Speech by SLW at HKIHRM 30th Anniversary Dinner (English only)

    Following is the speech by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, at the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management (HKIHRM) 30th anniversary dinner today (December 13):

Mr KT Lai, members of the HKIHRM, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     I feel greatly honoured to be invited to give an address at this memorable event tonight.  Let me first offer my warmest congratulations to the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management and its members on the occasion of its 30th anniversary.

     Over the past 30 years, Hong Kong has evolved from a small manufacturing centre into a leading regional financial and service centre and Asia's world city.  In parallel, we witness the significant development of the institute from a modest Personnel Managers' Club to become a prestigious professional human resource (HR) management body with an impressive membership of over 4,000 members.  The institute's annual conference, and I had the privilege of opening the one this year just about a fortnight ago, has been widely recognised as one of the most anticipated HR events in the year.  The institute has always been a highly valued and strategic partner of the Labour Department.  We have been joining hands to enhance understanding of labour legislation and promote exemplary people management practices in Hong Kong.  We are, indeed,  indebted to the institute for its unfailing support at all times.

     Under the theme of "Celebrating 30 Years of HR Success - People - Values - Professionalism", there are lots of milestones of the institute that are worth commemorating.  The initiation of pay trend surveys, the promulgation of the accreditation schemes and the organisation of people management awards are just a few examples.  If I may, I would like to summarise your many achievements in one sentence: "The institute has successfully enhanced the professional standard of human resource management in Hong Kong."  I must also take this opportunity to commend the industrious and capable leadership of Mr. Lai (KT) and the council members.  Their dedication and painstaking efforts over the years have been instrumental in uniting human resource personnel across different trades and sectors in Hong Kong and helping the human resource profession forge ahead with vigour.  My compliments also go to all members of the institute whose strenuous efforts in introducing good people management practices into their workplaces have helped to foster harmonious employer-employee relations in Hong Kong.  

     Nowadays, "good people management practice" is an essential ingredient of every successful business.  As the unemployment rate dropped to 3.9%, I believe that most of you have again become "wartime" generals and marshals in the war for talent.  To win a war, one must be equipped with state-of-the-art weaponry.  By analogy, to quest for talent, you have to adopt the best employment practice.  To attract and retain good employees, monetary rewards are necessary but not sufficient.  A good employer rewards their employees with financial incentives. A better employer provides their employees with recognition and concern.  And the best goes to the one who adopts people-oriented management practices tailored to suit their employees' specific needs.

     To commend enlightened people management practices, the Labour Department organised in the past years Good People Management Awards.  Three principles, namely, "employee-oriented", "law-abiding" as well as "equal and fair" were adopted as selection criteria for good people management practices.  In 2006, the institute and the South China Morning Post launched the People Management Awards.  The awards recognise that the success of a corporation is attributed to effective people management strategies and practices.  I am very pleased to be invited to present the People Management Awards this year.  

     I understand that a little later, the institute will organise discussion sessions for these award winners to share their success stories with you.  The winners are surely in the best position to highlight what constitutes good people management practices and how they are implemented in the workplace.  Tonight, I would like to give you a "PUSH", figuratively, so that when you get back to your office, you will have one more tool to convince your corporate management that the adoption of good people management practices should be their No. 1 priority.  I hope this "P-U-S-H", which is an acronym, can help you explain why good people management practices are needed, what benefits they can bring and what measures are needed.  

     The first letter "P" of "PUSH" stands for "Productivity".  In a highly competitive business environment, enterprises are striving for high productivity.  Ironically, in the pursuit of high productivity, many people have adopted the wrong strategies.  Some employers and employees alike work exceedingly long hours, devoting all their time and energy to their work.  High efficiency and effectiveness are achieved at the expense of health and no room is left for personal life and family commitments.  Too much work will inevitably induce great stress, which is detrimental to the employees' health.  After all, we all work to live and not live to work.

