30 August, 2006

How to manage turnover in China

One of the biggest concerns I have with my job here over the next year is managing turn over within a "tech team." Internet/technology jobs are growing fast in China. The Microsofts, Googles, Yahoos...looking for the best, make attractive offers and people here are going for the big names. In fact, Google seems as though they will have some rapid growth in China soon. A friend here told me that 20 Google families have just moved to Beijing (I trust the information, due to the business he is in).

What I have been told, and have seen on resumes here...is that young Chinese, with limited experience and good tech skills will jump from job-to-job looking for more pay. Understandable, but not good for the employers. How do you stop that from happening? Don't know. Even if you give them a bit higher than the average salary, if they're good, they'll get more somewhere else.

The culture is going to have to be open & fun, the work, challenging and the people will need to have room to grow. Other than pay and benefits, those are the only things I can think of.

But how to do all of that? I have some thoughts, let's see if they work. Will post progress down the road.

Any suggestions out there, I'd love to hear them.


Mark @ Lenovo said...


Interesting post & question. I'll throw in my thoughts from a couple perspectives. First, we could draw a parallel between where the China job market is now, and the US in the late 90's leading up to the dot com bubble, people with web and network skills were job hoping like mad. Companies were investing a lot to get people trained up and certified (MS certs, Novel, Sun Solaris, Java, etc, etc) only to have the people hop to a better gig. Companies tried to lock people in for several years through a hiring contract that said they had to repay the cost of the training / certs if they left before 2 years, etc. There are also other contractual methods around non-compete. Don't know about the Chinese legalities. However, that level of control is a patch for not having dealt with more basic human motivations (other than greed) that would help with retention anyway. Two thoughts: First, I believe you are on the right track in making your team experience rewarding to your workers. Empower them, solicit their opinions. Perhaps, try coaching techniques and work to get them really emotionally connected with what they are doing. They will be more inclined to stay through the fruition of the project if they are emotionally vested in the outcome, and you are creating additional 'value' to them in the job they are doing. You might also discuss with them what they want to do next and see how you can adjust to help them build skills in that direction. If they believe their time with lenovo is preparing them, they may stay longer than moving somewhere else in hope of better circumstances. Second thought is more philosphical - You want to work with people on their way to something better. If your team is made up solely of people who are completely content with what they are doing today, they likely lack ambition and drive, and will not be top performers. I had my own company (retail computer store in a mall) before I came to IBM. My top sales people never stayed more than 3-6 months, but consistently outperformed those that had been around a year or more, and were comfortable in what they were doing. Those that wanted more, got the sales, pushed the envelop on the job, and eventually moved on to something better for them. It was tough to let them go, but it helped me to learn what to look for over time. Obviously you need some "glue" people that will be around to hold things together through the transitions. Perhaps some cross training can help you over the transitions.

Anonymous said...

1. Big monitors
2. Latest hardware
3. Good software tools
4. Spot bonuses
5. Clear career path

manninchina said...

Mark...thanks for the ideas, thoughts and advice, it really helps. You are right on with the late 90s association. I'm not sure why that didn't hit me when I was thinking about this.

The good thing is, most people on the team will have only a couple or no corporate experience, and most, no international experience. That leaves a lot of opportunity to take your advice and see what works.

I've also got some good info. out of HR here, they were very prepared for my questions.

thanks again

Esteban said...

Well, I feel rather identified by this one. Argentina is no China, but some parallels can br drawn.

We are quickly comming out of a huge recession and an economic deffault. Unemployment reached well over 20% back in 2001. Hell broke loose, riots, loothing, social unrest a president quiting his job.

With this background we faced devaluation from 1 peso = 1 U$S we went to 1 U$S = 3.10 pesos.

That gave us a competitive edge in terms of costs. We are cheap. Really, we are...

So this made the economy boost... for example, last month's PBI increase was 10.1 (july 2004 - july 2005). With all this going on the job market has flipped like a pancake; we went from employers telling people "we pay this lousy salary, and there's a ton of other guys willing to do the job for this much money, take it or leave it" to employees actually having choices. A good change IMHO.

Back at IBM I was seriously thinking about hoping to the next good thing. Then came the offer from lenovo. And I though I'd give it a try.

3 months into Lenovo I was offered a position in the competition... you know the brand that starts with "H" and ends with "P", salarry was better, position was better... what made me stay?

For once we had a great work group. Then we were handed a white canvas to do things, a "new" company with lots of thing in the to-do list. Then I was givven a lot of freedom to try things. And they challenged me.

Things have settled a lot since those days... we have moved locations (twice), and seem to have a "structure" locally.

I still find some challenges, but I have to go get them. As long as they allow me to try stuff or "go out of the box" and I see some progress in the road ahead I'll stay... The minute I feel I have to ask for permision for everything and that my career is "stuck"; I'll move on.

For me the list of "musts" is:
-Good work atmosphere
-Decent pay (I don't mind a raise!! ;-) )
-Freedom to propose and try new and different things.
-I wound't mind having Lenovo gearing me a tad more!!

I feel rather "loyal" to the companies I work for, and I'll cope with a lot of stuff if I can get things in the above list.

Now I feel I was a tad TOO honest with this post...