Category Archives: China

HR Implications for the China Wireless Industry


The biggest import industry for China is the semiconductor industry. Semiconductors, the heart of the electronics industry, are components in all facets of the consumer market. Everyone knows that the microprocessor is the heart of a computer. Semiconductors are not only in satellites and automobiles but also in daily consumer goods such as refrigerators, microwave ovens and rice cookers. It is also in things such as TV remote controls and calculators. In fact, anything with an on and off switch has a semiconductor in it.

Semiconductors in mobile devices has been making significant gains in the telecommunications industry. Mobile phones have combined the tool for making phone calls to become cameras, music player, digital wallet and health tracking devices. Tablets have become full functional computing devices and displacing laptop computers. Telecommunications semiconductor industry have changed the computing industry.

Competition for market share is moving at a cut-throat pace. There have been a number of industry consolidation, less competitive companies being merged or acquired. Meanwhile, those without suitors have faced closure. In the recent several years, the industry have seen companies such as Texas Instruments, ST Ericsson, and most recently Broadcom have decided to shut its wireless/baseband business due to intense competition.

While Western companies (US and European) companies are facing closure due to market place pressures they are being replaced by Asian based companies with increasing design and wireless component expertise.

Chinese privately owned companies have been emerged into global brands in recent years. Companies such as Xiaomi and Lenovo have emerged to become internationally recognized brands.

Demand of Wireless Talent

The landscape for which Western MNC to recruit talent are seeing a gradual shift towards Asia. At the same time, as Chinese companies are looking to expand into international markets they are hiring employees with MNC experience to help with the growth.

While there is insatiable demand for highly-skill technical talent this shift towards an Asia-based market for wireless and mobile industry has several implications for talent acquisition and talent management. There is obviously implications for Western companies. Similarly, there is implications for Chinese-based companies with this changing talent landscape.

For Western companies: The challenge of inculcating culture is the biggest. With the shuttering of Western mobile semiconductor companies there will be fewer candidates with “western” work skills in the labor market. Western-based companies doing business in Asia will need to increase training for cross-culture integration.

For Chinese companies: As Chinese telecommunications companies are expanding into global markets they are snapping up talent with MNC experience to help them grow. As these new hires are being brought into companies this will naturally create a different dynamic and an increasingly heterogenous culture – a combination of both Chinese and MNC management experience. Chinese companies will have a learning and adapt itself from a Chinese to become a global company culture.

For Western companies: As western MNCs are closing down business divisions in Asia and in China, there will be fewer management talent available. This will be the case for management skills with western MNC experience. Over the next few years, it is highly possible that Western MNCs will be recruiting management employees that are grounded on Asian-based management practices.

For Chinese companies: Chinese companies are attempting to evolve their management style to a more global approach. In order to accomplish this, Chinese-based companies are also recruiting for the same western MNC talent as their competitor. Chinese companies are also facing the same shortage of western-MNC talent.

For Western companies: Only until recently it was the western MNCs who were seen as top employers to work for. Increasingly, Chinese telecommunications companies are winning best employer awards. With prospects of becoming an IPO company prospective employees are choosing to work for Chinese companies in the mobile industry. Thus, loosing talent to Chinese- based companies is becoming an increasing threat to employee retention for western-MNCs.

For Chinese companies: There are distinct differences between MNC and Chinese company culture. Employee who formally worked for western MNCs are finding challenges with working for Chinese companies. For example, long-work hours and 6 to 7 day work weeks takes a toll on work life balance. Top-down management limits a egalitarian decision making that western MNC workers are used to. Some of these employees are leaving the Chinese company and returning to western MNC work environment.

As this article is attempting to demonstrate, the demise of Western telecommunications semiconductor industry players is creating a talent chasm for western companies as the shift towards an Asian base talent pool is more pronounced than ever. Workforce planning, talent acquisition strategies, talent development and retention must take into consideration this shift towards an Asian talent base. New strategies and different tactics are needed to continue meet the on-going talent demands in the age of mobile.

HR Data Analytics – Case Use by HR Organziations

© Ogerepus - Fotolia
© Ogerepus – Fotolia

The Chapman Consulting Group just completed their Spring HR leaders meeting in Beijing on May 15.  This time Lenovo hosted the session at their Beijing headquarter office.

The topic for this round is centered around Managing Global HR in the age of ‘Big Data’.

  • What companies are doing to optimise talent and HR systems in parallel with the advent of global and regional Centres of Excellence;
  • The increased use of data and analytics as another tool of Global HR management; and
  • The effect this is having on the type of HR Leader progressing within the profession.

This theme is consistent with their #1 trending HR focus areas for 2014.

I have captured key points from the meeting below.


Lenovo – Shared Services

Lenovo, the world’s leader in the PC industry, had just implemented a global HR system, making the switch by eliminating several disparate systems into a global solution.   While they have done all the requisite change management requirements with organisation stakeholders, they are seeing that people still like to do things the “old way.”  How true!  People hate to change.

