RPO & StaffingTalent Acquisition

Understanding Employee Attitudes is Key To Talent Challenges in Greater China

Cheap labor in China? Not if you want to tap middle managers with 7 to 15 years of experience. And don’t believe it’s all about the money.

by Paul McGrory

A survey conducted by Futurestep of mid-level professionals in Greater China (including Hong Kong) in late June found that 62 percent labeled themselves either “likely” or “highly likely” to change jobs in the next 12 months, even though that same percentage said their current job is at least “fairly” if not “very” secure.

This reflects one of the main challenges facing companies entering this hyper-competitive talent market, where talent is aggressively seeking new opportunities not only for career development but also financial security.

Interestingly, while more than 55 percent of respondents have updated their CV in the last six months, an inability to find a new, interesting position was the No. 1 reason cited for staying in their current role (49 percent). As a result, they are turning more and more to well-known recruitment firms in addition to online job boards to make the most of what 50 percent of them described as a “stabilizing job market” in China.

A growing part of the end-to-end solutions offered to companies struggling to find talent in China is the development and execution of custom employer branding campaigns that will reach the best job seekers in the most effective way. This is especially true at the middle- management level, as finding people with 7 to 15 years of experience in China is still difficult, and most companies remain more geared toward training junior recruits. Taking a holistic view of their company culture and HR policies is the first step towards creating forward-looking development programs to foster employee loyalty over the longer term.

Some trends that companies need to proactively address in order to attract and retain best-in-class middle managers include:

• Inadequate opportunities for development and advancement exist today. Fewer than a quarter of the professionals surveyed felt there was a strong to definite possibility they would be promoted this year. But when asked what the most significant thing a potential employer could do to make them leave their current company, they said investing in their professional growth and development so they can become a more effective leader (more than 50 percent) was much more important than being offered a higher position (14 percent). Likewise, more than 30 percent said this was the No. 1 issue their current employer is already undertaking to keep them on board.

• Significant salary increases are expected. When considering a new role, a pay increase of at least 25 percent is expected by more than 45 percent of respondents to our survey. Twenty-three percent seek a minimum raise of 20 percent; 17 percent expect 15 percent; and 12 percent are looking for no less than a 10-percent salary hike. Anticipating this need—and recognizing that your current management team is likely to receive very generous offers from the competition—will help you evaluate new ways to balance these financial incentives with stay-on bonuses, tax equalization programs, and development opportunities.

• New cities emerging as attractive for chinese talent. While Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing remain the top three preferred cities to work in, respectively, Guangzhou and Shenzhen vied for fourth place. Suzhou, Dalian, and Wuhan also made the top 10 list, ranking in that order.

In the past, relocation to the major Chinese cities was viewed by many professionals as a hardship posting, but today many Chinese expatriates (from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore) are actively seeking opportunities in mainland China to fast-track their career. A China posting is seen as a hot ticket for advancement for regional expats due to the rapid pace of the country’s economic development and prosperity. Companies that offer job rotations within this vast market as part of their ongoing employee development initiatives can often minimize churn and foster loyalty and job satisfaction.

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