A recent survey of Chinese employment trends carried out by Manpower Inc. seems to reveal a trend among Chinese workers to prefer working for a domestic company rather than foreign brand-name companies. Sixty-one percent of those who indicated a preference for a Chinese company were at the managerial level. This trend represents a considerable attitude shift as in previous decades working for foreign companies was a must-have of any CV and was a way of making one’s bones. As I perused the article an interesting question came to mind, what is the sentiment in my own country regarding the strength and favorability of domestic brands as employers?
Writing from the USA the feeling is that the giants of yore such as Ford, General Motors, General Electric, and others do not hold the sufficient flash and pizzazz for the new generations who are more interested in technology and forward-thinking industries. That is, not without some major brand makeovers at the very least. But is there a common thread between US and Chinese attitudes that all companies or HR managers can learn from?
According to the report, the attitude shift in China has been due to, “increasing compensation and benefits packages, more training and learning opportunities, and the perceived “glass ceiling” favoring overseas employees at senior executive level over local talent within foreign companies.” This at a time when in the US and Europe HR strategies are increasingly looking to reduce or freeze benefits, have employees share in the cost of benefits, and when promotions and education grants within companies have been put on hold while the economy stabilizes. Chinese companies may offer more training opportunities as the local workforce still has some catching up to do to compete with foreign expats, but these are still opportunities nonetheless.
Yet in the end, it seems that Chinese workers simply want what workers across the globe want: a sense that their work will be recognized and that they are not in a dead-end job. As the survey found, what keeps Chinese companies from overtaking foreign companies in the retention battleground is the lack of a compelling corporate culture and rigid hierarchies still found within many Chinese companies.
The wisdom that can be gleaned from this study extends beyond the climate in China and suggests that a motivational corporate culture—in practice as much as in theory—can make all the difference for retaining talent.
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