     There are two things that employers can do to help their employees achieve work-life balance.  The first is the implementation of family-friendly employment practices.  The productivity and profitability of a business depends on the quality and commitment of its employees.  A family-friendly workplace is a higher-performing organisation as it can better attract and retain talent, bring about higher staff morale and less staff turnover, thereby reducing recruitment and training costs.  The other thing is to foster a health-conscious corporate culture.  Employees should be encouraged to do more exercises and pay attention to their physical and mental health.  More work out, less burnout, so to speak.  Only if employees are helped to release their stress and achieve work-life balance can high productivity be maintained in the long run.

     The second letter "U" stands for "Unity".  To achieve unity, communication is the key.  One of the most essential good people management practices in the workplace is certainly the establishment of effective communication channels.  The management must ensure that there is frank and open dialogue at all levels.  By doing so, the employer will be able to create a supportive and positive working environment and cultivate high esprit de corps among the employees.  Many employees not only look at monetary return when they choose an employer, they also look for an open and communicative employer who will take their views into consideration in decision-making.  The employees, knowing that the employer has a genuine interest in what they think and how they feel, will be more co-operative, devoted and loyal.  They will have a strong sense of pride and belonging.  Conversely, adverse comments from dissatisfied employees can do a companyˇ¦s reputation untold damage.    

     "S", the third letter of the acronym, represents "Social Responsibility".  The fundamental principle of corporate social responsibility is that a company is not only responsible for generating profits for shareholders, but should also take care of the relevant stakeholders.  We could name quite a number of stakeholders for any enterprises, but employees should top the list.  We always advocate employers to share the fruits of their business success with employees, who are their most important assets.  If a company is not concerned with the well-being of its employees, who will believe it will genuinely care about the interests of its customers and other stakeholders?  

     On this point I would like to emphasise that as an enlightened human resource professional, you have an important role to play in helping your company discharge its corporate social responsibility.  For example, the Government has pledged to promote the development of social enterprises with a view to boosting the employment of the disadvantaged.  You can contribute to the successful development of these social enterprises, by acting as a facilitator.  You can help your colleagues understand what social enterprises are, what services they provide, and encourage them to hire their services where appropriate.  On the other hand, in staff recruitment, due consideration should be given to young people, the middle-aged, the disabled or people living in remote areas, such as Tin Shui Wai.  Some thoughtfulness on your part is very crucial for the employment of the less privileged members of our community.

     While on this subject of corporate social responsibility, I would also like to enlist your participation in the Wage Protection Movement.  As you know, the movement aims at protecting cleaning workers and security guards by encouraging employers to offer them average market wages.  As the HR head of your company, a member of the ownersˇ¦ corporation of your home, or simply as a property owner or a resident of your estate, you could exert your influence by voting "yes" in support of the movement.  I look forward to your participation in this worthy social cause.  

     Now comes the last letter of the acronym, "H", which refers to "Harmony".  We Chinese consider harmony a great virtue.  A human resource professional is often tasked to be the peacemaker of a corporation.   To achieve harmony, a fair and open grievance mechanism should be put in place.  Nonetheless, prevention is always better than cure.  Human resource professionals have to develop "intelligence" to detect grievances or dissatisfaction among the employees.  By reaching out to your staff, you can detect issues of staff concern and nip them in the bud.  The adoption of good people management practices is paramount in fostering harmonious labour relations in the workplace.

     To recap, by adopting innovative and successful people management strategies, we can increase productivity, enhance unity, fulfil social responsibility and attain harmony.  I hope this "P-U-S-H" could help you win the support of your corporate management and do your job better.  

     With the New Year just around the corner, our get-together tonight gives us a good opportunity to reminisce about what we have achieved in 2007 and get prepared for new adventures in 2008.  May I wish the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management and all of you continued success in the years ahead.  Thank you.

Ends/Thursday, December 13, 2007
Issued at HKT 19:30