Tuesday, September 14, 2010

German versus Hong Kong Recruitment Practices in Comparison

A few recruitment manners practiced by Hong Kong recruiters can be missed when relocating back to “continental” Europe (I write continental as I believe most of those practices are of British origin and hence also in use on the Islands).

Hong Kong recruiters prefer chats in informal settings and strengthening their network. The former one manifests itself in the invitations such as “Lets meet at Starbucks”, the latter one in connect requests “Join me on LinkedIn”.

Hong Kong recruiters simply love to meet the candidate for the first time in a coffee shop. They seldom take any notes focusing on casual chats about the candidate’s approach to life and his/her profession. Indeed, candidates tend to be more relaxed and at ease in this informal setting.

Such meetings are then followed by the invitation to connect via social networks such as LinkedIn. Particularly recruiters recruiting HR professionals realize that today’s candidate can be the client of tomorrow.

Instead, German recruiters prefer the meeting rooms of their companies and limit the interaction to the email exchange.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

“There is no HR in Asia”

Since I remember, Westerners in China often complained that “there is no HR in Asia”. The statement mostly suggested lack of high caliber human resources talent, weak HR architectures and “me too” HR practices and policies. True, for many years, little investments have been made in China in upgrading HR departments. However, HR has always been of a great consideration, particularly among MNCs and companies set-up by foreigners. Additionally, senior management and company owners have always played a key role within major areas of human resources management like recruitment and selection, retention, development, compensation and staff reduction.

After spending several years in China, the phrase got however a different meaning to me. “There is no HR in Asia” pertains to mediocre managerial skills and almost non-existent support of thereof by HR. Traditionally, line managers are poorly trained in people issues. In addition, Western managers face the intercultural challenge with lack of Chinese language skills and pitiable training in cross-cultural subjects.

Finally, one misconception prevails among Chinese and Westerns executives. In their attempt to improve HR and people management they hire a HR person or a HR team to fix all corporate culture issues and make the company live by first-class people management practices. But delegating people management to human resources specialists does not work. No! No!

HR can merely equip line managers with the necessary skills and competencies to handle people management issues. HR can overtake huge part of paper work, supply tools as well as design and align practices, and only in cooperation with line managers ensure their effectiveness.

Without close relationship between HR and line management, HR cannot bring about results. HR lacks the most immediate and up-to-date information about employees competencies and performance. HR alone also lacks authority in the organizational ladder and hence they may only have little impact on employees` behavior.

In conclusion, there will be no HR in Asia, as long as line and general managers do not fill responsible for the day-to-day 'people-management' activities at their companies.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

No respect for Juniors

It is funny how the same characteristics, way of working or attitude is perceived differently depending on the person's rank and seniority in a company in China. What is perceived as a weakness or disadvantage of a Junior employee becomes an asset of a Senior position.

Consider the following reactions to the different employee ranks:
* A junior employee is simply rude; the senior one is straight forward!
* Junior is close-minded, the senior is focused!
* Junior is careless; the senior is focused on the big picture!
* Junior is impatient; the senior is restless for action!
* Junior is hot blooded, the senior is passionate!

Do you know more?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What do Ba Ling Hou have in common with the Millennials

Reading the “Managing the Millennials” by Espinoza, Ukljea, and Rusch (2010, published by John Wiley & Sons) is like finally verbalize everything what presented a challenge when striving to understand, interpret, and manage behaviors of Chinese employees. In particular, those called the Generation 1980’s (Ba Ling Hou), born and raised after Deng Zhao Ping reforms, whose third socialization has been taking place in Multinationals or KMUs in China of European or American origin. I don’t know any book on intercultural communication explaining behaviors of young employees in China more accurately then “Managing the Millenials”. Though, this book refers to Americans only without aspiring to have any cross-border relevance.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

No value-added HR without the CEO’s buy-in

With HR practitioners struggling to create value and focusing excessively on internal department efficiency, HR fails to realize respect as a profession. Hence, some people say, “There is no HR in China”. Yet, when you look at the job boards with openings for HR roles, you find out that to be in charge of the HR department, candidates need to bring 10 to 15 + year of HR experience.

