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Jumping off the gravy train

jumping off the gravy

The government’s anti-corruption drive has partly resulted in a decline in the number of people willing to work for the civil service

Dai Qiming’s memories of his first day as a civil servant are as fresh as those of the day he left the service.

Dai gazed across at a vast space in Xintiandi, Shanghai’s most cosmopolitan district, where he spent seven years overseeing expat communities, and the rows of 40-story commercial towers that radiate in every direction.

The area is proud of its record as a heavy taxpayer. It houses the headquarters of about 50 multinational corporations and is home to flagship stores for top-end luxury brands, including Vera Wang and Harry Winston.

“I thought I’d become glamorous along with the area. I didn’t. I must give up now,” says Dai, whose “dream job” failed to withstand the seven-year itch.

The anti-corruption and austerity campaign initiated by the new Party leadership has swept through the 7.6 million workers in China’s public sector and eradicated the “gifting rituals” that were once a common practice for people intent on wooing civil servants.

The growing vitality of the private sector and the government’s endorsement of market forces have also dissuaded an increasing number of people from becoming civil servants, a position that was considered a “golden rice bowl” – a guarantee of lifelong employment – for years, if not decades.

So far this year, in some coastal regions, such as Zhejiang province, the number of applicants for civil servant posts has fallen by 25 percent compared with last year.

Austerity campaign

The government’s anti-corruption, pro-austerity campaign has been a major factor in a decline in the growth of the country’s luxury goods market, which fell to just 2 percent in 2013, compared with a staggering 30 percent in 2011, according to a December study by the consultancy Bain & Co.

The number of officials receiving gifts has also declined markedly since the first half of last year.

A random survey of 100 civil servants from eastern, western and central China, conducted by Beijing News in January, showed that 80 percent of respondents received no gifts last year, a stark contrast to the old days when officials regularly received prepaid shopping cards, wine or cigarettes.

“Some companies used to give high-end bags or watches to my supervisors. I received some shopping cards. Nowadays, no one dares to accept gifts because they don’t want to risk losing their jobs. If that’s the case, what’s left for me?” Dai asks.

Jumping off the gravy train

The well-documented end of the lavish lifestyles enjoyed by top government officials and the focus on rooting out corruption among both “flies and tigers”, a synonym for low and high-ranking officials, has resulted in fewer people wanting to work for the state, according to Robert Parkinson, founder and managing director of the international recruitment group RMG Selection.

Dai says the austerity drive was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and he spent two years mulling “a change of life”. Dai graduated with honors from the Public Administration Department of Fudan University in Shanghai, but because he doesn’t come from a well-to-do family, he was in dire need of the stability offered by a government post.

“I chose to work at the sub-district level because it was the ‘most practical’ choice. Put simply, it’s about power and money,” he says.

The desire to land a civil service post has long been representative of employment priorities among the country’s brightest and best. Public posts are the perfect fit and encapsulate the aspirations of many Chinese: a decent income, high social status and a promising future.

Life was pretty good in 2008, Dai says. His annual post-tax net income was 180,000 yuan ($29,000, 21,150 euros), with about 20 percent coming from various subsidies, shopping coupons and discount cards converted into cash.

Work was laid-back and featured a typical troika of endless cups of tea, a selection of free newspapers and a cellphone. He was comfortable dealing with foreign businesspeople, who were friendly, courteous and, most importantly, fully conversant with the “hidden rules” of business.

“When they needed to fill out paperwork for work visas or business licenses, they never arrived empty-handed. During holidays such as Lunar New Year, my ‘gray’ income could reach five figures,” Dai says.

Salary stagnation

But the perks once associated with being a civil servant have dwindled. As part of the new anti-corruption measures, lower-ranking civil servants will no longer be allocated official cars for personal use, and a wave of anti-graft campaigns have increased scrutiny of government officials.

Dai also saw his salary stagnate. With no gray income, his earnings in 2013 fell by 30,000 yuan compared with five years earlier.

For others, though, the reduction in earnings is not the only thing prompting them to leave jobs that were once the envy of their peers.

A former diplomat, who declined to be named, says his salary was “highly disproportionate” to the extremely long hours he worked.

