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China as an Attractive Job Location for Foreigners
by Joachim Nagel
Whether you are a job starter, an executive or a top manager:
Experience in the Chinese market is always a salient advantage and can be very beneficial to your career.
The job requirement profiles for foreign employees to work in China are far more varied than similar ones for jobs in a business setting characterized by western standards. Such a profile for the Chinese market must clearly specify the professional knowledge and skills to be mastered, and, additionally, the intercultural competence and the various other qualities a candidate should bring to the table besides the mere professional competence in their field.
For years to come, China is likely to remain a country whose population continues to be coined by learning and the acquisition of knowledge. In the current situation, practically anyone can still get or be in a “teaching” position requiring one to pass on knowledge, i.e. act a teacher, but by no means in the sense of or by adopting the attitude of a “smart-aleck”.
The quality of leadership is not measured by objective goals alone, but also by personality, charisma and professional knowledge displayed by a person in charge.
At the same time, one must not lose sight of entrepreneurial and personal goals. A positive attitude towards the country and culture of China is essential and may be deployed in a convincing and persuasive manner only if and when it is supported by a positive mindset in general.
The direct supervisor of an employee in China represents their most important link to the company. Loyalty is owed to the boss, not to the company. To ensure this, good personal relationships entertained with the local employees and colleagues are essential. Establishing and maintaining contact to Chinese persons and groups should even be valued more highly than engaging in activities within the German and other expatriate communities.
Employees in China appreciate receiving clear statements and instructions, and they have a fine ear when it comes to assessment and fairness. Sensitivity displayed in this respect is prerequisite and a crucial milestone towards winning the loyalty of Chinese employees.
Chinese companies tend to be increasingly encouraged and supported by the authorities to adopt German concepts of vocational training.
China Continues to Assume a Formative Role in Global Business in the Long Run
One sign of China becoming a super power in the future is that the country is also about to change its approach to work and related issues to suit its own needs and interests in a more favorable way. Thus, an MBA obtained from a top-ranking university in China is considered a first class education already today.
Chinese people prefer context-oriented leadership, i.e. a management style that clearly and unambiguously defines the framework and the parameters to be achieved, but one that also leaves the practical organization of the actual work to the staff.
“All roads lead to Rome,” one of our proverbs goes. However, do we really adhere to this wisdom when having to take unknown roads? The paths and byways taken by Chinese people often appear incomprehensible to us. Yet to our great astonishment, they do lead to “Rome” as well.
Different styles of leadership are practiced in the Chinese business world: cooperative, authoritarian, as well as paternalistic. Therefore, it might well happen that you are confronted with a group of staff coined by and used to a variety of managerial styles and organizational settings.
In China, responsibility remains with the supervisor whose job it is to delegate work and the implementation of processes to appropriate and trusted employees and who demands to be given feedback on the progress made.
The opinions of one’s elders and/or superiors are not matters to be questioned in Chinese culture. In return for the obedience and loyalty owed by and received from their subordinates, the superiors have the duty to consider and care for the needs of their employees according to Confucian tradition.
The individuals see themselves as a member of a group they owe allegiance to. And the group safeguards and confers to the individual a set of social, economic and cultural rights in turn: the rights to work, education, health, shelter and art, which makes it an intricate system of give and take between individual and group that results in close ties between the two.
Those Who Have Success in China, Rarely Fail in Other Markets
A person who is demonstrably able to lead Chinese employees is also sufficiently qualified to work with employees from and on all over the world. To reach this goal, a foreigner who wants to be successful in China has to be and act as a role model for their Chinese staff – and do so in line with both European and Chinese standards – and has to be capable of imparting and communicating knowledge, know-how and related techniques in the ways called for.
Finding qualified personnel, whether foreign or Chinese, and retaining them at a company long term represents one of the biggest and most demanding challenges today.
At present, Chinese employees no longer just look at the money they earn in a month, but also at the other benefits and advantages a company offers to them in the aggregate. However when there is nothing left to be learnt at the company and there is little else the company may offer to them, many employees will not deliberate over changing their employer for a long time, even if it is for a small sum of extra money only . This is the reason why good personal relationships with employees are so significant for the fortunes and well-being of a company and of its boss and executives alike.
Chinese people have to show and prove to their circle of family and friends that they are “better” and have achieved “more” than others, which is why they often seem to be under a permanent pressure of having to demonstrate and compare their incomes and career levels they have achieved.
So, if you feel at home with both cultures, have successfully completed a comprehensive medical check-up taking into account the climatic conditions and the levels of environmental pollution found at the new location in China, and if you have been given competent consulting and training by intercultural experts, then you are ready and sufficiently qualified for the elite manager mill for executives.