So what’s the deal? Why are people with “relevant and continuous” experience unable to change the rules and move HR to a value contributing unit? Why does HR exhibit signs of insanity as memorably defined by Einstein; "Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results"? But more importantly, who can stop this insanity?

The answer to the last question is the CEO. How?

By aligning job requirements and selection criteria for senior HR leaders to strategic deliverables.
CEOs need to look for different type of talent. No matter how many years of experience Candidates bring, it is imprudent to assume that a person skilled in administrative efficiency, employee advocacy, and legal compliance will naturally add-value through problem solving, strategic thinking, and analytics. If CEOs expect HR to be strategic, then they should not look at the number of years of experience as an indicator of performance. Instead, it is about time that CEOs begin testing Candidates on their knowledge, thinking style, enthusiasm and attitudes, creativity, how they go about solving problems on-the-spot.

By continuously supporting HR initiatives.
CEOs must show greater buy-in for all HR programs. No matter how much effort HR professionals exert, without the CEO’s support, none of them can really take off. HR programs can not live separately from the C-suite, as it happens more and more with an increasing number of dotted and sometimes direct reporting lines between country and regional and global HR leads. The CEO is the only one that can really fix people issues; the rest of the things like sales, marketing, operations, finance, etc., other pros can do for them.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Some job ads attract letter of rejection instead of cover letter

"Thank you for your job ad in my copy of the Augsburger Allgemeine-newspaper and the confidence you have placed it my person. Unfortunately, due to a large number of other job ads I will not pursue your job opportunity any further and won’t apply for the position offered by your company.” The above quotation was authored by Jürgen Sprenzinger, German satirist. His book „Dear Mr. Hornback, I would apply for this position by a whisker. Refusals to unsolicited job ads” is a compilation of letters of rejection sent to Human Resource Departments as an answer to their print job ads.

Since 2000, Julien Prévieux, a French artist, also writes letters of non-motivation to refuse jobs offered in the newspapers, which have been first published in 2007 in a book called: Letters De Non Motivation.

Essentially, both collection of letters reveals the linguistic monsters in the job ads. Both authors assume different roles allowing for impetuous reasons for turning down the job in question. The companies sometimes replied, automatically or personally. Some Human Resource Departments have been very sad.

In both books, the entire recruitment system is revealed as defective.

Julien Prévieux (2007) "Letters De Non Motivation“, ISBN : 2-355-22009-3

Jürgen Sprenzinger (2008) „Sehr geehrter Herr Hornbach, um ein Haar hätte ich mich bei Ihnen beworben. Absagen auf unverlangte Stellenangebote", ISBN: 978-3-426-78104-3

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Start Enlarging Your Talent Pool

In China, the War for Talent is raging with no end in sight. Therefore, instead of fishing in the same talent pool as your feisty competitors, try to concentrate on influencing the size of your pool. Actions that can be taken include:
•Creating a "fun" and frequently updated website that appeals to and inspires students to pursue a career in your industry and with your company.
•Offering observation placements whereupon students spend a full week with in-house people to see what working in the company is like, what people do, and what makes the company tick.
•Having an open-house to introduce the company’s office environment, works, and people (Make it enjoyable like a tour at a "chocolate factory").
•Sharing your people's knowledge and experience with University students by placing one of your brightest stars in front of the class and having them teach a full course.
•Engaging schools to advertise your Internship program.
•Sponsoring scholarships.
•Participating in career fairs.
•Collaborating with University professors to write and publish a white paper and/or case study on your company’s challenges, what solutions were enacted, and the results of the project in question.
•Inviting the news and newspapers to cover your company's accomplishments, any special employees, and report on new and interesting projects.
•Providing alternative work programs that cater to and bring in seasoned people to work on a part-time or interim basis.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Recruiting and retaining talent with Meal Perks

Providing water to employees is employer’s duty in China. Many employers in Shanghai go however beyond this requirement and make coffee and tee available to employees for free. Some companies offer fruits (e.g. JWT) in the afternoon and some other a noodle soup when one is working after 7pm (e.g. TBWA).