“My monthly salary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was a little more than 3,000 yuan in 2007, but during the peak seasons, I could work as many as 60 hours a week,” he says. His work situation and a growing disillusion with “diplomatic rhetoric” led him to resign in 2012, after spending four years as an attache in Kuala Lumpur.

He is now hoping to gain expertise in business management, which he regards as a “more useful tool” for planning his career. “I sensed it was insufficient to only master politics. I have an urge to learn more about the economy and the market,” he says.

He joined a state-owned enterprise to “get a sense of what the real business world is like”, and plans to move overseas to study his chosen subjects.

Liu Hong, a researcher at the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology, who is conducting a key national project into the development of civil servants and their work, says the crackdown on corruption might help filter out those who regard government posts as “lucrative and easy”.

“The campaign will cool people’s unreal expectations about the job and reinforce what it should be. Eventually, only those who demonstrate a strong public service ethos will remain in their posts,” she says.

According to Parkinson of RMG, more people are becoming frustrated with the slow pace of work, the relatively low wages and the dull existence of civil service workers.

“As more and more young Chinese are exposed to the outside world and their families’ views become less important to them, or rather they become increasingly confident challenging those views, they become aware that there are far more lucrative and interesting positions in commerce and industry – sectors with a high demand for well-educated, intelligent and, most importantly, ‘thinking’ graduates,” he says.

Dai notices that the tide had turned when people expressed a willingness to trade a public service desk job for the vitality of the private sector. For example, the dominant topic on his Alma Mater’s online chat room has changed from “Civil servant exam preparation” to “Ten tips on how to quit a public post”.

According to a survey conducted by Henan Business Daily in February, more than 60 percent of civil servants in Henan provincial government departments and public institutions have considered quitting.

Lack of candidates

In Zhejiang, the country’s most affluent province, about 230,000 people signed up for the entry exam to become provincial civil servants this year, a decline of 25 percent from 2013, according to official data.

Wu Song, the mayor of Baoshan, a city in Yunnan province, expects the number of aspiring civil servants to decline in the coming years.

“Traditionally, the Chinese believe that a good scholar is the perfect person to become an official. But things have changed. I think college graduates will have a wider range of career options, such as business, agriculture or science, rather than simply becoming civil servants,” he says.

The central government’s reduction of administrative power and its endorsement of market economics have also provided young people with an incentive for change.

Premier Li Keqiang has repeatedly encouraged college graduates to start their own businesses and has promised a package of policies to support young entrepreneurs.

Li Kai, who will graduate from East China Normal University this year, regards becoming a civil servant as a “job option” rather than a “dream offer”. After spending time as an intern at a local government agency, Li realized he was more interested in the business and corporate world. He has received five job offers from multinational corporations. His classmates have all taken the civil service entry exam.

“The ‘civil servant heat’ is fueled by the perceived social status, strong job security and employee benefits. But people should ask themselves whether the job fits their personality and plays to their strengths,” he says.

Simon Lance, China regional director of the recruitment agency Hays, has also noticed a movement to the private sector from China’s civil service.

“The reasons most regularly cited by candidates who wish to pursue careers in the private sector are related to management style, career progression and professional development,” Lance says, adding that many private businesses are investing heavily in training and development programs.

But gaining a well-paid job is not as easy as one might imagine. Dai says he lacks the skills employers are seeking, especially for positions with competitive salaries. “They are either seeking people with certificates in public accounts and financial analysis, or those who have passed the national judicial examination. I have none of those skills. I’m only good at administrative work,” he says.

Lyu Chenyan, who recently resigned from the Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Local Taxation after seven years, says she could not stand the “bureaucracy and hierarchy”. Except for few positions dealing with government affairs, she says her competitive edge is near zero compared with new graduates. Instead, she has decided to study international development at Columbia University in New York.

“During those seven years, I eventually realized that I was not suited to the humdrum, predictable life of the civil service, but if I were to switch jobs right now, I would feel inferior to my peers,” she says.