While Lenovo made a clear stand that all everyone need to adopt and utilise the new system they do have a VIP process for their top key executives.  The VIP allows for telephone hotline and/or email communication to a HR professional for assistance.  However, everyone else is expected to utilise the new self-service model.

The benefit of going global with their new HR system is now they have the ability to manage their workforce under one roof.  Previously, HR was unable to access “real time” data and instead, was managing people with spreadsheets.


Pfizer – Improving Retention

Employee retention is a huge risk in the pharmaseutical industry in China.  Industry average is around 25-30% turn-over each year.

Pfizer is the global largest pharmaceutical player and is also the largest in China.  Even Pfizer is not immune to the high turnover rate.  In fact, competitor companies target their employees, because they are the largest.

To combat turnover and improve retention they turned to “big data” to better understand drivers of turnover – they created an employee profile of turn-over drivers.  The profile Pfizer developed is employee specific with a “risk score.”

Pfizer partnered with a consulting company to develop the analysis tool combining existing employee data and against employees who left the company.  By looking at former employee profiles they then were able to map those to existing employee enabling Pfizer to see trending issues that may cause turnover.  Seeing this information ahead of time allows HR to partner with BU leads to take proactive actionable steps.

Some examples of high risk dimension include:  employees where are a rehire (they have already left once), short-time with a manager (have not developed a strong bonding with the direct manager), and long tenure in a role (it’s time to refresh with a new focus).  I was thinking these are all indicators of high risk turnover by itself.  So, why do you need to do a study?  The genius is that employee turnover is multi-dimension.  Not one thing by itself are drivers of turn-over but, by combining all the various turnover drivers and employee profile, you begin to see a multifaceted profile of their employees – HR and BU can then take multiple tracks to drive retention.


Qualcomm* – Use a Data Analytics 

Qualcomm has a dedicated data analytics team.  That team started in 2008 and was a small group who was responsible for generating large HR data but, on spreadsheet format.  Over the years, Analytics Team went on to focus on benchmarking to creating data visualisation and now focusing on predictive modelling for the company.

Qualcomm human resources has the ability to pull up dashboard data an a click of a button.  This is information is globally accurate and with the ability to do drill downs by organisation, business function, geography and employee types etc.  This enables Qualcomm HR, at all levels – HRVP to HR specialist, to have the same data points, at any time.

The analytics team also conducts research projects analysing the success of a merger and acquisitions project.  The team created a social network analysis / model indicating the strength on network and social ties.  In a M&A, one would typically want to see the newly acquired company integrate into the overall company.  The faster employees integrate the greater the success outcome.  Creating such a model allows Qualcomm to analyse and visualise social interactions to gain insight on who were the “bridge builders,” those who were the best at helping with integrating after a merger.


Doosan – Don’t Over Do It With Data

Doosan is a Korean-based conglomerate.  The HRVP reminded us that sometimes over use of data can be detrimental to business decision.  Instead of using judgement, managers often ask project analysts or HR for more data to help with their decision making.  With the data provided, business will ask for more next level data, to back up the high-level data.  Analyze the data, analyse more data, then the data paralyses you.  By the time the data is complete that the information is out of date and decision window is closed.  How often have we faced this before?  The presenter was so right on with this point.

In HR, we also have metrics and data to measure our performance.  The roundtable participants all have HR KPI scores they manage to.  One hotelier HR said that after a HR systems implementation that their HR satisfaction scores dropped.  I thought that after any large project implementation that one would expect a drop (remember that people hate changes).  Instead of managing to the dropped score HR should be managing to improving the score and maybe, that scoring criteria will be different from the prior standard but, the processes and systems have changed.

Doosan further explains that in a business downturn, for example, HR is expected to manage employee reductions.  So, what happens if HR is successful with meeting the employee reduction targets and morale KPIs are on track yet, the business continues to decline.  Doosan HR further suggests that we use experience and judgement to help the business.  Data is only one part of the story.


This wraps the summary of key points by each presenter.  The Chapman Consulting Group always does a good job with brining together a group of HR leaders from various industries for sharing and networking.


*I am employed by Qualcomm.  However, the information contained within is the opinion of the author and not that of my employer. All company and/or product names may be trade names, trademarks and/or registered trademarks of the respective owners with which they are associated. Furthermore, this blog post does not represent an endorsement of their products and services and I have woven my own experience in this post. This is for informational purposes only. There is no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information.
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McKinsey Greater China – Would you want to be a Chinese university graduate?

McKinsey Greater China – Would you want to be a Chinese university graduate?.

More than 15% of graduates were unemployed 2 months after graduation in 2013. And when they do find a job, it is often not what they had prepared or hoped for. Instead, it is often a fairly prospect-less role

The relative return of a degree is diminishing as urban salaries of those without university education converge with those that do – the former rising from 40% of the latter in 2006, to over 80% in 2012.


China’s Toughest Human Resource Issue in 2013 – Air Quality

Some rights reserved by Bohan Shen_沈伯韩
Photo Credit: Some rights reserved by Bohan Shen沈伯韩

I am an expat working and living in China for the past 2 years.  It has been a tremendous experience for me and family.  It is an experience of a lifetime learning and adapting to a new culture.  I have the privilege of blending my work and life in this country.

