Why China Doesn’t Export World-Class CEOs – WSJ.com

Why China Doesn’t Export World-Class CEOs – WSJ.com.

China suffers from a shortage of top talent, despite its enormous pool of university graduates, with 7.3 million more expected in 2014

Western companies aren’t always the employer of choice in China anymore. State-owned enterprises and private companies are bidding for home-grown talent. 

The brightest workers in China get promoted quickly. On average, it takes 15 years for someone to move

 from intern to CEO in China, compared with 25 years outside China, according to Aon Hewitt. 





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.


Next Generation HR Leadership

HR Leadership Challenge; Fotolia © Andres Rodriguez
HR Leadership Challenge
Fotolia © Andres Rodriguez

Over the past year, there have been several CEO leadership changes in the high-tech industry.  To name two big titans, Intel and Microsoft CEOs have announced their respective early retirements.  These market giants  were slow in pentrating into the mobile market, where mobile devices have taken the lead from the PC industry.  Shareholders and corporate board have put pressure on them to come up with new strategies to regain market share.

CEOs play a critical role in transforming companies and industries.  Chief Human Resources Officers play an equal role in supporting CEOs with corporate initiatives.


1.  What defines the next generation leader?  What are some key qualities?

  • The business landscape is changing and fast.  As fast as the world is changing next generation leaders need to change faster to stay ahead.  Business leaders must be able to cope with multi-lateral macro-economies, geo-political, social-environmental and government and governance on a global scale.
  • In addition to running the company’s core business, leaders must build alliances with upstream/downstream suppliers; grow eco-system partners; and manage governmental stakeholders.
    • For example, everything in China is political. Business leaders need to align business strategy to the government’s new slogan “China Dream,” to enable economic growth for the nation.  Everything is also personal in China.  Attracting, hiring and retaining talent is a contact sport.  Leaders need to get involved in their employees to provide professional and personal support.
  • Leadership need to be flexible.  The war for talent is as intensive as ever and the landscape for talent is changing, especially for those born in the post-1980s (Gen Y).  They demand both flexibility and purpose at work.  The best leaders need to be inspirational in order to retain the new generation moving up the management ranks.


2.  In terms of HR leadership specifically, what does the next-generation leader embody?

  • The HR profession has come a long way moving from administrators to business partners, then to strategic partners.  The next generation requires HR to be business leaders delivering to the company’s bottom line.
  • Classroom training is often the solution for a development gap in an organization.  However, HR needs to take on a more active position in people performance.  The next generation of HR will be held to a higher accountability where the training and other people development programs result in tangible external business impact.  In addition to training company employees next generation HR will need to take into consideration vendors, service providers and customers into the training needs equation.
  • Another area is big data.  Today HR professional are continuing to improve internal process efficiencies through canter of excellence and HR information systems.  The day has emerged where HR leading from the front has the ability to extract data for even greater strategic insight.  Companies are already tapping into data for product research and development.  HR will need to focus on the people aspect for integrated talent solution.


3.  How do you identify next-generation leaders in your organisation? How early on do you do this? And what steps do you take to engage them?

  • Typically HR will start by using a succession planning and HiPo (high potential) employee assessment process.  They will also develop a talent pipeline for critical skills as part of their workforce planning process.  However, while these steps are needed it does not go deep enough.  While HR is looking at the top layer it doesn’t solve the leadership needs for the rest of the organization.
  • As discussed earlier, the next generation leaders have the capacity to make market shifts by cultivating a sphere of influence of suppliers, tangential business partners and expanding customer base.
  • For HR, only by developing an integrated organization capability solution, from top to bottom and across, will people professional enable next generation capabilities in their organization.
  • Next generational leadership isn’t about an inspirational individual but it takes a team of leaders to bring about greater impact of business growth in a growing complex global environment.


4.     What sort of leadership development initiatives will help them cope with new business realities? What do they need to learn?

  • Businesses have already figured this out.  In order to sustain business growth, leaders seek out investment capital for new innovations.  They form strategic alliances to expand into new markets.  They go through mergers and acquisitions to attain new intellectual property and related assets.  They might spin-off a division in order to let fledging organization survive.
  • True for most organizations, HR does not have a huge budget for leadership development program.  HR leadership can take a page from business strategies and how it developments human capital.  Earlier, I suggested that HR need to take into consideration external training gaps (not just internal employees).  This suggests that HR need to build internal and externally linking programs.
  • Taking a page from business, HR talent development teams can build alliances within the same industry for core or fundamental skills at a lower cost (cost is shared with external partner HR).  Participants now have an opportunity to learn from industry peers (gaining greater business insight).  From a developmental approach, future leaders gain tremendous experience by taking training on the road with alliance partners.  Partners begin to view them as industry leaders, forging relationships that will be beneficial to both organizations.
  • HR may be concerned with divulging proprietary internal training and development programs.  Some might be worried about their key talent being hired away by competitors.  Businesses leaders have a history of partnering with “frenemies.”  HR should be doing the same.

Finally, being a true HR business partner being involved in having a “seat at the table” means the ability to staying ahead of the curve with critical business decisions.  Don’t let yourself become expired but, stay relevant.


This blog post was inspired by a set of interview questions from the HRM Magazine for an upcoming feature article on Next Generation Leadership.


Enhanced by Zemanta

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

Some rights reserved by Bohan Shen_沈伯韩 http://www.flickr.com/photos/antonis/8513582105/
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.