The NetCircle offers a full food service program (breakfast, lunch, afternoon snacks and dinner) free for all employees. By providing meal perks, the company’s founders hope to keep its workforce happy, motivated, efficient and productive. The perk also allows for a greater community building among employees. There are little to no incentives to leave company office during lunch hours. Instead, employees can socialize and have a conversation. In addition, an inviting well-designed kitchen serving delicious food from 8.00am to 8pm might lure talent and certainly for some employees is a good argument to stay.

To mention on the micro perspective: The menus are planned by an administrative assistant and the two cooks usually one week in advance. Cooks consult employees daily in terms of food preferences and likability of served dishes. They are especially interested in employees feedback after they’ve cooked something new, particularly a Western meal, prepared based on a recipe from a cook book. The cooks start their day by visiting the market to buy fresh ingredients. Notably, in The NetCircle’s kitchen as much as possible is made from scratch.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

There is not such thing as Micky Mouse Job

Even simplest jobs require consistent execution. Consistency is one of the greatest challenges for any business. The larger the business the greater the challenge. While customers increasingly call for great service anytime, everytime; businesses can still get away with mediocrity. McDonald’s and Subway are only two examples. Both makes you wonder what are the official standard procedures.

Mc Donalds‘ soft cones sometimes come with two twists, sometimes with three. Sometimes, the cone is fully filled with ice cream, sometimes it is just above the waffle. Sometimes, the ice cream is watery and less sweet, sometimes, creamy and sweeter.

Subway delivers even more diverse experience. The number of any countable ingredient such as ham or tomato slices differs even when not being subject to individual preferences and wishes. Sometimes, the more I talked with staff the greater amount they gave me. Other times, the more I talked, the less I received. The biggest surprise happened at one Arizona Subway restaurant where two employees have trained a newbie in making a sub. The instruction was more or less like this: If the customer is nice, talks to you and is generally a kind person, you take the tomato and you give him the inner parts of it. If the customer is not nice, you give him the endings. Importantly, Subway’s employees also vary greatly in passion for what they do, some put heart into every sandwich, others seem just not very comfortable working when everybody watches their hands.

What’s behind those inconsistent experiences? Undefined quality standards, lack of commitment to excellence, poor supervision, unfair franchise‘ owners attempting to cut corners, boost margins and what not or just the nature of humans that no recruitment, training nor human resource policy can 100% restrain.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Job Swap Practical Considerations

Job swaps are expensive, in terms of money spent and HR department time. To ensure that they present the best development opportunity, a various issues shall be carefully considered.

Per definition, the job swap requires that job swappers swap jobs and hence are in similar position and have similar areas of expertise and experience in order to be able to cover each other position's workload while on exchange. However, the companies must also be clear about how the employee's workload will be handled during the job swap in the case employees cannot swap exactly the same positions.

At times, identifying job swap candidates along with client and language consideration might be a challenge. In regards to client, training intervention in form of a job swap creates a slight disturbance to the account service. The key account person is leaving and replaced by a new colleague with whom the Client has to yet establish a rapport. In regards to the language issue, while both potentials job swappers are most likely fluent in English, hardly anyone of them may speak the local language of the host company. Hence, the employee need to serve on a global account where English is the working language. Ultimately, companies need to determine the remaining recruitment criteria of job swappers.

Further factors to consider when planning a job swap include:
* What is the overall purpose, vision, and expected benefits of the job swap?
* How shall the job swap be evaluated and the benefits quantified?
* What are the obligations of each swap office?
* What shall be the financial arrangement? Shall job swappers be paid by their respective home or host swap office during the exchange? Which party shall be responsible for costs such as airfares, accommodation, travel and medical insurance, visas and work permits of each job swapper?
* Shall job swappers sign a “stay guarantee” (i.e. that they stay with the employer for a certain period of time upon completion of the job swap)?
* What are the work responsibilities of job swappers during the exchange?
* What additional training and opportunities for development shall be provided by host office?
* How shall job swappers be prepared for the intercultural experiences?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Behavioral Changes through Job Swaps

Effective talent management depends on understanding the workforce, their desires and aspirations, and reconciling these with commercial and operational realities. One such desire of Chinese employees is the appetite for meaningful career advancement opportunities, not only in China, but also in the West.

