Filling Critical Roles in China

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I recently finished a study looking at the top talent challenges facing corporations in China. With an extremely competitive job market, it's no surprise that one of the biggest challenges is filling gaps in leadership positions and other critical roles.

For senior leadership positions, expats are no longer the dominant leadership structure in most large Chinese multinationals (MNCs). Today, companies are more often looking for English-speaking, native-born Chinese with international business experience. The pool of candidates matching this profile is relatively small, so that attracting these individuals is extremely difficult. The same holds true for key positions or top talent. The competition for these individuals, who are often bi-lingual and have experience in a global company, is so fierce that salary inflation has become out of control.

Successfully filling these positions involves a number of talent initiatives. Employer branding is one key element to recruiting (and retention). How your company positions itself to prospective and current employees is vital to sourcing and retaining those employees. While MNCs like IBM and Google held an advantage in the past, more Chinese are seeking jobs in reputable private and state-owned enterprises, making it even harder to attract good candidates. Our research shows that Chinese companies are behind the U.S. in their branding strategies – with only 30 percent of Chinese MNCs having a well-established employer brand strategy in China. These organizations will fall behind in the race for talent.

Your employer brand communicates why someone would want to work for your organization. This is reflected in practical terms, such as compensation, benefits, and work environment, but also through broader aspects, such as the organization’s future direction, role in the community, values, and reputation as a business and employer. An up to date employer brand that reflects the current culture and vision of the organization is crucial for acquiring and retaining critical talent.

Internal employees can also provide a good source of candidates. This is where succession planning and leadership development initiatives come to fruition. If these talent processes have been executed properly, your organization will have a pipeline of ready candidates to fill senior-level key positions. Unfortunately, our research shows that many Chinese MNCs have an insufficient process for identifying, developing and managing candidates to fill the pipeline.

Particularly in large companies, hiring managers need visibility into employee capabilities in order to identify internal candidates. Today’s online talent systems can provide access to employee performance information, competency assessments, and employee-generated content on career interests, languages and professional certifications. Organizations that do this well are able to quickly search their databases for specific criteria relevant to job openings.

These are just a couple of the ways that Chinese businesses can improve the way they fill their leadership and key positions. For more information, read Talent Challenges in China. We also welcome your comments on this topic.

Madhura Chakrabarti

Employee Engagement & People Analytics Research Leader / Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Madhura leads the people analytics and employee engagement research practices at Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP. Highly regarded for her work in analytics, employee engagement, organizational development, and preemployment hiring assessments, Madhura helps corporations make data driven talent and business decisions. Her work has been published in the Journal of Business and Psychology and the Handbook of Positive Psychology and Work. Madhura has a doctorate in industrial / organizational psychology and a master of arts degree from Wayne State University, as well as a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Delhi, India.

One thought on “Filling Critical Roles in China

  1. Hi Karen,

    In the main I agree wholeheartedly with your findings. That’s why my partners and I started and employer branding and recruitment marketing company here in China three years ago – http://oxuschina.com. I would take issue with your statement (I guess based on what respondents told you) that 30% of MNCs in China have got a clear employer brand strategy. In our experience of talking to HRD’s probably less than 30% actually know what employer branding means! One of the problems is that senior management teams in China are not backing their HR teams to implement a branding program and HR do not have the experience, or the guidance and backing from the SMT to invest sufficient resources to do a proper job. The tendency is to work on tactical short term fixes, hence the huge reliance on recruitment agencies and search firms to plug the gaps. I am not really sure why this is as I totally agree that with an extremely limited talent pool many companies are going to lose out, both in the short and long term. Best regards, Mark

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