A Korean cosmetics company is committed to developing its own pool of Hong Kong talent IT IS RARE to see companies in the cosmetics business willing to invest in homegrown talent because much of their time is focused on sales targets and profit growth rather than on the development of staff. However, Amore Pacific, a long-established beauty and cosmetics company in Korea, is a notable exception. The company, a relative newcomer to the Hong Kong market, launched its Laneige range of cosmetics in Hong Kong in 2002 and its SulWhaSoo range last year. This year, Amore Pacific started a protege academy which emphasises talent development both vertically and horizontally. 'The academy was started because of a vision and need to develop a multifunctional team for the future,' said Fion Ipp, managing director of Amore Pacific Hong Kong. The academy gives staff basic training before moving on to areas of specialisation. There are five levels of training; the first three are mandatory and form the foundation. Elementary training involves learning about skin and products, service mentality and standards, and presentation and selling. The intermediate level concentrates on professional consultative selling and service mentoring, and the advanced level is all about leadership and team building, service audits and coaching. Training, conducted by both in-house and external trainers, involves a combination of classroom, role play, presentations and field coaching to ensure theoretical learning is implemented behind beauty counters. There is no fixed time frame when individuals move on to their specialisations; it depends on when they have a good knowledge of the basics. Amore Pacific places much emphasis on first-hand training. 'It is very common practice in the industry to run training sessions for some of the staff who are then expected to go back to their counters and teach those who did not attend,' Ms Ipp said. 'We focus on first-hand training. 'We would rather re-run training sessions several times than have staff not get the full and exact information themselves,' she said, adding that training groups were also kept small. Once the staff have completed the mandatory levels, the company works with individuals to identify their area of interest. 'We need to make sure a person has both the potential and ability to specialise in a particular area, while at the same time has an interest in pursing that career path, and we have that business need,' she said. Specialisation opportunities are vast, and not limited to the old trend of 'management roles', although that does remain an option. Those who are not interested in developing their managerial skills could find themselves in any number of roles, including coaching, innovation, makeup and treatment. Once a particular stream has been identified, the company has a separate career path for each speciality, involving continuous customised training while also retaining horizontal progression. All these factors support the company's vision of eventually establishing a multifunctional structure for its operations. The goal is that each store or beauty counter will in the future have a variety of talent on-site such as coaches, makeup artists, managers and more junior staff, replacing the traditional hierarchy of beauty consultants, senior beauty consultants and store managers. This foresight stems from a philosophy which the company has long pursued: that it should address all aspects of an individual's strengths, with priority placed on the need to deliver personalised and custom-made career development programmes. Each person is stretched to his or her limit, and given as many opportunities as possible to match their skill sets. 'As the company grows in Hong Kong, we are in need of lots of different talent so we hope that by nurturing our own pool of staff based on their talent and personalities we will be able to give them a good career and direction, and they will feel supported by the company in the long term,' Ms Ipp said. A staunch believer in action speaking louder than words, the company works hard to give staff early hands-on experience, giving them maximum exposure to learning new things. For marketing staff, this could mean experience in media planning or marketing strategies, tasks that would only be left to very senior people to handle in other companies, Ms Ipp said. Given the company's focus on people, new employees need to be proactive and willing to suggest new ideas. Embracing new HR structures Allows for horizontal and vertical mobility. All staff made to undergo a continuous university-type training programme. Goal to achieve a multifunctional team in the future. Talent is really nurtured based on capability, interest and business need. Believes in offering personalised career development programmes.