Recruiting and Retaining Young Talent in China

My business, Have Faith, helps companies better understand what today’s generations of Chinese female professionals and SMB owners want and how to market to them. Recently, I realized I needed to get a better feel for what inspires Chinese Millennial women; so I polled business owners, journalists, artists, students and managers from the IT industry, real estate and luxury markets as well as HR directors from small, medium and large enterprises to discover the career motivations of these women.

When looking to expand or move into China, it’s of critical importance to have a real perspective on what drives today’s younger professional Chinese women and how companies can recruit and retain the best and the brightest of them. For SMBs especially, hiring recruiters to look for top talent can be expensive and difficult to manage, so how do you find the right candidates? Here are three key learnings that will guide you to recruiting success in the Middle Kingdom.

Hire Local, They’re Thinking Global

Chinese female professionals are very internationally oriented.  

A very real phenomenon in China today is young women collecting MBAs, not only for the international business knowledge and insights, but also to grow their professional and personal networks.

This makes them highly educated and globally connected.

Anyone who is paying even casual attention to China has heard and read about “guanxi”, which means “relations” or “relationships”. Chinese women, in particular, continue to impress and amaze me with their networking savvy. Frankly, I think the Chinese, in general, are much better at building deep relationships and mutually-beneficial networks than their Western counterparts – working longer and harder at nurturing their relationships beyond merely LinkedIn invites.

The professional relationships that Chinese women form also result in real career movement. For instance, I interviewed a journalist and her editor from one of the most famous fashion magazines in the world.  They met years before at another company and once the editor moved to a new job, the younger mentee followed.  So each Chinese female you hire comes with a large and readily accessible network of equally impressive peers.

Millennials Really Are Alike

Rumors of China’s insular nature to the contrary, Chinese Millennials are like all Millennials the world over.

The young women I talked to made it clear that they want to work for companies that have values beyond profit (like their North American and European counterparts), but they also believe that they deserve top dollar when it comes to salaries (again like their overseas counterparts). This can make it seem like they jump jobs at the drop of a hat, but it’s really a reflection of their discontent with companies that just don’t get them.

Interestingly, many of the HR directors from Chinese State-Owned-Enterprises (SOEs) that I talked to admitted that when their senior management talks of the “next generation of leaders” it’s not employees in their 20’s or even 30’s, but those in their 40’s. Chinese companies are still comfortable in letting young employees leave the company. 

This is something that you can use to your advantage: hire today’s young top talent now, invest in them and you’ll keep them around.

Use Them or Lose Them

Many MNCs and SOEs are also often guilty of not taking advantage of female Chinese professionals. They often overlook and underuse Chinese female talent – the young and not as young alike. Too often I see companies that hire Chinese employees with the mindset that they should work the China market only. But today’s Chinese female professionals are very keen on being part of the greater corporate structure; they like business and want to participate at the global level.

Sure, not everyone wants to live outside China, especially those who are starting a family or have aging parents, but they do expect to see HQ of the company they work for, or travel to a conference or trade show where their product will be announced.

One young woman raved to me about the “amazing connections” and “global learning experience” she got when her company sent her to One Young World, an international summit for young leaders.

Companies looking to recruit and retain young talented employees (female and male) should genuinely focus more on enabling career advancing experiences rather than simply offering money.

Girls Just Want to Have…

Female Chinese professionals are smart, social media mavens and globally aware. They want to gain experience while making a good salary. They want to engage their personal passions in the corporate environment. Savvy companies in China that need great staff (doesn’t every company?) should approach these young women with the opportunities for exposure, career involvement and CSR initiatives they want. The rewards for your business are too numerous to count.

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