Contact the writers through hewei@chinadaily.com.cn

Shi Jing and Hu Yongqi contributed to this story.、

Read the original link at:http://africa.chinadaily.com.cn/weekly/2014-03/14/content_17347015.htm

China Insight: Get the mind-changing project started in job changing

Executive
During the period of the so called ’golden September’ and ‘silver October’ in the Chinese proverb, which means a good time for people to look for new job opportunities, the job market in China is full of vitality and vigor. Back to the 1960s, most Chinese took jobs that they prepared to do the work for their whole life. The perseverance and sense of responsibility have built a solid generation. The senior generation now describe the young generation as quite unsettled and ‘picky’ about work. It makes sense to some extent for the old generation in China to place a high value on stability. However, to view the issue in modern China, I think it’s time for people to refresh their views about career development and job changing.Having worked in the headhunting and recruiting business for quite a few years now, I found an increasing number of Chinese people start to understand that people change jobs for quite a lot of different reasons, which may include payment issues, promotion space, company culture, leadership style, job content, company location, social benefits, work environment as well as family influence. In this regard, I believe to figure out the fundamental elements of job changing is the key for Chinese to start the mind-changing process.According to 2013 China Talent Flow Survey (TFS) report conducted by RMG Selection, general interviewees consider that salary raise, promotion and company culture are the three primary factors that impact people’s career change decisions. The research of TFS 2013 started from the mid of June to September with almost 4000 respondents. One of the key pieces of data from the survey is shown on Chart 1 below: It shows that 69% of interviewees choose salary raise as the main factor influencing their career move (the highest). I suppose it is no surprise given that “occupation” is the way to earn living in a society. If people earn more, they have a better living status and vice versa. In this regard, it is not difficult to understand why salary is given so much attention in job changing. Chart 1 What are the main factors affect you to change jobs An interesting point I noticed in this report is about the job changing situation with women: Decades ago, Chinese women were not allowed or not appreciated to work outside. The fast development in the society allows Chinese women to touch the outside environment. It can be seen in Chart 2 and Chart 3 the top 3 factors affecting job changing decisions are exactly the same in male and female. Furthermore, the data are basically at the same level. From taking the role of housewives to getting prepared to be female elites, Chinese women seems adjust themselves very well in career development. Chart 2 Job changing factors in male Chart 3 Job changing factors in female During the past years of my staying in this culturally diverse country, I have heard quite a lot of interesting stories and history about China and Chinese culture. A very important example of this can be seen in chart 4 – “Promotion”, which is closely related with the deep rooted Chinese cultural importance placed on promotion and advancement. According to the famous Chinese ancient encyclopedia Lu Shi Chun Qiu, every single employee wants to get promoted in the hierarchical system. It is regarded as a fundamental need for people’s self-actualization. Back to the modern society, getting promotion is regarded as the recognition of employees’ hard-working and achievements. Chart 4 Influence of promotion in job changing by age groups Though promotion ranks the second reason for people who are looking for new job opportunities, the need to be promoted varies in different age groups. Taking a look at the line graph (Chart 4) about promotion in different age groups, the influence of promotion is increasing from age of 18 to 35. People who are 30 to 35 years old are at the stage of golden career. Once they are at the position that they are satisfied, the need and want of changing jobs to simply get promotion becomes less strong. Comparatively, people at the younger age group might move on with their career because of a good promotion space in the new company. The third element on the Chart 1 is really of great importance. Half of interviewees ‘hop’ to other companies simply because they like the company culture. Things like company values, working environment, collegial relationships, and core leaders matter to a large extent. The reason why it (company culture etc) matters is that in fact attracting talent is only the first step, and in fact perhaps the more important question is how to retain talent in a company. According to my experience in recruitment, more than 90% of the typical leaving reasons are actually related to his or her line manager or the management style of the company. However, lots of companies have never paid any attention on company culture building. Company culture equals the ‘smart power’ of the company. The influence of this ‘smart power’ is well penetrated in the operation process, which can be brought to not only clients as well as job seekers but employees as well. Having contributed to many job interviews, I have quite a few interviewees telling me that they leave their current company simply because of the terrible working atmosphere, poor colleague relationship and punishing system which all belong to part of the company culture building. Money is an important element when people considering changing jobs, but I suppose nowadays people start to care about more than that. To create a unique corporate culture is extremely important for the competing enterprise. As an essential part of corporate culture, the branding of the employer not only enhances the sale-value, also able to attract talent for the enterprise The last one on the list of Chart 1 is opinions from families. To be honest, I dare not agree with the argument that families don’t play a part in the job change decision making process. In the traditional Chinese culture, actually family is a very influential factor when people consider something very important. To show you this clearly, I would like to illustrate family opinion with a case of headhunters. Headhunters sometimes need to deal with cases of relocation. At this moment, opinions from family members can represent the decision-making power. Relocation might involve the moving of the whole family, which indeed need agreement from every family member.
Though considering male has the strong responsibility in taking care of the family and female has to play the role of housewife very well, it’s really hard to say opinions from families do not matter. However, regarding to the data of family opinions in Chart 2 and Chart 3, I found something really interesting. Opinions from families account for 6% (male) and 2% (female), which actually surprise me a lot, because (according to my female colleagues!) normally Chinese women are quite emotional and easy to be influenced by their families. In this case, the influence of family opinions exerted on female is comparatively 3 times lower than it on the male group, which is the female mind-changing issue during the past years. Although of course one wonders how frankly people may answer this question?! The young generation change jobs for different reasons. Simply labeling the young as unstable them is just not right and misses the point. People’s decisions about job changing are made based on the factors listed in the chart. Changing for money and promotion are no longer the only things that people care most about; influence of company culture, leadership style, and job content becomes stronger in the modern society. By explaining all the detail of some of the influential factors, I sincerely hope traditional Chinese culture will not clash with the concept of job changing. Instead of claiming job changing instable and picky, I would rather put it in this way, to find a better place where people can stimulate their hidden potential at work to the maximum.