Enhanced by Zemanta

5 Mega HR Trends – From The Chapman Consulting Group

CGThe Chapman Consulting Group just completed their Beijing visit on Nov 7.  Below are the trending HR topics from their perspective.  The Chapman group has grown from a Singapore HR boutique to global search firm.  They work with Multinationals in placing HR people into companies located in Asia and also international minded HR leaders into global HR roles.  Their perspective is especially insightful especially with the reach they have into HR community whom they source for and companies where they place candidates.

Chapman Group’s 5 Mega Trends

  1. Employee size is getting larger and geographically complex
  2. Competition to attract talent is intensifying
  3. Large organizations are not necessarily being better.  Need to articulate their talent brand
  4. Talent wanting more choices in their careers
  5. Technology is shaping the speed and efficiency of business

Employee & Organization Size

Emerging markets continue to be the focus for many companies.  Companies are dependent on these regions for market growth.  In order to tap into these markets, companies are faced with decisions with both of how to structure their organization and the optimal placement of leaders and decision makers.  Many companies are seeing headcount growth in emerging market regions, often time, growing at a fast rate than at headquarters.

Leading Companies Are:

  • Moving leadership to emerging markets
    • this means placing leadership into emerging markets
    • these could be expat roles or locally hired
    • but, companies acknowledge that having key leaders in the region enables faster decision making with on-the-ground insight
  • Increasing regional and international movement of talent
    • these job rotation or short-term assignments helps with developing global market knowledge
    • create internal network for better cross-regional collaboration
  • Moving pillars of business, if not the whole divisions, to emerging markets
    • For those companies who are in China as a “sell to” market,  it is cheaper to move the business closer to the consumer base
  • Making hiring decisions based on talent
    • Progressive companies are hiring the best person regardless of location.  For example, some companies may place a regional role in Beijing, and not regional HQ, if that is where they are finding the best talent
  • [China Specific]:  The Chapman Group is not finding as many Chinese business leaders moving out of China as compared to the past.  Instead, there are many more Chinese returning to China due to the rising economic strength of and job opportunities in China.

2. Attracting Talent

In The Chapman Group’s work, they are finding that local companies are being very aggressive in attracting talent and competing against multi-national companies.  I am finding that this is the case in my work and industry.  Recently, we saw that Hugo Bara who left Google to join a Xiaomi, a high-profile China smartphone maker, some might know it as the “Apple of China”.

Local companies are fighting hard to gain market share for talent.  This adds complications for companies, both local and multinationals, with another set of competitors in the market.  There could be implications for more cost resulting in potentially higher salaries.  Recruiting will be more difficult for multinational brands as they try to differentiate from local brands.  Local employers will have to increase their human resources talent management system in order to attract and retain employees.

Leading Companies Are:

  • Hiring for talent that not only fit in with the company culture, but also for organization capability.
    • Companies should be assessing whether the candidate has the capacity to grow as the company grows
  • Creating more diverse interview panels to leverage on assessing and evaluating talent
  • Developing talent plans that takes into consideration how to attract local talent, developing that set of talent and, managing for the exits (and acknowledging this will be the case) of those talent to local companies.
  • [China Specific]:  While it may true to that local companies are paying above market for the best talent, with MNC or international experience, company bosses are also expect extremely high results and long working hours.  There are many professionals who find it difficult to adapt to local Chinese company culture and are opting to return to western MNC companies.

3.  Large organisations are not necessarily better

While there are advantages of being a large multinational company it also comes with potential barriers to competing for talent in emerging markets.  Decision making may be slower as approvals may need to be secured from headquarters.  In the region, local businesses are making decisions on the fly.  Agile decision making for key talent needs to be a top priority for multinational companies.  Recruiting for diversity is also an important objective.  Setting up interview teams that reflects the candidates experience and background will help drive for better hires.

Leading Companies Are:

  • Decentralizing their hiring decisions to local leaders to hire people that better reflect the market needs
  • Increasing diversity on interview panels that reflects the local talent market for better and faster hiring decisions
  • Using social media a communication channel for differentiating their global employer brand and local differences

4.  Talent are wanting more choice

Companies need to change their mindset when working with a newer generation in the workforce.  The younger generation may not necessarily stick to a single professional or functional area but are willing to move in and out for their core functions to gain exposure and experience.  More often than not, the younger generation make changes because they may find it boring in their current role and want a change of pace.

As compared to previous generations, job grade promotion is not what draws the current generation to stick around a company.  The Chapman Group noted that very few companies are very good at creating a dynamic work environment for a new generation workforce.

Leading Companies Are:

  • Recognizing that it is acceptable to hire employees with resumes showing shorter tenure and more career breaks
  • Offering stints for geographic and cross-functional mobility
  • Providing opportunities for employees to move in and out of their core functions

5.  Advances in HR Technology

The Chapman Group highlighted that technology is driving significant changes and HR professionals need to understand and harness that information.  Because of this availability of HR systems, this has driven globalization more quickly.  For example, sourcing for applicants is a global process these days.  It used to be applicant databases tended to be country or region specific.  An example of global HR systems could be the likes of LinkedIn.  These HR systems are generating abundant of data, aka Big Data, for decision making.  HR professional need to capitalize on insights generated from their organization data.

Leading Companies Are:

  • Leverage their HR systems for data to their advantage as opposed to being a distraction
  • Fully utilize smarter social media to build stronger employer brand and internal employee interactions


Disclaimer:  I have known The Chapman Consulting Group for many years.  They hosts networking events in the APAC region and I have attended their events in the past.  They do a great job in bringing in HR leaders for discussions on current trending topics in our field.  However, 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.