Too few good men

By Li Fangfang (China Business Weekly)
Updated: 2008-01-21 13:39

Growing need

According to its employment outlook survey of more than 16,000 employers in the Asia-Pacific region and nearly 4,100 employers in China, the mainland's net employment outlook improved by 2 percentage points since last quarter but dropped slightly compared with the same quarter of 2007.

In the first quarter of 2008, the net employment outlook for the mainland shows a 14 percent increase, said Manpower. The survey also found the services sector has the strongest recruitment plans for the second consecutive quarter as it gears up for the 2008 Olympic Games.

Last year, State Grid ranked second among Fortune Magazine's Top 500 companies in employee numbers, after only Wal-Mart. State Grid was followed by Sinopec among the top 10, in which Agricultural Bank of China also figured.

Beijing, as the host city for this year's Olympic Games, now ranks fourth in the number of offices of Top 500 companies - after Tokyo, Paris, New York and London - with 18 headquartered in the capital.

That's good news for China's headhunters. But finding enough qualified talent in a sea of job seekers is tricky. In a lecture at Tsinghua University in July, China Construction Bank (CCB) Chairman Guo Shuqing admitted the biggest hurdle facing his company in its strategy to go overseas is the shortage of qualified professionals.

CCB, one of China's Big Four State-owned commercial banks, wants to set up branches in New York and London, Guo said, adding the bank is "hungry for people specialized in accounting, securities analysis, portfolio management, interest rate pricing and foreign exchange pricing".

Finding the right one

Lucy Qi, HR director of French tire maker Michelin's China headquarters, is busy shortlisting and interviewing for 465 new positions in her company this year. "There is a shortage of qualified engineers with good language skills and product knowledge. That's our biggest challenge. In terms of campus recruitment, the supply is large and there is some very good talent, true. But finding the right profile takes more time," she says. Only 10 percent of the new staff in Michelin have come through campus recruitment.

Hao Jia, HR operations manager of Ikea China, is facing similar problems in recruiting people for her company's international teams in second-tier cities. The global furnishings retailer plans to open three new stores in Shenzhen, Nanjing and Dalian this year, a mega push from the existing four that the company has had in the country for 10 years. "Every new store needs 300 to 500 new staff to work with our multinational team members," says Hao.

Microsoft Corp also plans to hire 1,000 engineers this fiscal year to add to its current staff strength of 5,000 in China.

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