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Q&A with Viola Wong, Director, HR & Administration at Hong Kong Airlines

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Popular full-service carrier Hong Kong Airlines was a highly respected awardee in the Best Management Trainee Programme, Best Global Recruitment Strategy and Best In-house Recruitment Team categories at the Asia Recruitment Awards Hong Kong 2019. Viola Wong, Director, HR & Administration at Hong Kong Airlines reveals how the airline’s recruitment initiatives have helped it aim high with its people management.

With the airline’s global recruitment programme, are there specific areas/countries that you target?
To meet future air traffic growth as an international aviation hub and further develop the tourism industry in Hong Kong, Hong Kong International Airport will expand its three-runway system in the near future and the demand for aviation talent is foreseeable. However, the city’s government-funded postgraduate education of aviation management is yet to be established to tackle the talent shortage. Hong Kong Airlines has the determination to develop its diversified global recruitment scheme to reach out to global talent. With diversity in employment, we welcome talents from all over the world of at least 30 countries through overseas recruitment roadshows and online platforms like LinkedIn and forums, as well as the Supplementary Labour Schemes (SLS) of the Hong Kong Labour Department.

What differentiates Hong Kong Airlines’ global recruitment strategy from those of other organisations?
Hong Kong has one of the highest standards of living in the world. We leverage on that and have positioned Hong Kong Airlines as an aviation company with a strong foundation and potential to expand to become an international airline. In this way, candidates can develop successful careers in Hong Kong.

What strategies has Hong Kong Airlines used in its graduate recruitment programme and how do those strategies attract talents to the company?
We have developed various graduate recruitment programmes, which include the Management Trainee (MT) Programme and the Engineering Licensed Trainee (ELT) Programme. The aim of these programmes is to provide a sustainable talent pipeline to cope with the company’s growth and to nurture future aviation talents. Unlike a traditional career path, the MT Programme provides a fast career path for university graduates. The ELT Programme provides aviation enthusiasts with valuable opportunities to achieve their dreams.

MTs should possess great potential to preside over the company in the future. Bachelor degree or above graduates with outstanding abilities in leadership, business agility and problem solving are what we are looking for. We leverage various recruitment channels (including social media, online advertising platforms and universities’ career centres) to attract quality candidates, not only in Hong Kong, but also worldwide. In addition, internal applicants within the company are also encouraged.

The ELT Programme provides well-rounded internal and external training to graduates so as to ensure they are equipped with adequate knowledge and experience for qualification. This is a vital training scheme to obtain a license from the Civil Aviation Department. ELTs will obtain the HKAR-66 Aircraft Maintenance License upon completion of the programme and the projects accomplished during job rotations shall support the trainee to become a member of the Hong Kong Institute of Engineers. Trainees will therefore transform into genuine engineering professionals.

What makes your management training program stand out from your rivals?
We have a series of competence-based selection process to assist us to identify high-calibre candidates who meet our requirements, including an assessment centre, written test, online aptitude test as well as panel interviews. Competence-based selection helps preventing interviewers from making decisions subjectively or from assessing interviewees on the basis of personal characteristics.

MTs at Hong Kong Airlines are provided with intensive trainings so that they are well-equipped with aviation insights and technical applications. A customer-oriented mindset, leadership skills and problem solving skills of MTs are polished through workshops and leadership boot camp. MTs at Hong Kong Airlines also have worldwide exposure through annual meetings, seminars, flight checks and station audits.

The three-year management trainee programme provides trainees with opportunities to work in Asia or North America for various departments such as Commercial, Corporate Safety, Human Resources, Flight Operations, Service Delivery and Ground Operations. Trainees also have the opportunity to lead projects with the guidance of mentors and top management, and to participate in various online and offline leadership programmes, legal trainings and skills workshops.

A clearly defined career path is offered to programme graduates based on their performance and preference. Starting from assistant manager upon graduation, they work towards director level. Our company values the development of MTs highly. They have the chance to meet with our senior management regularly to report their learning progress and to receive direct mentorship. In addition, MTs will be mentored by other senior management so that their management and leadership skills can be cultivated along the way.

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