Global job swaps are a unique opportunity for Chinese employees to gain first-hand experience with diverse business environments and cultures. Though, one cannot overlook the size of the investment a company needs to make to support such a program. Given the average training budget per employee per year, the job swap program costs (in particular as we only refer to one or a few job swappers) can be substantial.

Even so, in 2009, TBWA\China made an overseas assignment for one Chinese employee a reality. At the same time, the agency hosted a German employee in its office for the period of six months.

The 2009 job swap was kicked off as both agencies, in Shanghai and in Hamburg, saw the benefits that could accrue to the employees and the agencies from the exchange. Employees were provided with the opportunity to gain international exposure to a different business environment, insight into different cultures and societies, as well as the first hand knowledge of how other cultures approach agency operations and client relationships. Agencies expected to benefit by the ways of having more qualified and experienced staff who returns professionally inspired and equipped with a unique international perspective. Furthermore, agencies used the exchange to strengthen ties between them.

A questionnaire was distributed to job swappers to explore their self-assessment of the interpersonal and intercultural skills. Job swappers completed the questionnaire twice, first after the first 2 weeks of the exchange and second 2 weeks after the exchange was finished and job swappers returned to their home office.

Both job swappers agreed that they developed new skills during the job swap. They became more aware that they sometimes hear people, but they do not truly listen to what they are telling. They learned to strive to get the true message that people of different cultural background were trying to send, read between the lines, and pick up the non-verbal nuances. During the job swap, the job swappers developed into better listeners. Furthermore, job swappers got a better feel for empathy. They became skilled at putting themselves in another's shoes, an ability essential for account service professionals. These behavioral changes were the most realized personal development gains and advantages of a job swap.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Family" as the Core of Corporate Culture

Family owned or operated businesses (private or public) and corporations with non-family members like to refer to themselves as a "family“ and this being the main building block for the corporate culture. You will hear and read, "we are like a big family" in their corporate literature, employer branding campaign, and from employee statements.

Whereas social and religious conservatives often use the term "family values" to promote a conservative ideology, businesses refer to "family" to demonstrate moving away from a command and control management approach.

In most instances however, organizations are selective about which elements of the "family values" they overtake and promote. More often than not, families are fueled by feelings rather than performance, forgiveness rather than accountability, and conformity rather than thinking outside-of-the-box. The problem for businesses is that sustainable organizations thrive on performance, accountability, and creative thinking.

Importantly as well, families tend to be hierarchical, particularly based on seniority, and instill self-control and moral obligations while demanding respect, discipline, and attentiveness. While the former is unavoidable, the latter is an ideal to strive for in the majority of organizations. Only the strongest cultures can however inspire and engage their employees.

Hence, the corporate concept of "family" primarily refers to how people communicate and interact internally. Associated beliefs include being loyal and trustworthy, caring for each other, and spending time together (including after work). In a way, being a "family" is a promise for a more supportive and less formal/cut-throat environment. In such organizations, employees know more about co-workers than they need to in order to perform well. They become pals.

Secondly, the "family" values in corporate context are particularly visible during two extreme stages of an employee's lifecycle; attraction (apparent in the employer brand promise of a compelling workplace) and separation (demonstrated primarily through alumni networks, e.g. BBH’s blacklist).

One final point, redundancy can become a major issue and limitation for the "family" concept at corporations. Though the concept of “family” differ across cultures, families around the globe have one thing in common, it is a bond that cannot be broken. When the family is struggling, family members are expected to hold things together and to help each other out. Excluding family members is taboo and hardly ever the question. Lay offs are common practice at many different “corporate families”.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Engagement at the Expense of Personal Time

At Dun and Bradstreet, a great personnel policy aimed at protecting employees’ personal time has been introduced. Meetings cannot be scheduled on Mondays or Fridays if it requires people to travel over the weekend. This policy came into effect to demonstrate that the company cares and values people employees' free time .

In China such thinking is yet to come. Meanwhile, foreign companies like to promote the “work hard, play hard” philosophy expecting hard work and long hours as well as attendance of company organized “leisure activities”. After hours events are often an integral part of the company’s culture and engagement approach. In addition, managers sponsor these activities in order to improve team work and team spirit or to generally bring about more communication and friendships between foreign and local employees. Going out after work sometimes serves as a form of recognition for good team results.

