Almost everyone who thinks or talks about China is convinced people in this country are the expandable resource. Because, let’s face it, this must be the reason why almost everything in our western house is “made in China”: labour is cheap and people are easily replaced. And for a time, partly contributing to a massive economic growth, this was perhaps true. The majority of people working in China could be seen as replaceable.

However, a shift in human capacity management is developing and it seems China is implementing a surprising effort on talent development. To maintain their stable and strong growth China has laid out ambitious plans to invest in talented people and we predict Chinese companies are going to shift towards their own version of talent development. This might eventually result in an internationally competitive system the western world will have difficulty following.

Take a moment to imagine what this scenario would look like. At this point the Chinese are already ahead of the western world in terms of technology, innovation, investment and ecological development. When they crack the code of a talented, millennial, workforce (becoming a champion for human development), they will have shattered the one major argument the western world throws around when confronted with Chinese development: “Yes, but the (lack of) human development in China sets us apart from the far east.”

The far east has used their latest 5 Year Plan (5YP) to signal a change in talent development. Driven by innovation as an economic, social and ecological development tool they need the best and the brightest to be happy with what they do. In short, China is developing an effort on talent development as a political course for the entire country. To make this ambition reality, they will improve policies on wages, medical care, old-age pensions and other incentives to encourage the flow of talent. Especially the term “other incentives” is interesting in the context of a talented workforce. Diligent as the Chinese are, you can assume they will do the necessary research to ensure they understand what Chinese young professionals (CYP) need and want to stay content at work.

Considering our own experiences in the Chinese business scene, we predict this research will most likely indicate China’s Young Professionals give complete dedication to their employer when they get the opportunity to:

Improve personal Guanxi

Guanxi describes the basic dynamic in personalized networks of influence (which can be best described as the relationships individuals cultivate with other individuals) and is a central idea in Chinese society. Only Chinese people completely understand the concept of Guanxi, but suffice it to say it is crucial in business in China and has a strong influence on increasing efforts on talent development. Young talented people make many choices based solely on the influence it has on their personal guanxi. Whether it is to work for a well-known company or have the opportunity to meet many people through a new job.

Always maintain face publicly

Chinese people believe that losing face is one of the most shameful things you can experience. So, working in an environment where you trust that you are treated fairly is key for talented employees in China and is probably a strong driver for many choices when considering future or current employment. This also affects their choice of employer. The more reliable and well-known, the better it is for their own personal face.

Receive enough wage to support their family

The concept of family has a completely different meaning in China. You are responsible for your family because they took care of you in your younger years. So many people in China base their decisions on how well they can support or help their families with the help of their employers. Families which are often many miles away.

Develop themselves professionally and personally

Development is important in every country and culture. Organisations offering development plans to Chinese people allowing them to study (ie. English) in their own time as a business expense would ensure the loyalty of the Chinese workforce is increased.

Visit their family at any time (Chinese New Year)

As mentioned earlier, family is crucial. If you deny the Chinese people their family time they will easily walk away from their job. Ensuring they can visit their family whenever they want is crucial. Especially in a world where expectations at work are constantly increasing. Interestingly, family and guanxi are sometimes two scales on a balance for Chinese employees.

For western talent consultants and HR professionals, these requirements probably seem similar to the needs of the western workforce. However, you must understand that our western view on talent development is not easily copied to the Chinese workforce. The Chinese people require a different management approach where tact and a deep understanding of Chinese culture are crucial. Too often, western companies still project a western approach when starting their business in China, convinced they can force their own method on the Chinese.

Considering the speed of Chinese development and seeing as China is implementing an effort on talent development, we are closely following human development and will continue to inform you. Having troubles with your own human resources in China, feel free to contact us.

P.s.: The Chinese government has also laid out plans to ensure western talents (approximately 10.000 of them) have enough incentives and easy access to work and live in China. Additionally, they will select the best talent from new senior secondary schools and college graduates every year to participate in advanced training at first-class universities outside China and keep track of their progress. A large-scale import of knowledge-bringers and export of knowledge-seekers is part of a government monitored and incentivised plan to increase their own national growth and continue to enhance their own position in international circles.