Finding the right fit for growth

Updated: 2012-08-31 08:44

By Robert Parkinson (China Daily)

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Enterprises must have a balanced hiring strategy to stay ahead in China

Everyone in the sphere of professional staffing and human resources in China seems to talk endlessly about a shortage of "talent". Indeed it seems that this problem is an assumed consequence of a fast developing economy. However, it is simply not true that China lacks talent.

According to, talent means "A person or group of people having natural endowment or ability of a superior quality". Therefore, when we use the word talent in the context of the general employment market in China, I think what people mean about a "lack of talent" is a lack of workforce engagement exemplified by:

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A generation of particularly highly skilled employees who are spoiled for choice and not afraid to show it.

A general trend in the labor force toward uncontrolled and unjustified increasing compensation.

A lack of sense of loyalty to companies.

So I would prefer to redefine this group more accurately as a group that is short of motivation, not talent.

When we look at what talent actually means, the key is having skills or experience of a superior quality. China has a huge population of 1.3 billion and has been successful in educating those people. There is no dearth of Chinese "talent" seeking admission to the Ivy League and other top European educational institutions. There has also been a steady flow of Chinese professionals from abroad to the mainland in the last seven years. Most of them are highly educated professionals, in other words real "talent".

So, combining the huge number of home-grown Chinese graduates with returnees, together with the millions of blue-collar employees who are highly skilled, I find it hard indeed to believe that China lacks talent.

In fact, the case is that China has not yet had the time to properly understood how to manage, motivate and retain the human resources it does abundantly possess. The problems of the enterprises is not that they lack "talent", it is that:

They do not know how to retain employees;

There is a lack of engagement in the work;

The preoccupation with the belief that money motivates;

The lack of leadership experience within different corporate hierarchies;

Obsession with status.

The true talent for a company is those who best fit the corporate culture and values rather than those who are simply the "smartest" or best-educated. Those who fit the company best means that their skills, knowledge and vision are in accordance with that of the company. For a company to produce and retain as many of these types of staff as possible, it can take measures such as good quality new employee training and induction, leadership training, apprenticeship programs and a focus on "good" corporate culture, etc. These actions will help the company create highly engaged, highly motivated employees.

Companies need to think seriously about how to keep employees, otherwise there is no point in hiring them in the first place. All of the actions and systems need to be based on the fundamental point that it is important you select the right person.

Based on my eight years of experience in China, I have found that there are some key factors needed to transform the existing workforce into one that is highly motivated and engaged and also to retain talent.

1. Money just cannot be the only reason for people to join a company. It is important to understand what it is that really drives new hiring and if it is just money not to proceed with it.

2. Use a fair and clear salary scale.

3. The perceived value of the total pay package is important. Load it with other incentives such as overseas trips, teambuilding nights or recognition systems.

4. A manager should spend more time with new people and know their needs.

5. Once you account for the overall costs, you will understand the necessity to have a well thought-out hiring process.

6. Be aware of the non-verbal communication in hiring and induction process and pay attention to the body language.

7. Trust your instincts.

8. Pay them enough.

Enterprises that are most successful in China today have a good culture, focus on matching values and people rather than obsessing with people's experience and education. Most importantly, the employers seriously believe in a long-term approach to business.

The author is the founder and managing director of RMG Selection, a recruitment consulting company based in Beijing.

(China Daily 08/31/2012 page7)