As at the end of March 2013, the department was staffed by 8 202 civil servants. Apart from fulfilling new service demands, additional civil service staff were deployed to fill existing vacancies and replace non-civil service contract (NCSC) staff in public libraries to enable us to offer better frontline services. To man new facilities and services and enhance existing services, the department expects to further strengthen its workforce with around 250 new posts in 2013-14.
Employment Situation for NCSC Staff
NCSC staff are employed by the department under the NCSC Staff Scheme to meet service and operational requirements. They are mainly responsible for providing support services in LCSD venues or offices, and are deployed for general administrative support, frontline and customer services, technical support, and information technology services.
Over recent years, the department has made good progress in replacing 800 positions identified for replacement under the special review of NCSC staff by the Civil Service Bureau in 2006. In addition, the department has replaced some 280 NCSC positions with civil service posts by phases in recent years, following a review of the mode of governance in public museums and a review of frontline and support services in public libraries. The number of NCSC staff is expected to decrease as continued efforts are being made to convert NCSC positions with long-term service needs into civil service posts.
Recruitment of Civil Service Staff
The department conducted recruitment exercises for the posts of Amenities Assistant III, Assistant Librarian, and Assistant Manager, Cultural Services in 2012-13. Around 390 new recruits reported for duty in the period, filling existing vacancies and taking up new posts in various grades to cope with new service demands and to replace NCSC positions.
Staff Training and Development
The department’s Training Section offered a wide range of programmes in 2012-13.
Growing environmental awareness and public concern for tree management increased the need for tree specialists. The Training Section organised professional training to boost the professional arboricultural knowledge of staff involved in this area.
During the year, the focus of training was on tree inspection, pathology, risk assessment, remedial tree surgery and old and valuable tree (OVT) management, with the aim of improving curative measures for problematic trees. The training programme included 10 courses on Visual Tree Inspection and Remedial Tree Surgery for about 150 staff; one Tree Hazard Assessment Course with Integrated Assessment (LANTRA Professional Tree Inspection Qualification) in February 2013 for 10 Leisure Services Managers and Amenities Assistants; a number of Thematic Arboriculture seminars attended by over 400 staff; one Specialist Arboriculture training course for 31 staff; and an OVT Management Training Programme for 31 staff.
In June and December 2012, we organised re-certification training programmes for the International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborists. As a result, 26 Leisure Services Managers and Amenities Assistants were re-certified for this professional qualification. We also arranged training for other recognised qualifications, including the Professional Diploma in Arboriculture (CUHK), the BSc (Hon) Degree in Arboriculture (UK), the Arboriculture Level 3 BTEC Diploma/Extended Diploma (UK), the Certificate Course on Subtropical Urban Tree Care (Hawaii), and Tree Surgery for Craftsmen (UK).
Striving for service excellence is one of the department’s core missions. The Training Section provides comprehensive customer service training to Cultural Services Branch staff. In 2012-13, the very popular Know Your Customers, Serve Better series featured a wide variety of seminars, highlights of which were seminars on Decoding Children’s Psychology and on The Visually Impaired and their Guide Dogs. This latter customised training was designed to give staff the knowledge and skills needed to welcome guide dogs at cultural services venues. By learning more about the needs of different customers, staff were able to evaluate and improve their service standards.
In support of the department’s goal of creating an inclusive society and improving access for the visually impaired, the Training Section organised a course on web accessibility. People with disabilities were invited to share the difficulties they encountered in using websites, in a way that helped staff understand the importance of ensuring that websites are accessible to all. The training also covered common pitfalls and introduced some best designs and practices for improving website accessibility.
Staff also received training in Mobile and Social Media Marketing, in the form of a 2-day fundamental course and three seminars. Pioneers in various digital fields shared the spotlight in the first two seminars, introducing the latest trends and sharing their successes. The third seminar was hosted by the Hong Kong Observatory; in it, they disclosed how they initiated their mobile App, My Observatory, overcame early failures, and then relaunched their refined version with resounding success.
To further raise professional standards, the Training Section organised structured training in museology, librarianship, arts administration and performing arts appreciation. It also arranged training in such important areas as leadership, audience building, intellectual property rights, crowd and emergency management, fund-raising, stage and technical management, and Administrative Law.
