Tips From the Trenches: Managing Talent in China

No one said managing in China was easy. In a business culture driven by prestige, respect and titles as much as compensation -- at least in my own personal experience -- managing a local workforce can be challenging indeed. Over on Purchasing's Blogs, I had a chance to catch up with a recent post by Walter Buczynski on the subject. Based on his own experience, Walter notes that "China is an interesting place to manage personnel. There are problems, starting with the educational system. Many classes are taught using memorization, and this can stifle creativity. Young workers seem to understand one way to do something but as soon there is a small change factor, then work stops or there is confusion. Giving project work may require constant follow up as to progress."

Finding and maintain talent -- especially in the case of staffing a local IPO -- can be a series challenge indeed. Walter writes that "an experienced person, with a Western company is a valuable commodity. Hiring them can be 20 to 30% higher than an equal with no western corporate experience ... [then it is tough to retain] them for more than a year or two, before they ‘jump ship’." He suggests that cash is a strong motivator to keep talented personnel.

Personally, I'd also add another thought to the mix by suggesting that the opportunity to help an aspiring Chinese executive grow by seeing international business cultures -- especially the US -- can also be a significant motivator. I've noticed in recent years that the United States often holds the same level of curiosity for the Chinese as China holds for us. Hence playing the international business experience and travel card can't hurt, either.

Jason Busch

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