HR Roundtable – Staffing Challenges in China

SHL and Robert Walters group sponsored a networking session this weeking in Beijing.  Below is a summary of hot topics and daily challenges faced by HR.  I sat with the “technology sector” table and a good number of us are from the telecommunications industry.  I will refrain from using mentioning specific company names but, instead draw upon general concepts for key learning.


Branding – Although a foreign MNC (multi-national company) has a strong brand name in its home country this does not necessarily translate being a strong employer brand in China.  Candidates do not have a deep understanding of the product line, market reach or business scope of the firm.  The public may just have an awareness of one or two key products.  Candidates will generally have a perception of the company based on the product brand or how “famous” it is in China.  The challenge is to overcoming these perceptions and getting the candidate market to better understand that there is more beneath the surface.

Retention – The stories on the war for talent in China is unabated.  Every company, big or small, is facing the same situation.  Seemingly, some companies have taken on the approach of whatever the competitor company’s pay, we’ll just pay a little more.  Firstly, companies are in dire of finding qualfied talent.  Secondly, putting an attractive offer package is difficulty, while the candidate’s current company, will counter offer once learning that a employee is about to resign.  Companies cannot hold on to a counter-offer strategy for long.  It is too expensive.  The challenge is to develop a more proactive method of managing existing talent and keeping them engaged.

Immature Talent – One company at our table is from an internet start-up (although not a small one).  The company is propelled into prominence by the charisma of its CEO, so very true of may start-ups.  As the organiation grows, they are recruiting professional managers to manage the firm.  Unlike other technology sectors, there is a talent base for matured IT talent to draw from.  This is not so for the internet sector.  They talent they have are much younger.  After 1 or 2 years, a young engineer is entrusted to be a team leader or manager, which they do not have the depth and maturity to lead.  However, this one company do not have other choice as the talent does not exist in the market.  The challenge is to grow a start-up into a mature and sustainable organization.

Generation Challenges – New gradudate hires are a major source of talent for companies in China.  The current batch of new grads are of the 80’s generation.  The next batch, the 90’s generation, are starting to enter the workforce in mass.  Our leaders are from the 50-60’s generation and managers are from the 70’s generation.  The life experiences and work expectations requires a unique approach to managing a diverse workforce.

International MNC vs. China MNC – The Chinese government is leading efforts to grow its economy towards a consumption oriented society.  To accomplish this, the government is developing its local companies in to national brands and subsequently into internatinal brands.  This impacts a wide range of industries from manufacturing, FMCG, retail, real estate, etc.  Given the already limited talent pool, the growing competition from local companies are adding to the pressure of finding qualified talent.

While the participants raised these concerns and challenges they face finding a solution is elusive.  We are working in the trenches and slugging through get through the day.  One consolation to know is that we are all facing similar issues with confronting the war on talent in China.

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