Horwath Management Services maintains a highly stable workforce with a system that helps to assimilate new recruits. 'Our annual staff turnover rate last year stood at about 3 per cent and it has remained stable over the past dozen years,' said managing director Alex Cho Chi-kwong, who attributed the company's relatively low rate to its buddy system. Traditionally, the turnover rate in the local accountancy sector is driven by strong demand for personnel specialising in professional services. 'We experienced a high staff turnover rate during the economic boom in the early 1990s. Because a lot of resources were deployed in recruitment, it was a loss to the company when new recruits left after spending only a short period with us due to a lack of understanding of the corporate culture and operational procedures,' Mr Cho said. To address the issue, the company has started to assign buddies to all recruits to help their speedy assimilation into the company. This is in addition to the immediate supervisors of recruits, who are primarily responsible for looking after their work and professional development. 'A buddy is expected to quickly establish regular contact with the new recruit both at work and outside the office,' Mr Cho said. 'When new hires come across any problems, they can seek advice from someone other than their immediate supervisors. The buddies also help the recruits understand the corporate culture and the small details of the company's operational procedures.' Horwath selects buddies carefully to ensure a good match. Typically, a buddy has worked for the company for at least two years. It matches buddies and new recruits in terms of age, educational background and working experience. They will be at the same level. 'For instance, a director will be the buddy of a new director,' Mr Cho said. 'The recruit will be assigned a buddy working in a different department. Because the company has a diverse range of specialised business areas, the buddies are also responsible for providing new hires with knowledge of the services offered by other divisions.' Buddies usually join new staff for lunches that are paid for by the company. In addition, buddies are expected to introduce the recruits to other staff at corporate functions. New starters receive help from buddies for up to six months. Horwath has a selection process to identify employees who are suitable to become buddies. 'Through the regular employee performance evaluation, supervisors acquire a good understanding of the attributes and characters of individual employees. They include individuals who are willing to help others and have a positive attitude in the pool of potential buddies,' Mr Cho said. 'On the recommendation of department heads, the buddies attend a training session which briefs them on their duties and teaches them techniques to provide guidance and address the concerns of new recruits.' The buddies are expected to submit reports on the concerns and problems encountered by recruits to the human resources department. Management will look at these reports to improve the company's human resources policies. 'Many of our staff want to become buddies - they actually recommend themselves for the job,' Mr Cho added. 'By sharing their experience with new recruits and helping them solve problems, buddies can understand themselves better.' He pointed out that the buddy system was different from the mentoring programme, which was designed for employees at a more senior level. 'A mentor is usually a higher-level employee providing guidance to help develop the career path of a mentee who is at a lower level. The objective of mentoring is to bring the mentee to the next level. The mentee aims to learn from the experience of the mentor in tackling challenges and dealing with setbacks. Sometimes they also discuss personal issues with the mutual understanding that they will be kept confidential,' he said. Horwath has a workforce of 150 in Hong Kong, while its offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou employ 80 professionals. The company provides a comprehensive range of professional services, including company formation, business consulting, company management, investment management, tax advice and accounting. Many of its clients have trading activities between Hong Kong and the mainland. Staff retention Horwath Management Services effectively keeps its staff turnover rate low by assigning buddies to each new recruit The buddies help speed up the assimilation of new recruits into the company Buddies and the new hires are matched by age, educational background and working experience A mentoring programme is also in place that aims to advance the career of senior-level employees to the next level'