the classroom. They are guided by their managers and staff from human resources and gain valuable experience,' she said.
At the end of the programme there are presentations and interviews to analyse and assess the results of the projects. At that point, senior managers give their advice and opinions so junior employees can get a real sense of involvement and understand how the business works.
'After the development training, retail staff will have a much greater knowledge of resources and stock planning, staff motivation, problem solving and complaint handling,' Ms Hui said.
In addition, the company organised a two-day 'Mini Challenge' sports competition in September, during which teams did a series of physical, mental and team-building exercises. As a way of promoting better communication and co-operation in the organisation there were bonus points for teams made up of staff from different departments.
Before the event the company provided a series of training sessions in orienteering and rowing for all the teams.
Human resources senior training officer Timothy Tse Tik-pong, who was also a member of the winning team, said: 'It was very challenging and a very good opportunity for employees to explore their potential.'
One of the main challenges, he said, was to understand each person's strengths and weaknesses. As an example, he said that some of his team were a bit out of shape and struggled in the physical tests, but they made up for that with their orienteering skills and by contributing in other ways.
'The five of us were from different departments and we hadn't worked together before,' Mr Tse said. 'It took time to get to know one another and build trust. But I learned how to deploy manpower and resources and help my colleagues to find their strengths.'
The event brought together participants from Hong Kong, Macau and the company's Guangzhou call centre.
Other employees were asked to sponsor the teams as part of an effort to raise funds for the Hong Kong Award for Young People (HKAYP).
The company also sponsored the Hong Kong Challenge last month, which was part of the 2007 Intelligent Sport World Series.
Ms Hui said: 'Intelligent sport is very popular overseas, and 27 corporations from different countries in Asia took part in the event. The event also raised funds for the HKAYP, which is very meaningful.'
SmarTone-Vodafone wants to give employees every chance to develop their potential
The eight-month training programme for frontline staff includes a business project and time as an acting supervisor
The company organised a challenge event to build team spirit and test physical and mental skills
Participants could learn about their own strengths and weaknesses, and see how to work effectively with others