As a HR professional, dealing with the “war for talent,” engagement, talent development and retention are on-going topics for me and other HR confront while doing business in China.

However, at the end of the first two years, there is one thing that I cannot overlook – China’s deteriorating air and other environmental problems.  It is a constant and daily reminder of physiological and psychological impact.  I monitor the air quality index on my mobile phone each morning as I wake up.  Wearing face masks is as common as I wear my socks and shoes to go out each day.  I get on busy subway train and face the pushing and shoving as ordinary citizens do each day.

This has caused me to rethink what sustainable life means for its people working in big (and small, for that matter) cities in China.  This should be, if not already, a human resource topic that needs to be addressed now.

Deteriorating Air Environment

Since the US embassy started to publish an AQI (Air Quality Index) from its website and likewise, China has started to publish its own data.  There is greater awareness and transparency for better environmental and air quality.

Fewer expats and foreign special talent are willing to come to China.  We saw earlier this year that a number of “old China hands” were leaving China, in part due to the degrading air quality environment.  Others were declining new assignments to come to China.  This is especially true of expats with families and small children.

Middle and upper management skills continue to be scarce in China.  Companies continue to rely on expats for knowledge and skills transfer.  Thus, it is taking companies longer to find internal candidates willing to take on China assignments.  There may be more cost for companies and “hazard pay” and additional home leaves may be needed for expat assignments.

Chinese employees are feeling the impact of high air-pollution levels as well.  I have been hearing more employees asking about internal transfers to the US.  In part, they are concerned about the deteriorating air quality on their young children.  High costs of housing and grueling education for their children are other reasons.

Apple and Toyota are just two among a growing number of companies who are resorting to providing face masks to employees.  Companies are installing air purifying systems in offices and have the potential of making this as a new aspect of employee benefit.

Social Environmental Stress

Chinese HR leaders see the impact of other social environment impacting employee morale and engagement.  In addition to normal work stress, employees come to work at a higher stress levels.  South China Morning Post cited a Regus survey on employee workplace stress and found that Mainland China saw the biggest number of stressed workers with 75 per cent of the 355 respondents polled reporting a rise in stress levels from 18 months ago – 25 per cent higher than the global average.

Sources of stress include job-related career development, time management and constant change in organizational direction.

Daily life of commuting to and from work is another source of stress.  Watch is video of people pushing and shoving of over-crowded buses and subways.  Employees go through this twice per day, going to working and returning home.

In this video, Tencent News depicts various sources of anxiety and stress felt by young Chinese professionals.

Impact on Business

Businesses say it is tough to curtail air pollution while trying to maintain China’s economic growth target.  However, when air quality is in the stratosphere, planes can’t fly, government is halting vehicles on the roads and factories faces shut down.  The city of Harbin, a city of 11 million people, came to a grinding halt in October.  Shanghai, China’s financial center, also came to to a hitting record high on its pollution index.  The government ordered school shutdowns, limited automobile traffic and its airports were closed.  There is direct impact to businesses and China future economic growth if air quality issues persists.

Topics for Human Resources

There doesn’t appear to be any social cushion to help people manage and cope.  People can’t run away from the air.  With China’s rapid rise economically, this is causing strain on people trying to catch up with “The Jones,” as the saying goes.

These employee angst are seeping into the workplace and has an impact on employee engagement, mental health and other effects.  It isn’t too much of a stretch to think that environmental issues will take a toll on employees and their focus at work.  An increase in employees going to hospitals to treat smog related illnesses disrupts productivity at work and see increase costs for medical treatment and potential, see increase costs on medical insurance premiums.

Is giving out N95 face masks to employees enough?  Is there more that we can do?  Please provide your ideas below.


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Chinas Generation Y Is Changing Office Culture – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Chinas Generation Y Is Changing Office Culture – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

The Gen Y, post-80’s generation, are becoming an even greater population of the workforce.  They have now been in the workforce and gaining experience.  They want greater advancement more than ever.  On the other hand, the post-90’s generation are now entering the work place.  It is becoming an even more greater challenge for managers and human resources to create a dynamic workplace that can cater to the needs of this generation.

26-year-old Hazel Wang decided to quit despite not having another job lined up.

“It was a huge decision for me,” said the former Shanghai resident. “But I felt the old job could not help me achieve my self-actualization goals.”


report issued earlier this year by human

-resources consultancy AonHewitt found that members of Gen Y, which the findings of this survey describe as people born in the 1980s, became the main age component in China’s talent market in 2012.

“If you want to have post-80s employees, you have to make the workplace more inclusive and more creative,” Ms. Lu said. “Gen Ys don’t just want to execute orders, they want to participate in decision making.”

As this younger generation becomes a bigger part of the workforce, many Chinese companies—including both state-owned and independent firms—are overhauling human-resource management to attract and keep this vital demographic.

What are you and your company doing to keep the Chinese Gen Y’s engaged?  Leave your comments below.



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