Our Challenge:

There is an unaddressed Chinese shift in the global workforce that brings new efficiencies and new challenges. Massive numbers of Chinese nationals educated outside China are finding jobs abroad and the numbers keep increasing. Foreign companies continue to invest in China while Chinese increase their interests abroad.[1] Both are establishing sole or joint ventures and making purchases on foreign ground. Companies in China and abroad rely on a combination of non-mainland, foreign born and foreign-educated Chinese as the obvious bridge, but quickly learn that language proficiency may be the only contribution. These groups often lack deeper cultural understanding and managerial skills to bring the sides together quickly.

Merging ideas between China and the outside world remains an issue due to the basic differences in values and motivations. Companies with top down management styles traditionally fit Chinese expectations, but performance relies on the abilities of the leader. A strong leader can push work through but has no legacy of developing independent, accountable and proactive employees. Bottom up management style empowers teams with freedom to act, but often leaves Chinese without clear direction and enough time to embrace the leadership style. Even when both sides have the same goal and skills to achieve, their exhibited behaviors can contradict expectations, creating confusion and doubt. The impacts are frustration, delays and even turnover of staff or dissolved agreements.

Pressure for quick results and cost constraints make filling China’s void of highly experienced/skilled employees even more difficult. Companies run the risk of paying top dollar for foreign “experts” whose experiences may not have the same result in China.  The other option to promote younger locals, with impressive resumes and less experience, risks repeated underperformance and being poached to a competitor after time and money spent on their development.

Companies are operating, but they can absolutely improve their international team efficiency.

[1] http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-11-19/foreign-investment-into-china-wheres-the-money-flow

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