Best of treatment for all on board

Eunice Chiu

A container shipping group sees training staff and grooming managers as a long-term commitment

PERSONAL CONTACT IS heavily counted on in the logistics industry, a sector that is wide in scope, highly complex and dependent on extra-close client relationships.

Worldwide container shipping group CMA CGM Logistics (Asia) has put in place a job rotation programme that gives potential leaders in the company exposure to different types of work.

A CMA manager must have a good understanding of the entire supply chain, from order tracking and factory production to quality control and goods distribution, said Eric Lo, the company's general manager for Asia.

'It is very challenging to grow an employee,' Mr Lo said. 'It takes a logistics graduate nearly five years of hard work to reach managerial level.

'During the two-year internship, trainees take up a couple of positions that groom them to be young executives. After a few years they qualify to be managers.'


These positions give staff an opportunity to familiarise themselves with CMA products, operations and departments, including marketing and sales. They also learn about the big shipping lines and gain essential client servicing skills.

Mr Lo said outstanding staff might be seconded to CMA headquarters in France or leading ports in Europe or the United States. A year or two overseas gave them vital international experience, he said.

Managers spent another five years heading various offices before they moved up to top management level. During these years they honed their management skills.

'Some excel at leading a sales team, while others show a talent for overseeing operations,' Mr Lo said.


CMA has a global workforce of 13,000, with about 300 employees in Hong Kong. Most staff are in the shipping section.

Mr Lo expected logistics staff to grow substantially over the next two years as the demand for logistics services increased.


As with many companies, CMA's turnover rate at ground-level is substantially higher than it is at the middle level, at 8 per cent and 2 to 3 per cent respectively.

CMA likes its employees to enjoy their work. The company makes an extra effort to ensure the staff are all doing the work they like and are best at.

'Sometimes even the high-fliers aren't sure about their career objectives and what they are best suited for. Some leave, giving up an attractive package, if we put them in a position they don't feel quite suited for,' Mr Lo said.


'We try to gauge ability by observation. We assign projects according to the nature of the job or the challenge. Some projects are operational and require high efficiency and time control. Some projects require creative thinking, such as preparing a logistics proposal. Some need presentation skills, such as client visits,' he said.

It is not unusual for staff to resign as a team.

'Before we take any retention action, we ask why they want to quit. We may consider job enrichment or changes to retain staff. We expect staff to voice their feelings and concerns.


'If key staff leave we have a fall-back plan whereby we appoint two or three executives to serve one important client. Transparency within a team makes it relatively easy for a team member to take over when someone leaves. We also ensure there is adequate back-up to minimise the impact on clients.

'If staff leave because of issues involving salary, the nature of the work, the workload or career prospects, we conduct an internal review and make adjustments where necessary.'

Mr Lo is a strong believer in communication as the best way to retain talent. He said staff bonding was achieved through daily communication.

'CMA strives to make staff feel they are working as a team and not just following orders. We sometimes have a hands-off policy for staff who are dependable and flexible.

'Outside the office we hold team-building activities, such as war games, excursions and overseas travel. All these help to boost team spirit.'


Five years to train a manager, and another five to grow a top manager

Rotation programme includes jobs at operational level and in various departments

Overseas secondment possible for outstanding staff

Multi-member teams set up to reduce impact on clients, should anyone resign