In the second week of May, ChapmanCG’s China team visited Shanghai and Beijing for a series of HR leader roundtable sessions. Five meetings were co-hosted by Deutsche Bank, Goodyear, IBM, IHG, and Thompson Reuters, where over one hundred HR leaders from various industries gathered in different groups for sharing and discussion. The broad theme for this series was ‘Successfully Managing Change, Preparing China/Asia for the Future Workplace.’ Interestingly, the participants chose a number of different angles on the subject, from diversity to innovative sourcing strategies, and the flexible workplace to high potential talent development. As the discussions developed, a number of underlying themes became clear, and following are some of the key takeaways.

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The Growth Environment has Changed

China has been a hotspot for many industries and organisations over the past 30 years. There was a time when double-digit growth was the default or minimum expectation, when all companies needed to do was to be there and capture the opportunities. Those days have passed. Although China is still considered an important growth engine, organisations are now facing severe competition from other multinational companies that have entered the market, as well as local companies. Growth has slowed down and global HQs are exercising more scrutiny when it comes to the resources organisations put in this market and the ROI. Some companies have had to review their Compensation & Benefits policies (particularly sales incentive schemes) or even reduce the level of merit increase, to cope with the slow growth. Developing leaders who can be successful in a slower growth environment has also become a necessity and priority.

Diversity & Inclusion has New Implications

Diversity & Inclusion has always been a focus area for global organisations, although it has different implications and thus requires distinct strategies in individual regions and markets. In China, gender diversity is generally not an issue. Most industries, including financial services, healthcare, and even technology and industrial, have a healthy percentage (over 50%) of female employees. With this, organisations are actually facing unique challenges going forward. For instance, with the new ‘second child’ policy, employers will have to be prepared for a peak of maternity leave applications by female employees, and they will need to develop workforce plans to deal with the effects.

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Innovation is Not Always Breakthrough

Innovation doesn’t always have to be a total revamp or a significant breakthrough; it can also mean continuous improvement of small details. As more and more Gen Y and millennials, who are now called ‘digital natives’, become the dominant force in the work world, a more ‘connected workplace’ is critical. Flexible/mobile workplaces enabled by technology have become the new trend. Leveraging social media platforms like WeChat for effective employee engagement, talent resourcing, and employer branding is enabling the use of significant creativity without a large cost outlay.

From Talent Management to Talent Development

In the past, talent or performance reviews have been largely backward-looking, focusing on what has been achieved. Organisations today are more focused on the development element or future profiles of key talent. Some are developing ‘leadership DNAs’, or specific qualities that successful leaders in that organisation embody, and others are creating a company-wide ‘winning formula’, but the key is all about preparing today’s talent for the changes of tomorrow. It was agreed in all sessions that change is the only constant in the world of business today, and that rather than being led by or simply reacting to change, we should proactively drive it. Always looking forward is fundamental to being ready for constant change, and the key for HR is now how to enable key talent to meet the needs of the future.

Oscar Fuchs, founding Director of ChapmanCG, joined the sessions together with Singapore-based Justin Chen, Beijing-based Wonda Wu, and Katherine Qu. Katherine is a Director, splitting her time between China and Singapore, with a strong focus on the China market.

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Here is what people are saying:

"I like the format of these roundtable sessions, a lot of good exchanges in a genuine and informal way." - Stephane Andrade, HR Director Asia Pacific, PPG

“It was great to meet with HR leaders from other companies. Personally, I found the discussion fruitful and practical, which helped us to refine the 'Winning Formula' and grow critical leadership competencies for the company’s future.” – Jing Zhao, Head of HR, China, Thompson Reuters

"ChapmanCG’s event was, as always, well organised with an interesting and relevant theme. There were practical insights shared by participants. An excellent opportunity and platform for knowledge sharing and networking." – Audina Chong, Vice President Global Talent Acquisition, GEMALTO

“It’s always refreshing to exchange ideas and practices with colleagues from top companies. These roundtables are a source of inspiration!” - Rodolfo Morandin, HR Director Asia Pacific, Pirelli