Employee Engagement – A Perspective from China

silhouette at sunsetI attended an AmCham China session on employee engagement in  Beijing.  Specifically, the discussions was on how companies doing business in China can create a strong employee value proposition to enhance employee engagement.  The organizers, Towers Watson and Fortune China also introduced the survey, 2011 The Best Companies to Work For Survey.

Below are a few key discussion points on employee engagement from the session:


  • Employees in China have strong engagement levels.  However, survey data also indicate they are continue to look for new opportunities.
  • China employees are quite optimistic about the job market; 46% (China) vs. 21% (global).

Dissatisfy with Pay

  • Relative to the US, Chinese employees satisfaction with pay is low.
  • While money is never enough, it is important to understand the life situation for the Chinese employees.  They have mounting financial obligations.
    • Due to China’s single child policy, the current generation are responsible for caring for their aging parents.  Additionally, their families are expecting them to purchase a home (in a skyrocketing property market).

Drive for Career Development

  • A key reason for joining a new company is career development.
    • In the China context, development is equivalent to job promotion.  Why?  To a large extent, it is about keeping up with their peers.  If their classmates are all at a certain career point, they too must be a the same level.  It’s about maintaining social status and saving face.
    • In contrast, compared to Western expectations, career development opportunities could mean new project assignments.

Increasing Expectation of Leaders

  • The basic elements such as customer business development, hitting financial targets and deliverables expected by the company still hold true.
  • However, the most desirable characteristics valued by employees of a leader include care, encourages development and trust worthiness.
    • Employees are expecting their managers and employers to care about and for then.

Entitlement Mentality in Benefits

  • When asked who workers believe should be responsible for employees’ long-term benefits in the next 5 years, 40% say the responsibility belongs to the government; 32% say it’s the company they work for; only 27% say it is the employee’s own responsibility.
  • Tie this expectation to the expectations of leaders, employees place an increasing burden of management leadership and employers to have policy and programs to take care of employee’s long-term welfare.

“After 80’s” Generation

  • The population born after 1980’s is the “Gen Y” of the Chinese generation.  Employers need to understand the aspiration of this group in order to maintain high engagement and low turn-over.
    • 43% of the “After 80’s” in surveys say they will change jobs for better opportunities.

The are 6 key areas important in developing an effective employee engagement approach specific to Chinese employees.  Their life situation, social expectations, and aspirations is unique compared to their western peers.

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