Business / Technology

Pursuit of human capital 'key part' of acquisition drive

By GAO YUAN (China Daily) Updated: 2015-01-28 10:50

Personal computer maker Lenovo Group Ltd has an ambitious plan to beat Apple Inc in the smartphone market.

After it acquired Motorola Mobility last year, becoming the world's third-largest handset vendor, its planning took on an air of urgency.

Bringing in Motorola not only helped the Chinese company enlarge its non-Chinese employee headcount by a few thousand, it also pushed Lenovo to become a real multinational.

"With all our mergers and acquisitions, it is about acquiring the human capital (with) the experience, the skills, the capabilities that will allow us to grow and go beyond where we are today," said Yolanda Conyers, vice-president of global human resources operations and chief diversity officer. "There are multiple ways that Lenovo, a Chinese heritage company, has proved to be very global."

No one knows cultural diversity better than Conyers at Lenovo.

The 25-year HR veteran clearly remembers the first day she joined Lenovo meetings in Beijing more than seven years ago, because she was "shocked" by the cultural diversity in the company's executive boardroom.

On Jan 17, 2007, Conyers traveled to China for the first time to discuss with the company executives the early "East and West integration challenges" Lenovo was facing after a major acquisition. By then, the Beijing-based company just acquired IBM Corp's personal computer division for $1.75 billion.

"In that meeting, we had a room of diverse leaders from all over the world. I was surprised by that, and I have never seen that before," Conyers recalled.

International acquisitions were the major secret ingredient for Lenovo to climb to the top position in the global computer market. Apart from the patents and product lines Lenovo acquired, the global human capital was another valuable asset.

Besides Motorola, Lenovo closed another record-breaking deal with IBM, taking in roughly 6,500 IBM x86 server employees in 34 research and development centers and seven manufacturing locations around the world.

Jason Wang, managing partner of the recruitment company Experis, an operating division of ManpowerGroup Inc, said the rapid growth of Chinese Internet and high-tech industries created a huge demand for global job seekers.

"Chinese tech companies are able to offer increasingly higher salaries for overseas talent, making them more competitive on the global HR market," according to Wang.

An increasing number of former executives from overseas companies have shown an interest in joining a Chinese tech company, and top local players are set to have more non-Chinese executives in the boardroom.

According to Conyers, three critical mental attributes are necessary for foreign employees who work for a China-based enterprise, in addition to strong technical ability.

Before joining Lenovo, Conyers was a longtime executive at United States PC maker Dell Inc, working in multiple business units including worldwide supply chain strategy, staff recruitment and customer services.

"First, you need to be cross-culturally curious. Anytime you go to another country, you have to be open and curious about how they do things and how they learn every day. Second, you have to have the ability to develop relationships," Conyers said.

"I struggled when I first came to Lenovo, but I developed deep relationships with those who helped me understand the culture. Third, you just have to be open to trying things differently."

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