SOURCE: HR Summit & Expo HK 2016

HR Summit & Expo HK 2016

May 05, 2016 05:35 ET

HR Summit & Expo HK 2016 Preview: CEO of Hong Kong Ocean Park Talks About Staff Engagement and Retention for Achieving Business Success

HONG KONG, CHINA--(Marketwired - May 5, 2016) -  Every corporation experiences transformation, from aspiration to expectation, in the process of achieving development goals, and staff engagement & commitment are crucial to keep things on track, according to Tom Mehrmann, Chief Executive, Ocean Park Corporation.

After its Master Redevelopment Plan (MRP) launched from 2006 to 2012, Ocean Park changed from a regional park to an international destination theme park with its visitor capacity skyrocketing from 3 million to 7.8 million, employee numbers boosted from 600 to 2,400, and revenue, as well as cash reserves increased to be able to cover the expenditure in the next 10 years.

Recalling the beginning of the MRP, Tom said it was all about aspiration. They wanted so much to stablise the business by further developing the park thereby to increase attendance, revenue and build cash reserve.

Ocean Park experienced steady declines between 1998 and 2003 due to a number of environmental factors including the financial crisis, swine flu, avian flu and SARS. When Tom became the Chief Executive of Ocean Park in 2004, he immediately worked together with the staff and with Allan Zeman, the Chairman of Ocean Park, to come up with the MRP.

When the MRP got approved within a year, Tom had another important issue to consider: how to lead the team to proceed?

"At that time we could definitely invest further in building bigger facilities and greater rides. But we also needed capable staff, which I consider them as the software, to drive the hardware. Therefore we had to make sure that we could retain them and make the team grow further with the Park as well," said Tom.

The first thing Tom did was to inform the staff that the Park would soon embark on an extreme transformational change to becoming a world-class theme park, followed by a set of aspirational target goals which provided clearer directions for the staff to follow.

When it comes to retaining staff, it is always important to know how they feel about the job and working environment, and data is the best tool to reflect the employees' state of mind. Therefore Tom and his human resources department conducted engagement surveys to understand how the full-time employees felt about the Park, as well as their employment situation, and the result was surprising.

"We found that our team had very positive attitudes about the park. They thought they had a kind of spiritual connection with the Park and they even saw it as their family, since they had been working through the difficult periods together and they were steeled by their experiences," said Tom.

The result of the staff engagement survey was also satisfactory, yet Tom realised that the engagement rate slightly dropped from survey to survey over the years despite the fact they had addressed the specific drivers of engagement identified in each survey, and he found that the fundamental reason leading to lower engagement was an unfulfilled "employment value proposition" to address the high expectation of the new hires to the park for what they could anticipate from the employment experience.

"Existing employees understand the Park therefore it is easier for them to be engaged. However for the newcomers, they do not know much about the Park and they are not sure about what the Park can do for them. In this case, what we need to do is to communicate and deliver an employment value proposition with them, to help them realise that they actually have a lot of opportunities here and we will help them grow," Tom explained.

"We also had to bear in mind that different generations of employees had different expectations of their employers. In the past, people simply felt grateful when they were offered a job with stable income, but now young people did not only concern themselves with the money, but also the corporate image. They hoped that their employer would contribute to the community and were responsible to the society as well," Tom added.

The staff retention in Ocean Park had been successful and with the effort devoted by all the staff members, the MRP was completed on time, on budget and with exceptional quality in 2012, turning the Park into a leading world-class family travel destination and winning the prestigious Liseberg Applause Award in the same year.

With the aspirational goals being achieved, Ocean Park had to go further in order to stay competitive.

"In the past I used to ask my team members how many of them desire success and they were eager to raise their hands," said Tom, "But now I have changed the question to how many of you expect success because I want them to realise that they should no longer hope for achieving better, as they have already done it. Now they are all expected to do their best to maintain the existing service standard."

Tom continued that expectational goals would certainly create some pressure, anxiety and nervousness to the team, but he did not worry at all, as all of those would be very helpful to encourage his team to improve. And most importantly, the team was constantly hungry for change and innovation and they would certainly strive for the best.

Tom Mehrmann is among business leaders and HR professionals speaking at the HR Summit & Expo Hong Kong.

HR Summit & Expo HK 2016 will have 25 business leaders and HR professionals providing actionable strategies for establishing a sustainable workplace and enhancing business performance. Through keynote presentations, small group discussions, workshops, case studies and debates, a wide range of important topics will be covered in the two-day event, including: leadership, change management, HR investment, talent acquisition, retention and management, training and development, employee engagement, corporate culture and social responsibility, workplace inclusion, performance assessment and enhancement, and much more.

HR Summit & Expo HK 2016 takes place from 12 to 13 May in Hall 1A of the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre (HKCEC). Conference tickets are now available at a variety of price options. For bookings, the full speaker list and the conference agenda, please visit: www.hrsummit.com.hk.

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