Talent Management in Emerging Markets (China, Indonesia, India)

In my most recent interview by Sumathi V Selvaretnam of Talent Mgmt CoverHRM Asia I shared my insights on managing talent in China.  In particular, she asked if I can discuss and share my experience on key HR challenges, managing Gen Y or the after 80’s generation (八零后) and approaches to developing talent.

There is no shortages of stories of the level of difficulty companies face in attracting, developing and retaining talent in China.  This will be an ongoing issue for the near term (maybe a bit longer).  But these are the issues HR leaders will need to grapple with and look to strategy and solutions to mitigate negative impact to business results.

A Paradox

In a country with the world’ largest population it remains difficult to find qualified talent to market demands.  Companies face a tremendous uphill battle firstly, to find required talent; secondly, after talent is identified, company HR teams need to provide basic training to get new hires up to speed.

Demand is clearly outstripping supply in labour markets.  Global companies with a strong presence in China are expanding from first-tier cities into second and third-tier cities. Their continued expansion creates and even demand for human resources.

Chinese firms are beginning to build strong global brands with an entrenched foothold in China and now expanding globally. They are now competing against internationally recognised corporations for global market share.

Little Emperors

China categorize their generation groups by decades.  The Gen Ys are those born after 1980’s.  This generational group were born after the cultural revolution but grew up during China’s rapid economic rise.  Another term for China’s Gen Y is “Little Emperors,” who grew up in single child families as a result of China’s single-child policy.  Parents and and two sets of grandparents doted on the child.

China’s Generation Y are also a privileged class who come from a generation of “Little Emperors.”  They have high expectations of the employers and managers, and are eager to climb the corporate ladder.

They don’t realise that beyond the surface level, racking up a few projects does not equate to depth of experience.  Generation Ys will look for other employers for career growth if it is not offered by their current employer.

A Marathon

There is no magic pill to solve China’s talent development needs.  HR need to direct resources to talent development programs and training plans should include both the hard and soft skills.  Given the talent quality is still weak competition for talent is as fierce as ever.  Development talent and leaders in China is a marathon, not a sprint.

Despite growing demand, Chinese universities and technical colleges have not kept up with academic and industrial training to meet the needs of industry.

Internships or other forms of co-curricular education are also not the norm.  This leaves many Chinese graduates ill-equipped for entry-level work…

 Rather than focusing on a single top performer HR directors need to work with business unit heads to identify several replacement players in case the incumbent employee resigns.


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One thought on “Talent Management in Emerging Markets (China, Indonesia, India)”

  1. Wow.. you really have a hard (Human resources) nut to crack in China. All the issues you mentioned here are very real. No wonder I have many close friends and siblings (Baby boomer and GenX) working in china as expats. Some of them came back after many years in China, only to be head-hunted and lured back to work there. I hear until today, it is a struggle to keep up with talent demand (especially management positions).

    I am an Operations Manager, but Human Resource and Talent management are topics of interest and concern for all Managers, not just HR teams. So.. I will be watching your blog. Keep up the good sharing.

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