Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Employer Branding in China

On the last leg of a marathon, which has finished in Beijing. I'm the guest of a joint venture between our centre in Glasgow and a newly established, practitioner oriented research centre in Bejing. The Cente for Employer Branding and Reputation Management is a collaboration between Peking University (the number one university in China), (one of the largest recruitment consultants in China) and CCTV, which produces the 'Best Employer in China' awards. Such a coming together of big brands in China is testament to the emerging interest in this concept (somewhat similar to Australia in last blog), as was the three hundred or so HR executives, graduate students and staff who turned up to a conference on the subject where I gave the keynote speech and received a visting professorship from Peking University.

The Chinese project is being led to my long time colleague, ex-PhD student and co-author, Dr Hong Zhang, who is currently editing a book on employer branding in China, due out late next year. My impressions from meeting with colleagues are that employer branding and reputation management are concepts that will take root in this most complex of societies. There are two reasons underlying this prediction. The first is the concern with image and identity, which, according to colleagues, is a major issue with employers in China. Consulting report after consulting report lists image and reputation as major pre-occupations of Chinese CEOs. Part of this interest seems to be a result of a lack of confidence among Chinese companies, and part is due to the second reason - the talent management agenda.

Talent management - attracting, retaining, motivating and engaging people - still remains a major issue in the big cities in China, despite the downturn in economic growth (accurate statistics on this issue are not easy to come by). A recent McKinsey report on talent management in China seems to support this impression, which is also the belief of my new colleagues in the Centre. I'm based in an hotel located in a science and technology centre next to the two big universities in Beijing, which has every big technology company in the world resident on its huge science parks. These companies require talented people and the Chinese universities cannot put them out fast enough; nor can they deliver the right levels of quality to turn this country into the knowledge-based economy in aspires to. As a consequence, Chinese companies are beginning to operate in global labour markets for talent, and its shows. Compared to my first visit fifteen years ago, the number of non-Chinese working over here has grown enormously, so much so that they have begun to locate themselves in the equivalent of 'gated communities'.

This new venture has plenty of interesting questions to ask of employer branding and talent management, and I look forward to helping them.


kesha said...

Though few and far in between, Employer branding there have been instances of Indian companies branding themselves to prospective and current employees. Some of course, have done it inadvertently.



Graeme's HR Blog said...

Yes Kesha, I know. I've contributed to an Indian book on employer branding.

Your point about inadvertent branding is one I always make. organisations always have reputations, intended and unintended

john castledine said...


I hope you can add to this interesting post by sharing your insights on L&D activities & mindset in China ... as this will no doubt have a significant influence on talent management initiatives

safe travels


Graeme's HR Blog said...

I just haven't been in China long enough to get a sense of that, john. Except to say that this is a country dominated by rapid movement and hiring, not so much development, at least at this stage. It may change as recession and HR problems bite.