China is the world’s largest economy, trader, and exporter and is continuing to grow at a staggering rate. It has seen a tenfold increase in its GDP since 1978 while also seeing its population age faster than almost all other countries in modern history. China is made-up of a very diverse set of twenty three (23) regional Provinces, five (5) autonomous Regions, four (4) Municipalities, and two (2) special administrative Regions that each have their own unique legacy and ways of going about business. While there is common ground and a strong foundation “uniting” them all, doing business in each can be very different. And these differences are critical for Companies and Clients to both consider and understand when they are hiring external Executive Talent – regardless of where a Company and/or Client are located from a headquarters’s perspective. All of this needs to be considered whenever new Executives are being considered – including the added geographical dynamic factor and how that relates both to the overall Company’s, Client’s, and Executive’s cultural make-up.
While there are huge differences in how to recruit City by City and Region by Region, even within particular Regions in China, there is a complex heritage and dynamics that go along with that. For example, while Chinese (or Mandarin) is the official language (Putonghua; based on the Beijing dialect), there are also Yue (Cantonese), Wu (Shanghainese), Minbei (Fuzhou), Minnan (Hokkien-Taiwanese), Xiang, Gan, Hakka dialects and a variety of minority languages (e.g. Zhuang is official in Guangxi Zhuang, Yue is official in Guangdong, Mongolian is official in Nei Mongol, Uighur is official in Xinjiang Uygur, Kyrgyz is official in Xinjiang Uygur, and Tibetan is official in Xizang (Tibet)). So, doing business in Shanghai can very different than from doing business in Beijing, Nanjing, Wuxi, Tianjin, Shenzen, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dongguan, Shenyang, and Wuhan (for starters). As a result, International Recruiting Firms and expatriated Executives often have a very difficult time understanding the overall Chinese culture. And without understanding the unique cultural aspects of the various Cities and Regions, even the best “functional” Executive Recruiters will get it “wrong”.
Culture, Culture, Culture
Realtors and related real estate investors will regularly talk about the most important decision for making an real estate investment is “location, location, location”. At Maccabeus, we say executive recruiting comes down to three (3) words, as well – “culture, culture, culture”. Specifically, the culture of the Company (or the client), the Executive, and the City, Region, Province, etc.
While it’s true that corporate vs. individual cultural fit is very important in traditional Executive search, what often gets missed in China is the “Regional or Provincial cultural fit”. Per the chart below, the age structure in China has changed tremendously over the past 50 years due to the governmental policies around population control (leading to a very real concern that the proportion of Chinese over retirement age will become 39% of the total population by 2050). For a roughly 1.4B person (est.) population today, the breakdown goes as follows: 0-14 years-old at 17.29% (male: 129,296,339 / female: 111,782,427); 15-24 years-old at 11.48% (male: 86,129,841 / female: 73,876,148); 25-54 years-old at 46.81% (male: 333,789,731 / female: 318,711,557); 55-64 years old at 12.08% (male: 84,827,645 / female: 83,557,507); and 65 years-old+ at 12.34% (male: 81,586,490 / female: 90,458,292).
The ramifications of China’s population shift is having significant consequences on Companies, Clients, Executives, and China overall. While many expatriated Executives see China as a “stepping-stone” to another role within their larger global Corporation, not all do. In fact, many stay quite longer in both China and the Region for a variety of reasons. Many see China as “great” for living abroad. The graphic below showcases how international expatriated Executives and their Families are viewing China.
Understanding all of these recruiting complexities is absolutely critical in Executive search. At Maccabeus, we understand the Chinese City, Provincial, and Regional differences and how to apply those unique qualities across the cultural aspects of both Companies (Clients) and Executives (and their Families). We have recruited across the broad spectrum that is China and met in-person with Clients in Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Shenzen, Guangzhou, Wuxi, and beyond. We know the cultural differences between China (City, Province, Region) and international Corporations and their corresponding Executive make-up. And we know the differences not just from an Executive Recruitment Firm’s perspective, but also as Executives who have considered relocations and/or new career challenges directly for ourselves and our Families. While we have counseled hundreds of Executives to not take an opportunity based on their concerns around cultural differences (based on location and/or the company), our Partners and Staff have also declined offers ourselves as Industry Executives – opportunities that just weren’t the right “fit” for either ourselves and/or our Families. We get it.
Finding the right Executives takes a tenacity to see through the surface of experiences and to look into the intangibles behind who a leader really is as a person. To get to know the companies, clients, Executives, Families, etc. behind the search project. Maccabeus LLC is committed to and has a strong track record of recruiting and placing Executives across a diverse landscape of industries and locations.
We would welcome the opportunity to discuss this further with you and your Board.
“Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak.”St. Anthony of Padua