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The China HR Market Continues to Attract Talented Mandarin-Speaking HR Leaders

Interest remains strong among Singaporeans and other Mandarin-speakers for HR assignments in China. The Chapman Consulting Group is continuing to see a steady number of HR leadership figures from Singapore and Hong Kong move to China to take up both Regional and Country HR roles.

Beijing and Shanghai are obviously still the two key main locations for HR expatriates, but secondary cities like Guangzhou and Dalian are beginning to feature too, according to Oscar Fuchs, Associate Director with The Chapman Consulting Group. “China is increasingly being seen as a valuable market to gain HR experience — especially if you have the language skills.’ says Fuchs. “Managing such high rates of organic growth while leading large teams of junior HR practitioners is challenging at the best of times. Add to that the prevalence of M&A activity in the region and you have an increasingly complicated set of expectations to manage, both in China and internationally”.

But while career rewards are high, Singapore and Hong Kong’s low tax rates can make the move to China less financially rewarding for some. “Unless you’re well-positioned to get an expatriate package with tax equalisation benefits, you’re likely to come out worse-off financially”, says Fuchs. “The best way to guarantee an expatriate package is if you’re relocated into China with your current employer, or if you can bring to a new employer a set of skills that he is unlikely to find in any other candidate”.

This trend follows the growing number of Regional HR Head roles being created in China. As business interests of European and US companies grow deeper into the Chinese mainland, it can make more sense to base the lead HR position of the region in the country. “We’ve also seen a few cases recently where the new Head of HR for China needed to be scalable into eventually being able to report directly into global headquarters. We expect to see more instances of this happening in the future, in the same way that HR Head roles in Japan have been structured to ‘bypass’ the regional headquarters and report directly into Head Office”, said Fuchs.

And when the China assignment ends and the HR Leader returns home they can expect head-hunters to be knocking on their door. Using Singapore as an example, local HR talent coming back into the market with international experience, especially in a growing market like China, are highly sought after. “Companies like the broader mindset of an HR Leader who has spent time outside of their home environment. It shows the ability to take risks and step out of their comfort zone”, says Fuchs.

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