Staff were also given opportunities to broaden their cultural knowledge by taking part in overseas training, and internship programmes or exchanges with prestigious international cultural institutions. The valuable experience and knowledge thus gained have enabled them to plan our public events even more imaginatively, helping Hong Kong retain its status as a world-class events capital.
The Training Section continued to organise Occupational Health and Safety (OSH) training programmes to ensure a safe and healthy environment for all staff, as well as for customers visiting our premises or participating in our activities. This year, over 600 staff received training in the use of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs), and received relevant certification. Other general OSH courses , such as Prevention of Violence in the Workplace, Breakaway Techniques, Avoiding Snake Bites, Dog Behaviour, Fire Prevention, and Electrical Safety, helped raise occupational safety awareness among frontline staff.
We also continued to offer competence certificate courses, such as the Mandatory Basic Safety Training Course, the General Safety for Workers in Confined Spaces and Revalidation Course, the Certificate of Competence in Display Screen Equipment Assessment, and the Certificate of Competence in Manual Handling. In addition, the Training Section organised OSH management courses for district and venue safety officers, including, among others, Basic Safety Management Training and General Training on Occupational Safety and Health for District/Venue Safety Officers.
In 2012-13, the department continued a government initiative to offer temporary jobs to young people through two schemes: the Swimming Pool Trainee (SPT) scheme and the Beach Trainee (BT) scheme. Under these schemes, the Training Section provided four to six months’ training to 36 young people, all of whom passed tests to gain lifeguard qualifications. These graduates were then able to find jobs in public and private aquatic venues, with some applying to join as civil service lifeguards.
Our Training Section also delivered a number of regular programmes covering various leisure and cultural services disciplines, as well as providing training in general knowledge and skills, supervisory management, language and communication, computer software applications, and IT.
Overall, 2012-13 was a productive year for staff training. In the year under review, we offered a total of 17 444 training places to all grades and ranks, including NCSC and ex-Council contract staff. According to trainee feedback, our training programmes were seen as generally effective.
Staff Relations and Communication
The department enjoys good staff relations as a result of its commitment to maintaining excellent communication.
Management maintains regular contact with staff through meetings of the Departmental Consultative Committee and the General Grades Consultative Committee, and meetings with staff unions. In addition, ad hoc meetings, informal gatherings and briefings are held to discuss issues of mutual concern. The Director of Leisure and Cultural Services also meets with staff and union representatives to obtain a better understanding of their concerns, and take appropriate action.
Individual needs are given equal attention. The Staff Relations ‒ Staff Welfare Unit attends to requests and enquiries from staff regarding welfare and other concerns. Staff are encouraged to make suggestions about improving and streamlining the department’s operations and management.
The department also organises recreational activities such as the annual karaoke contest. To enhance team spirit, we also organise popular special-interest classes on such topics as horticulture and physical fitness.
The departmental Volunteer Team and 15 sports teams are also good outlets for worthwhile activities. This year, the Volunteer Team visited residents of a home for the elderly. We also made arrangements for underprivileged families to attend the annual Hong Kong Flower Show. Our sports teams participated in various open and inter-departmental competitions.
The quarterly Staff Newsletter continues to prove another effective medium for good staff communication.
Recognition plays a key role in building a motivated and committed workforce. Staff who have served well for 20 years or more are eligible for consideration for Long and Meritorious Service Certificates and Long and Meritorious Service Travel Awards. In 2012-13, 132 staff received Certificates of Merit for their meritorious service.
The department also nominates staff for external commendations. In 2012-13, five of our staff members received commendations from the Secretary for the Civil Service for their consistently excellent day-to-day performance. We are particularly proud of the three officers who received awards from the Chief Executive at the 2012 Honours and Awards Ceremony in recognition of their exceptional service.
The department’s Customer Appreciation Card Scheme is a channel by which staff can receive direct customer feedback. Staff are also encouraged to develop and improve their service standards through the Staff Suggestion Scheme and Work Improvement Teams. In 2012-13, a competition was held among Work Improvement Teams in Parks and Playgrounds.
Customer focus is a core value of the department. In 2012-13, we received more than 14 500 appreciation cards and over 1 300 compliments from our customers. This represented a very encouraging increase over the previous year, especially for our frontline staff.