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Bessie Chong, director, group training and talent management, Esquel Group shares her unusual path to success as a T&D professional and her ideas on nurturing a great learning culture.
Q How did you get started with working in HR (training and development)?
I did not receive any formal HR or T&D training beforehand and started my journey in this profession inadvertently. At the beginning, I had the chance to work in a local university, managing and promoting e-commerce projects for the textile and garment industry.
In order to let the industry practitioners understand the benefits of the software, I had to do demonstrations and organise training sessions. That’s how I started my training career.
This experience helped me a lot in developing training materials and conducting training in an effective way.
Q What do you love about HR (training and people development)?
Training and people development is a meaningful job, it may sound cliché, but it is true. We are not only helping individuals to find meaning at work and excelling their potential, but also facilitating the organisation to grow.
To me, training is like performing arts. I enjoy the spotlight of getting “on stage”. You need to attract the audience, engage them and influence them. Your performance determines the audience’s future performance.
Q Please talk about the learning/office culture at Esquel?
Esquel employs a 57,000-strong diversified workforce and we are united under the corporate 5E culture – ethics, environment, exploration, excellence and education. Education is interpreted as “Dare to err, quick to learn”. As a non-traditional company in a traditional industry, Esquel encourages employees to innovate and challenge the status quo.
Our chairman Marjorie Yang says: “If you have not made a mistake, you have not done anything seriously.”
Esquel has a strong learning and entrepreneur culture. We emphasise the importance of the feedback loop and conduct cycles of learning, that is, evaluate the processes and results, and make improvement continuously.
Q What do you think HR professionals in Hong Kong need to do to future-proof their career?
I recommend HR professionals challenge themselves constantly. They have to think out of the box and create new ways of working. In our company, we believe in Lean. The principles of Lean are continuous improvement, and the elimination of non value-added procedures, meaning we need to create values in our work.
Furthermore, we have to leverage on technology to increase our productivity and enhance communications with stakeholders.
Q What is the best career advice you have received?
One of my bosses once said: “Trust yourself, follow your belief. You cannot expect that everyone understands you because you are in different positions.” That meant a lot to me.
Q Please complete the sentence: I cannot imagine HR without …
Creative thinking. HR has been regarded as one of the gate keepers of a company’s polices. People think HR is stringent on procedures and lacks creativity. I don’t agree with that. I think HR nowadays needs to think out-of-the-box to find the best solutions to meet the needs of the company and individual colleagues.
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