Direct marketing firm Amway Hong Kong was rated ninth out of the 36 firms who took part in the WorkHongKong study in the Performance Management section. With a somewhat different business model, in that sales are carried out by a network of distributors, Amway focuses on perfecting communication with and between its 120 all-local staff, says general manager Angela Keung Lai-ching. 'We let staff know clearly what Amway expects and we conduct ongoing appraisals with feedback to every individual every time after doing a task or whenever there is a need,' she explains. 'We don't use criticism but we reinforce the positive side; if you continue to tell them they are inadequate you only reinforce their inadequacy. We are a direct selling company, so it is very important to give people the confidence to think they can do it.' The recognition that you can do it does not always warrant a cash reward. It can be a pat on the shoulder, for example. Amway's 120 salaried employees are not on commission, she explains, and the 60,000 distributors are paid according to their business volume. Amway's customers are its distributors, so this group recognition comes not only from management but also from the other customers, she says. A mystery shopper system in their three Hong Kong outlets is another way of making sure the Amway teams keep up to scratch. If improvements are needed, staff are told and clear objectives are given with the whole team getting involved. 'We give them clear goals and expectations and performance incentives.' This, she says, is Amway's philosophy to help people to help themselves, a line set in stone by the company founder. 'We help people to understand what they are because if they can help themselves, they have a sense of achievement and a happier and more fulfilled life.' Reviewing staff expectations is also vital. Monthly meetings are called where they are brought up to date with new initiatives and a question-and-answer session is held. 'Chinese people do not always want to speak up so we write out questions and answer them.' Ms Keung hosts meetings with supervisors where she discusses what's on her mind in an 'open heart communication'. 'Once they see the chief executive can open up her heart, then staff feel it's easy to open their mouths, too.' This is especially important in Hong Kong where management is seen as being 'up there', she says. Each year Amway holds a big function featuring games and staff presentations. This forces them to develop their other talents. 'Originally they resisted all this but now we offer dancing classes, Chinese drum playing and other classes.' Of course, she stresses, Amway also offers job-related courses, agreeing with the survey findings that Hong Kong workers are less satisfied than other nationalities. Amway conducts its own in-house employee survey. It asks about housekeeping matters such as lighting, the comfort of chairs and the best type of computers with quite a lot of opinion surveys, she says. 'Through these we come to understand our staff better. Chinese people are generally shy. They think: 'If I am vocal and I speak up, management won't like it.'' Above all else, Amway's teams adhere to the mission statement. 'That amounts to communication, but it must be genuine, honest and transparent,' she says. 'If you are not sincere, your staff will see it and it will bar you from having good communication with them.'