After work socializing is often fueled by an expat manager's small circle of friends and lack of his/her family members in China. However, it is also sought out by Chinese employees as long as it is not too often and does not conflict with their private life such as the Friday family dinner. Eating together is a central element of Chinese culture and is considered a bonding endeavor.

Most of the time, departmental budgets support these activities. However, employees are sometimes expected to spend their own money. Since splitting the bill at the restaurant is fairly uncommon in China, each month a different team member may be expected to play the “host” and cover the evenings’ expenses.

Over time, many companies have started to realize that differences in taste between Expats and Locals cannot be successfully addressed during just one outing. As a result, some employees find excuses and do not attend . In turn, this low attendance causes a certain amount of resentment among management who feels that their generosity and efforts toward generating a "fun" workplace goes unnoticed.

Are the company activities after working hours really a payback employees expect?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

More on Recruitment of Creatives

At Powell's Books in Portland, I picked up a book entitled, “Pick Me. Breaking into Advertising and Staying There” by Nancy Vonk and Janet Kestin, Chief Creative Officers at Ogilvy, Toronto. This book is a great resource for college advertising students and fresh graduates. I read the book looking for authors’ viewpoints on HR's role in an Agency.

Result: almost nil. HR had been reduced to in-house recruitment and external headhunting and by all means was not presented as a partner to the Creative Directors (CD) or a contact point for job seekers.

In the authors’ experience, “most of headhunters don’t know a great book from an okay one”. They further imply that in-house recruiters do not do their job right given that student “letters are getting lost in the big stack of mail that’s full of resumes".

According to Vonk & Kestin, headhunters can be, however, helpful in passing one’s CV to the CD and assessing what one is worth given their good understanding of salary benchmarks (p.77). But, they “don’t play much of a role in placing juniors” nor the very best creatives. The latter are “well known, and the CD often contacts them directly” (p.171). There were no good remarks on in-house screeners “a necessary evil at some big places” (p.44) either,

Instead, the authors suggest outsmarting HR. For example, the aspiring copywriter or art director should try to get the CD’s attention – the only decision maker while aspiring account service pros should approach the managing director (“Try sending the managing director of the agency a reel of your favorite spots with a smart list of reasons why you like them so much (heavy on references to good strategies and consumer insights)” p.126).

I am not going to cry for HR folks, but seriously where does it leave us? Is this industry-specific?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Year of the Tiger – HR Shift

In Chinese zodiac, the year of the Tiger is traditionally associated with massive changes. To remain ahead of the game, here are a few ways that companies in Mainland China should consider:

1. Make a call for HR contribution to the organization’s productivity and capabilities. For most management teams, putting more emphasis on HR means realizing tangible and monetary deliverables. Reduction of recruitment costs seems to be the next and most relevant frontier. Building strong in-house recruitment arm with their own high caliber headhunters is financially sound, especially as recruitment fees to external recruiters have skyrocketed as talent is scare in China. However, this strategy does not solve the long term issue of developing talent and making it more effective. Net net, retention could be much cheaper than recruitment.

2. Shift focus on building talent. Long-term workforce planning involves identifying and nurturing junior talent particularly fresh out of college. The ‘big four’ and even some local Chinese companies realize the importance of an aggressive approach and surpass other people businesses in this respect. Each year in November these organizations put the senior students to a series of interviews and tests. Once this process concludes, employment contracts are signed and the "workforce newbies" are expected to start after their graduation in May of the following year.

3. Fill in your teamwork approach with substance. Pulling together as a team is a central element of motivational speeches by many companies’ leaders. However, bonuses tend to be based on individual performance and enormous discrepancies in pay tend to prevail. Both of them prevent employees from believing that everybody is "in the same boat". For all employees to feel valuable and more valued, status, pay, perks, and other privileges should be reviewed and according to Jeffrey Pfeiffer (1998, The human equation: building profits by putting people first) reduced. As an example, Whole Foods Market introduced a policy limiting executive compensation to ten times the average full-time salary of all team members; disruptive?