Zheng He Island Club Recommend China Talent Flow Survey Report

正和岛是中国商界第一高端人脉与价值分享平台, 是中国第一家专注企业家人群的网络社交与资讯服务平台,是线上线下相结合的决策者俱乐部。正和岛正是向其会员推荐了RMG中国人才流动调查(China Talent-Flow Survey Report),作为其会员进行企业决策的依据。

Zheng He Island Club is the top high-end connection and value sharing platform. This is the first social and information service platform that focuses on the entrepreneur group. The entrepreneur club combines both online and offline service. Recently, Zheng He Island Club recommends RMG’s China Talent Flow Survey Report for its club members to facilitate the decision making process in their businesses.

Doing Legal Works in Big Companies – CBN Weekly

罗迈国际RMG SELECTION 公司合伙人曹迪Lilly在《第一财经周刊》的报道“在大公司做法务”中对法务职位的行情、工作内容、发展路径、能力要求等方面给出建议,详情请见周刊2013年第15期。

Di Cao (Lilly), partner of RMG Selection, published a report Doing Legal Works in Big Companies on CBN Weekly. She gives her suggestion about legal positions from the viewpoint of the industry, work, development, qualification and so forth. For more information, please refer to the CBN Weekly on 29th April, 2013.

1 2 3 4     Source: CBN Weekly http://www.cbnweek.com/

Secrets of the Headhunters – China Daily

 Secrets of the headhuntersIn the world of headhunting, carefully assessing personalities plays a role. Provided to China Daily

The refined techniques of recruitment firms are in demand. An increasing number of Chinese companies are turning to international headhunters for high-quality overseas professionals, as they do not have the extended professional connections needed to find such talent.

Zhang Ruguo, the HR manager of the Beijing-based New Oriental Education Group, says that most of the recruitment is directly done by the company, save for some high-level management positions.

“Since we do not have the right connections, we have to ask for help from overseas headhunters.

“They (overseas headhunters) have a rich database and human capital resources. By going through them, we can save a lot of time and energy, and also be sure that the talent we procure is suited for our requirements,” Zhang says.

International headhunting companies had very few Chinese clients when they first entered the Chinese market some 15 years ago, but in the past few years there has been a sea change, says James Darlington, head of Asia at Antal International, a global HR consultancy.

“When we first entered the Chinese market in 1998, 90 percent of our clients were multinational companies. But today more than half of our clients are local companies,” he says.

Robert Parkinson, founder and CEO of RMG Selection, a Beijing-based recruitment consultancy, says that five years ago his company had hardly any Chinese companies as clients. But now they account for more than 20 percent of the clientele. The company plans to set up a new office in Tianjin this year to handle the workload from Chinese companies, he says.

Parkinson says the main reason why Chinese companies are looking for overseas talent is the fact that the economy is gradually changing. About 15 years ago, China was the manufacturing center of the world with the lowest prices, but now it has changed to a place where more value is added to products.

