How Chinese Companies Can Better Utilize Local Talents in Global Markets

In working with a leading Chinese global company, I asked a general manager what his biggest challenge was.  "Knowing whom to trust", he said.  Such sentiments are not uncommon among Chinese managers dealing with North American markets.  When it comes managing and dealing with people, what works in China does not translate into the same results in markets like the U.S.

How do most Chinese companies generally utilize and manage the local talents in the U.S.? 

It's Whom You Know

When hiring local talents, many Chinese managers place a premium on the candidate's professional network.  For most positions, they view the biggest asset of local hires is whom they know and have worked for in the past.  A quick look at the candidate's past employers on the resume narrows down the potential hires to those who have a direct past relationship with the customer they serve or prospects they are trying to win.  In their minds, the network or perceived relationship with the network is more important than technical skills or domain expertise. 

This line of thinking comes from the traditional Chinese practice that good relationship is the key to unlock everything.   Most Chinese managers take a long time to accept that in markets like the U.S., while knowing someone is helpful at the entry point, it does not give you more certainty or advantage to win business.  And a talented professional can create rapport or quick "relationship" with a potential customer - it is not always necessary to have established long-term relationship as is the case in China.


For local talents that are on the job, on the one hand, they can grapple with meeting with the expectations coming from having the right perceived connection or network.  On the other hand, they must adjust their mindset and learn how to demonstrate that they can add more value by using their technical and domain expertise than simply being the perceived "easy pass" to get to the customer or prospect.   

Title but Not Authority

Most local talents that are hired by Chinese companies get a boost on their resume when it comes to titles.  This is particularly true when it comes to positions that are customer facing.  Inflating one's title is a common business practice in China where the bigger title helps the person to gain instant credibility with an outside contact.  The disconnect begins to surface when the Chinese management does what it considers a common practice while the local recipient in the U.S. assumes an actual higher level of responsibilities and authority that comes with it.


From the view of the Chinese management, bigger titles are mostly for outsider convenience only, and it does not mean that key decisions can now be made by local hires with the appropriate titles.  As a culture of low trust of people that are foreign, Chinese managers find it difficult to operate under the premise that a foreign hire can be just as loyal as a Chinese hire.  Key decisions remain controlled by the Chinese management team and the extended teams in China.  When it comes to strategic decisions, they ask for advice but undoubtedly always question the legitimacy of the answers. 


As Chinese companies mature and extend their footprints in developed markets like the U.S., they need to adapt to give more trust and empowerment to local talents.  Deep-rooted cultures are hard to change.  But for those who aspire to become a global success, they can only achieve this by having a global mindset and are not afraid to try out anything foreign.  

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