Attracting first-rate technical talent is one of the most important ingredients of success for technology-oriented companies in China. Recruiting top technologists and engineers has become a formidable task as China pours enormous resources into advancing its technological capabilities. To help alleviate this problem, the Chinese government is developing incentive schemes to attract top talent from overseas. Though China is quickly developing centers of world-class innovation, human capital remains a point of weakness.
There is no one-size-fits-all recruitment strategy for companies in China seeking to attract technical expertise. Companies should tailor their strategy according to their own needs, strengths, and weaknesses.
Attract Talent from Overseas
It is notoriously difficult to get a work visa for foreign employees in some regions of China. Nonetheless, the Chinese government is making it easier to bring in technical talent from overseas.
Recruiting technologists and engineers from overseas can be a useful part of any China-based recruitment strategy, for a handful of reasons. First, the market for top technology employees in China has become extremely competitive, making it costly and difficult to find the best talent locally. Second, as an international company, you have an advantage over Chinese companies when it comes to hiring talent in your home country. Third, within China, you may lack the domestic connections to successfully attract the best talent.
The market rate of compensation for technology talent is quickly moving skyward. For example, one AI company in Beijing offers a total compensation package of USD 3 million annually to some of its top engineers. Therefore, businesses that are dependent on finding the very best technologists should be prepared to compensate generously as they will be competing with many other firms.
However, it is important to note that the market rate of compensation for a particular kind of engineer may not be the most important indicator for your recruitment efforts. This is because the difference in cost between first-rate engineers and average ones will be obscured by the average market rate for a particular category of engineer. For this reason, some technology companies have a practice of paying far above market rate, just to attract and retain the highest talent. However, your business may not need to compete with them, even if you are hiring the same category of engineer.
Recruitment strategies for technical talent should be based on the unique needs of your company. For example, if you are an innovation-driven startup whose success depends on engineering geniuses, then you may wish to offer compensation high enough to help lure this talent. On the other hand, if you are a manufacturing company, for example, that requires competent (but not ingenious) engineers, you may not need to set aside so much cash.
Differentiate Your Company
With such fierce competition for talent, it can be easy to forget that terms like “tech industry” or “tech talent” mask an extraordinary amount of variation among companies and individuals. Therefore, when recruiting technology talent, it can be useful to focus on the differentiating factors of your company, just as a candidate might focus on differentiating him or herself to your company. One of the main advantages of this is that you will attract the employees that will more naturally fit your company, which can reduce recruitment and HR costs. For example, if your company relies on a fast-paced work culture to fulfil its core competencies, consider highlighting this aspect of your company.
Chinese employees may place greater value on long-term work at one company, whereas western employees may be more comfortable leaving a company after a year or two. Therefore, some employees may be looking closely to see what makes your company different and what makes it a place that they would like to work for a long period of time. Highlight your company’s differentiating factors as you recruit technical talent in China.
Emphasize The Value of Your Company’s Work
Technology companies the world-over seek to lure talent by offering perks like free massages, gyms, Jacuzzis, and catering. However, the most motivated and visionary employees will likely be more driven by a particular kind of work than freebies and goodies. If your company can sell employees on what makes your own company compelling or exciting, this may be a more useful differentiation strategy than pouring funds into employee goodies and perks. That vision could involve the actual product the company is selling, its future plans, shared values, and any other work-related factors.
Sell Employees on Their Potential to Contribute
The top technical talent will gravitate towards companies in which they can make a contribution that they would be unable to make elsewhere. The most capable technical talent may be concerned that their talents will not be fully utilized at a company they go to. If a company can allow their technical talent to make a great contribution without being held back by company red-tape, they may be more attracted to that company and may be more likely to stay for long periods of time.
For technology companies in China, credibly demonstrating this may give you a leg up in attracting top talent from overseas. If an employee is relocating to China, he or she may want to make sure that the experience will be an asset if he/she chooses to return home. If you can show the employee that he or she has the potential to make a contribution that he might be unable to make elsewhere, he or she may be more likely to relocate to China.
While attracting technical talent in China will remain a challenging task for the foreseeable future, companies can develop an effective recruitment strategy by focusing on their own needs and circumstances in addition to utilizing accurate intelligence on market conditions. Finding the right local partners early can help you gain access to key networks and build a base of first-rate talent at your company.