Culturally speaking, the concept of teamwork must also be reviewed critically in Mainland China. Surprisingly, current experimental research suggests that Chinese tend to avoid team-based performance measures and self-sacrifices in favor of the team. This goes to show that collectivism of Chinese culture does not automatically translate into cooperation and teamwork in the workplace.

4. Decentralize decision-making. The words “empowerment” and “to empower” are often misused. For example, companies believe that by having a suggestion box, employees will feel more empowered to put their ideas forward. Leaders also tend to believe that making the company’s proprietary tools available to employees and offering training so that employees can do their daily work constitutes empowerment. Well, empowerment is first and foremost about enabling non-managerial staff to make autonomous decisions without consulting their supervisor.

The best examples for empowering staff arise from the hospitality industry. Hampton Inn Hotel instituted a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee and thereby permitted employees to do whatever was required to make their guests happy (for example, giving money back for the cost of one night’s stay at the hotel should guests find shortcomings in service). At the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, employees have the discretion to spend up to US$ 2,500 without any approval in order to respond to guest complaints. (Pfeiffer, 1998)

For those in "people" businesses in China, the question is what the scope of the decisions is and whether or not employees have the skills and knowledge to make those decisions.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Talent Challenges in China

Once the hiring test is passed, working with Chinese employees presents other challenges.

Fragile Egos. Ba Ling Hou (the generation born in the 1980s) is the first Chinese generation after the introduction of the one-child policy. Growing up as the center of their family, these so-called “little emperors” are generally more self-centered and more individualistic than their parents. They tend to be less political than the older generation of employees and less receptive to hierarchy. However, this generation is more receptive and adaptive to Western style management. Those who gain a foothold in MNCs have oftentimes exceeded their peers in academic achievements and hence expect to win the race for higher pay, position, and title. These young Chinese employees are also smart, outgoing, and want to be independent. However, they did not necessarily learn how to cope with failures, exercise judgment, make decisions, and be a part of the team.

Unrealistic Expectations. Frequently, Chinese employees have high expectations and exhibit an attitude of “I disserve it” without reflection about their skills and abilities. Employees believe that they should be entrusted with interesting and challenging tasks, promoted, and offered better compensation and benefits packages at least on an annual basis. These high expectations are often fueled by open discussion and comparisons of their packages with colleagues, college peers, and friends. However, since status is very important in Chinese circles, a promotion or even a change in title without a change in duties can satisfy Chinese employees more than any other perk. But keep in mind that such promotions can backfire too. As a real life example, a 22 year old employee refused to report to a 25-year old manager with the argument that the manager was too young and did not know much more than the employee. The employee did not see how she could be successfully trained and mentored by a person from the same age group.

Weak Loyalty. In the US, the average length of time an employee stays in a job used to be five to six years. In China, it is two years. It is worst among Western trained and English fluent Chinese professionals who make "hopping around" from one international company to another a sport. Employees view employers as stepping stones to become more marketable in the future. As one applicant explained to me, referring to the question “How long do you envision yourself staying in this company?”,“The relationship between me and the company is give and take, if it works well for both of us, I’ll stay. If the company falls short, then I will need to leave”.

The Glass Ceiling. As much as employees desire to work for international companies, they perceive a glass ceiling in these organizations. Only a talent localization strategy can help eliminate employees’ fear of the “glass ceiling”. To execute it properly, coach-type Expatriates must be hired with the brief to share knowledge and mentor local staff.

What Vacation? The culture of a taking a vacation by Chinese employees is developing but is not there yet. Chinese prefer to take one day or even half-day annual leave on short notice with little consideration to work schedules, deadlines, and priorities as opposed to a vacation well planned in advance (as traditionally done in the West). Interestingly, annual leave is oftentimes used for interviewing at another employer. During my early consulting days, I was told that whenever an HP employee took leave on Tuesday morning; that meant they were interviewing at Microsoft.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Weakest Link of a Customer Experience Team

For several years now, in-house customer experience teams have been mushrooming in the corporate world. They are responsible for ensuring positive customer experiences with the company or its services and products. There is also no shortage of consulting companies that can provide such services.

