The War For Talent: Executives Working For Chinese Companies


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Article review: I found this interesting article from Knowledge at Wharton Website: The Pitfalls, Perils … and Rewards of Expat Executives Working for Chinese Bosses http://bit.ly/bkDhtd

This excellent article summarized why a lot of non-Chinese leaders are struggling  in Chinese companies.

As China’s economy continues to bounce along, human resource experts predict that an increasing number of non-Chinese executives and senior managers will be bailing out of their overseas assignments at multinationals in the country to join local employers.

Despite this statement  a lot of non-Chinese  CEOs working for local companies resign within one year.

The problem is that non-Chinese executives working for  multinationals in China are leading people  with a “coaching” like approach, counting on the subordinates’ cooperation with a clear set of procedures and guidelines.  Chinese companies are still under development and western CEOs need to be both flexible and open do deal with lack of transparency and ambiguity. They also must change their cooperative leadership style to a more top-down approach counting more on peers than subordinates.

In Chinese companies, leaders are like parents. They love you and want you disciplined and working hard,” says Mary Fontaine, global managing director, leadership and talent practice of Hay Group. This power structure is one of the “hidden rules” of Corporate China, says Tang Jun, a former China CEO for Microsoft who is now president of Fuzhou-based New Huadu Industrial Group in an interview to a local media last year.

Another aspect of why Western executives may fail in Chinese companies is the huge differences in salary and benefits. Generally, compensation packages at Chinese companies are less generous than at multinationals that pay more to compensate for their executives’ mobility.

Working for local Chinese companies may attract a different kind of leaders than multinationals. In China, but it is true also in most countries, the winning attitude for expats is to  focus on  learning and listening,  making a lot of relationship building in the first three months of their assignments.

In return, expats also might be pleasantly surprised to find that Chinese companies are open to change. “If China is going to move up the value chain to develop its domestic market, executives here have to think differently because [traditional] coercive leadership styles shut down innovation,” comments Wayne Chen of Hay Group. “We need more local leaders, who can motivate, engage and inspire their employees.”

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