From 'transaction' to 'experience retail' shops: The Hong Kong Jockey Club’s focus on customer centricity drives the transformation of its employee development
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From 'transaction' to 'experience retail' shops: The Hong Kong Jockey Club’s focus on customer centricity drives the transformation of its employee development


"A critical success factor of people development is how to develop staff to have a customer obsession in mind,” Grace Liang, Head of Retail and Telebet, The Hong Kong Jockey Club, shares.

This article is brought to you by The Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC)

As one of the long-established organisations in Hong Kong, The Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) has not only excelled in its retail and customer services associated with horse racing; its commitment to people development has also earned itself the title as one of the most attractive employers in Hong Kong.

In line with its purpose to act continuously for the betterment of the society, HKJC is undergoing a ‘Retail Channel Transformation’ journey, which strives to reposition its retail branches to focus on customer experience. It aims to offer customer-centric designs and elements that can fully immerse customers in the enjoyment of sports events. To achieve this, the key priority is to transform its people’s skills and mindsets.

“Many of our staff are very experienced, however when it comes to new skills and new customer service expectations, they have to de-learn and re-learn," Grace Liang, Head of Retail and Telebet explains. "We could renovate beautiful shops and space for customers, but without the right people, it would be without the spirit. Customers are attracted to and engaged by people, not just the space."

To support this transformation, HKJC has expounded its ‘Retail Competency Model’ based on the three key pillars of ‘respect’, ‘real accountability’ and ‘collaboration’. On top of it, there are six areas of competencies identified under the new retail functions, namely operational excellence, customer centricity & experience design, business impact, problem-solving & incident management, people management and change management.

Dr Lake Wang, Executive Director, People and Organisational Development, remarks: “The essence of a capability framework in career development lies in its ability to provide structure, clarity, and alignment for employees and the Club. It enables our employees to assess their skills, identify areas for development, and create personalised development plans. Simultaneously, retail can also use capability frameworks to align talent management practices, foster skill development, and support the employees’ career progression.”

With direct communication of the relevant skills and behavioural standards, the 'Six-Competencies Model' allows both management and staff to have a clearer picture of the work requirements for different positions, where they can better evaluate staff competencies, develop a clear learning roadmap, select the right talent for promotion, while using the model as a benchmark for staff’s career planning.

Building on this well-structured competency model, HKJC has put further focus on nurturing talents to be the next successors. The 'HKJC Retail Department Succession Programme' was designed to identify potential talents among frontline staff at all levels, grooming and developing them with the right skillsets through proactive training, with the objectives of promoting from within to accelerate employees’ career aspiration, and ultimately, achieving better staff retention and loyalty.

All these efforts have paid off – over 30 staff members have been promoted to leadership positions as branch managers and above, effectively shortening the time required to fill major positions and improving operations continuity. 

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GL Lee, Head of Human Resources (Business Facing), emphasises the importance for the HR Business Facing Team to work in close strategic partnership with the business. It is HR's mission to work closely with the business to ensure good career development for our employees. In addition to the Retail Capability Framework, HR Business Facing has also helped the user department develop the Functional Capability Frameworks for the Telebet operations and the Integrated Contacted Centre operations.

In addition to vertical growth opportunities, HKJC also offers employees the chance to explore horizontal roles within the organisation. Apart from excelling in daily branch management duties, employees are encouraged to take up new responsibilities like event management - organising special events at betting branches/experience shops, which allows them to broaden their skillsets and contribute to overall business success.

Nick Ng, Senior Manager, Retail, who was a frontline staff at branch looking after daily operation, shares, “The retail department’s transformation strategy encourages our frontline staff to go beyond daily transactional operation and gives them the autonomy to host localised events. I am thrilled to make good use of my wagering experience proficiency and assist our frontline colleagues. My previous operation skills can also be useful for coaching our back-end support team in wagering experience."

Liang says HR plays a highly critical role in The HKJC's retail transformation journey. As HR evolves from an administrative to an advisory role, she believes its core function is to serve as a business partner to understand the business strategies, tailor-make its plan to fit and identify the right candidates, be it internal or external, to groom the right competency or fill the competency gaps.

"To do so, it needs a systematic programme like ours to be able to always have the internal grooming action in place," she affirms. "Such a programme runs like clockwork – it never stops. This is how we are able to promote over 80% of all our leadership positions from internal grooming. It has been proven that such approach is highly successful where staff have stayed with us for a long time and become very loyal and contributing members of the Club."

Looking forward, Liang shares that the next thing on the Club’s retail department’s radar is to identify more energetic members, who have the aspiration to become future leaders after seeing some of their predecessors’ fast-track promotions. "We have to make sure that our talent identification system and evaluation processes are rightly executed to identify good candidates so we continue to invest in them and groom them as future leaders.”

Dennis Hau, Executive Director, Customer Strategy, Insights and Innovation, reiterates: “People are our greatest asset and we are committed to developing our people.”

HKJC is also looking to reduce cumbersome and repetitive tasks through automation and new technology to streamline processes and procedures. HR team could then free up more mind power to refine the competency model and the succession plan, putting more focus and effort into identifying the real gems in the team.

"A critical success factor of People Development is how to develop staff to have a customer obsession in mind. When staff has understanding and insights in customer shoes, they will take initiative and ownership to do things that delight customers and keep them. This development of mindset and empowerment to allow them to take charge of customer experience creates a culture even overrides skill development.

"Have confidence in frontline insights and eagerness to do better to delight customers and they will find ways to do it. This is the most successful way to realise staff potential in a way that serves both staff skill (and career) advancement while also serving business objectives,” Liang reminds.

Photos / The Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC)

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