Moreover, with China emerging as one of the most dominant and resilient players in the global economy after recent financial troubles, and more Chinese companies striving to compete with multinational firms, the need for overseas talent has skyrocketed.

“If you look at what work the law firms do, you will find a lot of their work is not inbound, but outbound investment, to help Chinese companies expand overseas. That’s a huge driver,” Parkinson says.

There are large demands in two areas: one for the government-backed talent programs, which typically look for top-notch and academically qualified candidates in technology-based areas, says John Benson, CEO of Silu.com, a Chinese career site that focuses on connecting overseas professionals with Chinese companies.

The second is a more across-the-board demand for skillsets that the China talent pool cannot provide, such as professionals with experience in operating in Western cultures, especially from Chinese companies looking to expand abroad, he says.

When searching for high-level talent for Chinese companies, headhunters go through the same process as when they work for other international companies. But the situation varies from case to case, says Ed Zheng, senior client partner of Korn/Ferry International, a global executive search firm. More than 40 percent of its clients in China are local companies, with state-owned enterprises accounting for 50 percent of the total.

“The first thing that we do is to communicate with our client, so that we can understand not only what’s on the job description, but also the company’s business strategy, its growth target, structure and culture,” Zheng says. “Our first job is to help the Chinese companies figure out their specific requirements for talent.”

Following this, the company will start to look for candidates overseas. Zheng says that for high-level positions, candidates’ personalities and leadership competence probably play an equal, if not bigger, part in their career successes compared with specialized skills.

“We often spend a lot of time in assessing the potential candidate’s personalities. Usually in our recommendations about them to companies, only 40 percent are about the candidates’ professional skills, while 60 percent is about their personalities and leadership competence,” he says.

Approaching candidates is not an easy task, and it is important for headhunters to be aware of the true value of joining a Chinese company from the candidate perspective before doing so, Parkinson of RMG says.

“About 99 percent of candidates that we approach at first will be passive candidates who are not looking for changes or new experiences,” Parkinson says.

“Therefore you cannot have people with one year’s working experience calling someone with 25 years’ experience to have a conversation on career development, as they cannot engage at the same level. Engaging with them is knowing them in a deep way.”

When the candidates show interest, headhunters often arrange interviews, to see if there is something they would like to change about the current positions, and the contract-related aspects. After the candidates join the company, headhunters will help them with integrating in the first few months. In most of cases, the recruitment fees can be high and more than one third of the candidates’ yearly salary, Parkinson says.

However, even after careful matching, retention of acquired talent is a challenge for many Chinese companies. More than half of the high-level talent leave their positions in Chinese companies after one year, largely due to cultural differences, Zheng says.

“Most of the Chinese companies consider talent as an acquired skill and not as acquiring a talent,” he says. “Take a legal director in a Western company as an example. From a Western perspective what makes him tick, besides professional skills, are factors such as pets and hobbies. But in most Chinese companies, the only thing that matters is that he is an expert in legal issues.”

Zheng says the good thing about the process is that the appropriate person can be found, and skills can readily applied.

“However, ignorance about a talent’s cultural values, personalities and career aspirations will lose their loyalty. When a talent has been abstracted to a skill, and a higher-paid job has been offered, they will leave right away,” he says.

Moreover, enterprise culture in Western companies and Chinese companies are quite different. In Western companies, employees’ rights and obligations are set down in a contract and the boss is more likely to be open about it, whereas in Chinese companies, personal networks and relationships are more important, and the boss is more likely to give orders than to listen.

He adds that while retaining talent, money is usually not the prime motivator. Instead, it is more about people who have a real interest in the culture and history of China, and those who are ambitious and capable of seizing the available opportunities.

Claire Yang, managing director of the consultancy Accenture Greater China, and an expert on talent and organization performance, says overseas talent should accept that things operate in different ways in different cultures and be more positive in communicating with Chinese bosses and make changes.

Even though the number of companies using headhunters is increasing, it is still small compared with the whole market, Parkinson says.

“Chinese companies are less familiar with headhunting services. In Chinese culture, people pay more attention to their own network and relationships; they come to us only when people simply cannot be found by other channels,” he says.

It will take another five or 10 years for Chinese people to start using headhunting companies for outsourcing professionals, he says.

http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/weekly/2013-04/26/content_16451324.htm

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