The work of any customer experience team requires a holistic view on issues customers care about. Multidisciplinary in nature, the work of customer experience teams centers around soliciting customer feedback, codifying customer journeys, and adjusting processes, systems, and technology. In addition, understanding and redefining organizational culture and talent requirements is also vital to the teams’ efforts.

A great example of a customer experience team is the one set-up by American Airlines. Pretty much all of the team’s initiatives are talent focused. Consider:
• Controlling ground delays and better informing customers when unexpected delays occur;
• Smoothly and more efficiently processing customers when boarding aircraft;
• Improving interactions with customers (including for example a new staff performance requirement to greet first-class passengers by name); and
• Efficiently handling baggage and quickly resolving issues with misplaced or misdirected bags.

The emergence of customer experience teams is an interesting trend. Customer experience teams are overtaking HR departments in generating and acting upon customer literacy as popularized in the book by Dave Ulrich and Wayne Brockbank, “The HR Value Proposition” (2005). As a result, the strategic contributions related to talent are now increasingly made outside of the HR department. Another trend is blending strategic HR and talent management with the authority of Chief Operations Officer.

Consequently, HR is increasingly losing (yet another chance?) edge to impact the people agenda whereas their administrative efforts only seem to increase day-by-day.

For HR to add value to the business:
• HR needs to be proactive in helping line managers build the organization's core capability;
• HR must contribute to strategic conversations; and
• HR must take a hold off and lead costumer experience teams (presently dominated by professionals with backgrounds in Operations, Marketing, and IT).

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Hiring in China will test your patience

China is a unique cultural experience and this definitely extends into recruiting and hiring. What you consider to be common sense will not necessarily occur. Your patience will be put to the test.

Job Advertisements. Since working for foreign companies is still considered prestigious, Mainland Chinese are more likely to respond to job advertisements in English than in Chinese; irrespective of their English skills. But even if candidates demonstrate a high level of English, they will spend little time to review job descriptions and job requirements and may only know that the company is an international player. Furthermore, Chinese applicants believe in a numbers game; the more companies they apply to, the more likely they are to land a job. So, leaders in their industry can literally be overwhelmed with totally irrelevant applications.

Employee Referrals. Chinese Employees are very keen to refer their friends and former colleagues to fill open positions. Most of the time, they will forward a Resume of active candidates who they know, but not necessarily someone who excels at any key skill for a particular role. Rewarding such referrals financially with an employee referral award is probably a nice gesture, but in this society seems to be obsolete.

Resumes. Chinese like to oversell their skills and exaggerate their experience and knowledge. In addition, the majority of Resumes and cover letters are poorly worded. External recruiters tend to copy and paste Resumes of their candidates on the recruitment agency’s letterhead thereby taking care of the formatting; however, syntax and grammar mistakes still appear often.

Interviews. More than a few Chinese candidates will not bring along any copies of their Resume and may not even have a pen and paper with them to take notes. Late arrivals and not knowing the name of the interviewer is common as well. Annoying as it sounds; Candidates in China tend to leave their cell phones on and will not hesitate to pick it up once it rings. Other question that one needs to answer when recruiting in China is whether or not to consider candidates who come late to an interview or cancel it with every possible reason.

Communication Skills. “What’s your strength?” is one of those question that deliver no real value in getting to know the Chinese candidates. Communication skills are quoted most. Too often, everyone assumes strong language skills equate to being an effective communicator. However, even the best linguistic capability does not make one the best communicator. As a hint then, check candidates' “presentation skills” because this may be a good indicator for how well they convey concepts and ideas.

Salary Negotiations. When asked about their desired salary during the interviewing process, it is usual for candidates to express their net salary expectations (after all taxes and other government mandated contributions are subtracted).

Offer Acceptance. When making a decision whether or not to accept an offer, Chinese candidates living with their parents frequently consult both mam and dad. Salary is often the sole variable, parents are interested in. It is usual, particularly in Hong Kong, to contribute around US$500 to the household by the offspring as soon as they get their first job. A comprehensive assessment of the employee value proposition is missing. I once had a talk with one of young potentials who intended to leave the Agency lured by a higher package and title by the competitor. Only after she realized that her new manager is inferior to her current one, she changed her mind.