The 'no-layoffs charter', signed by more than 100 businesses in December last year is already starting to have a positive impact on Hong Kong's businesses. More than 50,000 jobs were guaranteed when retailers, wholesalers, catering and entertainment companies pledged that there would be no layoffs for a year. The charter was initiated by the Joint Coalition Against Financial Tsunami. The benefits of the charter are being felt by businesses, as workers secure in their jobs are proving more motivated and hard-working. This is particularly welcome in the restaurant industry, which has been hit hard by the economic downturn. The King Parrot Group, a family-run company that owns 35 restaurants across the city, has noticed significantly fewer group bookings in recent months and is finding that customers are spending 20 per cent less than they did before the financial crisis. The group predicts that will be a challenging year. King Parrot has experienced financial downturns before, during the Asian financial crisis and Sars, but survived because its restaurants did not cater to the 'high end' of the market and it took advantage of the times to negotiate cheaper rents with its landlords. The 'no-layoffs charter' is one of several initiatives put in place by the company to help it get through this new financial crisis. Jody Cheung King-tai, managing director of King Parrot Group, has noticed that many of his 800 full-time staff have been more productive since the company signed the charter. 'Many staff are worried about their job security. So by signing [the charter] we have shown them we will not lay off any full-time employees and now they are more confident and can concentrate on their work, rather than worrying about their next pay cheque,' he said. Staff had also been made aware that the company planned to open five new restaurants in the next six months, he said, which had further improved their confidence. They could see that the company was safeguarding their jobs for the future and creating more opportunities for promotion and movement within the company. As well as protecting the jobs of existing staff, Mr Cheung has imposed a freeze on hiring and instructed his human resources department to transfer excess staff from restaurants that are oversubscribed to those in need of new staff. This would involve cross training staff in different cuisines, he said, as there were 20 different types of international cuisines in the group, but it would have the added benefit of enriching staff's work experience and increasing their interest in the catering business. This would improve their satisfaction in the workplace, he said. For their part, employees at King Parrot Group are expected to work particularly hard during this challenging time to produce better food, improved menus and first-class service so that customers will enjoy their dining experience and will come back. 'I always tell my staff that in order for them to have a job, we have to have a business where the customers are paying for their salaries, not the company. So we have to provide good service, good food and good atmosphere. It won't be easy, we will have to really work hard every day to maintain our business,' he said, adding that giving staff a feeling of responsibility for the welfare of the company was extremely motivating for them. Staff were also aware that job security was not guaranteed to those who were underperforming, he said, and that finding a new job in the current climate would not be easy and this was another reason for their improved performance. Mr Cheung is conscious of using this quieter time in a positive way, and he is taking the opportunity to upgrade the business, both in terms of refurbishing some of the older restaurants and in retraining his staff. He said that the human resources department, as well as external trainers, would be offering training on service, customer complaints, wine selling and food knowledge. 'There is always something to learn.' Training for managers would focus on the monitoring of expenses, he said, and they would be expected to review all aspects of expenditure to save costs. They would also be expected to find things for their staff to do to keep them busy and fulfilled at work. In the coming year, King Parrot Group will be focused on the well-being of its staff, said Mr Cheung. Certificates would continue to be given to two employees from each restaurant for good performance every quarter, but the prizes would be improved. Team-building events would also be encouraged, such as bowling or softball, and staff would be asked to bring along their families. 'A happy staff is a more productive staff,' he said. Motivating factors King Parrot Group signs the 'no-layoffs charter' A freeze on new hires is introduced The HR department will focus on training and internal promotions Staff find that having job security improves their motivation at work Initiatives are introduced to improve staff well-being and increase productivity'