Another look at those bank trainees 'working' on a hiking trail

February 14, 2020 08:01
MTR passengers wear protective masks during their morning commute. Photo: Reuters

A photo of six young management trainees at Hang Seng Bank who went hiking together turned viral on social media on Monday: they were supposed to be working from home at the time.

Management trainees are a group of young talents who are trained and groomed as future leaders. Most of previous chief executives of Hang Seng Bank started as management trainees.

At Hang Seng Bank, all management trainees are assigned to different departments over a period of three years. This is to familiarize them with the operation of the whole bank. Senior managers of the bank act as mentors, sharing their experiences with these future leaders.

As such, trainees typically don't have to follow specific projects and won’t get any important assignments during the period, as they spend only three to six months in each section.

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Hong Kong government and some big companies have allowed employees to work from home. These six trainees were supposed to be working from home under such an arrangement.

However, they went hiking together instead, and they even posted their photos on Instagram.

Some netizens have made harsh comments about their behavior, but the incident perhaps reflects a shift in the work attitude of the young generation.

For them, the line between work and recreation is increasingly blurred. They probably think it is alright to go hiking if there is no work to be done. At the same time, they can work almost anywhere as long as they have mobile phones.

They don't believe in official work hours either, as they can hardly ignore WhatsApp messages from their bosses even after they have left the office.

The trainees involved did show a lack of discipline, and they may be subject to some sort of punishment. But at the same time, their employers may have to take into account the changing values of youngsters.

Also, as the banking job keeps evolving, qualities that make good bankers also change.

In the era of artificial intelligence and big data, manual work has been substantially reduced. Nowadays a banker’s job demands more communication, planning and new ideas.

Management job is more about motivating and guiding co-workers. So what the trainees were doing together outside the office, which can be seen as a form of bonding, may be quite positive and essential.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb 13

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist