How to Win in China as Talent War Heats Up

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Companies Risk Their Competitiveness in China If They Can’t Retain Top Young Local Management Talent; New Study Shows How to Keep Young Chinese MBAs Katzenbach Partners’ “CHINA 2024,” 20-Year Longitudinal Study of Recent Chinese MBAs, Shows What Companies Must Do – and Not Do – to Keep Young Leaders Engaged Create Small Businesses Within the Business, Tap Entrepreneurship, Teach Leadership Skills, and Establish a Dynamic, Challenging Environment Chinese MBAs’ Focus is Not Just on Career or Company, but Also on the Future of China

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If I leave the job it will be because I lose passion for the position

NEW YORK (Business Wire EON) August 5, 2008 -- China is no longer just "the world's factory" – it's a competitive, talent-driven business market where multinational and Chinese companies are at risk unless they win the war for the hottest commodities – young local MBAs.

To recruit and, more important, retain young managers, companies must focus not just on salary and benefits, but also on cultural factors and a clear value proposition that speaks to the needs and expectations of this new generation of leaders. Companies need to remember that satisfaction among this group can mean something different in China than in Western businesses, and best practices are different as a result.

These are some of the findings from the latest report from CHINA 2024, a landmark 20-year longitudinal study that follows 114 Chinese nationals, all of whom received MBAs from prestigious Chinese and U.S. MBA programs in 2004. The study was developed by Katzenbach Partners, a management consulting firm focused on helping large organizations achieve breakthroughs in organizational performance. CHINA 2024 is the only ongoing survey of young Chinese executives. It seeks to provide unique insight into top Chinese talent, what it takes to motivate them, what their aspirations are and how they evolve.

Chinese MBAs Want to Make a Difference for China – Not Just Advance Their Own Careers

"In many respects Chinese MBAs are like their American counterparts, but in several key respects they're not," said Stacy Palestrant, a Katzenbach Partners consultant and the leader of the CHINA 2024 program. "The Chinese MBAs in the study – who are now four years out of business school – want competitive salary and benefits, of course. But they are also looking for work that is more than a job, and that lets them make a difference, both in the company and in the future of China.

"China is a seller's market for management talent," Ms. Palestrant said. "Talented young Chinese managers have no shortage of opportunity – with global companies or with Chinese companies, where many of them would rather work. Companies need to be skillful in managing them – otherwise there is the clear risk that companies will pay for expensive on-the-job training that the MBAs will use to get better work elsewhere."

Do's and Don'ts for Major Employers in China

The research among the MBAs leads to some core "do's" and "don'ts" for employers in China:

DO give MBAs a chance to learn leadership skills. DON'T confine MBAs to the "back room" or "rank and file." When asked to name the most important things they want to learn over the next two to three years to grow professionally, CHINA 2024 participants most frequently mentioned leadership skills: things like people management, negotiation, project management, strategic decision-making and communication. They want to take ownership and have an impact on the organization. "I enjoy my job most when the manager I report to trusts me and allows me to take on many initiatives," said a Beijing-based investment banker. DO help MBAs feel passionate about their jobs – and about their role in the future of China. DON'T think that Chinese MBAs are seeking only personal rewards. "If I leave the job it will be because I lose passion for the position," said one participant. And, said a Shanghai-based technology company manager, "During my work, I can observe the development of the economy of my country. This is a fantastic experience." DO keep the challenges coming. DON'T let the job become routine. Chinese MBAs want challenging jobs and dynamic learning environments. Their main reason for leaving a job was "it wasn't challenging enough." MBAs who found their jobs challenging said repeatedly that for that reason, they were more likely to stay at the company. They want to stretch. "I love my job because it provides the opportunity for me to do something new and difficult," said a Shanghai-based manager. DO create "small businesses" within the business to tap MBAs' entrepreneurial spirit. DON'T bury them in bureaucracy. As in the U.S., many smart young Chinese MBAs prefer the fast-moving pace of a small start-up or other entrepreneurial venture. Large corporations that want to keep them excited about their work should seek ways to create a similar environment within their own companies. Those that don't are at a higher risk of losing these workers. "If I were to leave my current job, it would be because I found a better development opportunity, not excluding creating my own business," said a Beijing-based manager. DO make sure that young Chinese managers get a sense of personal pride. DON'T treat their jobs as "just a job." Chinese MBAs look at the work place as a source of personal fulfillment. If they don't have a sense of personal growth, they'll look elsewhere. "I would leave my company because the job itself lacks challenges, and there are other opportunities that would allow me to realize my own value all the more," said a Beijing chemical-company manager. "China is an increasingly sophisticated, complex and competitive market," said Niko Canner, co-founder and Managing Partner of Katzenbach Partners. "Navigating it successfully requires a sustained commitment and an intelligent approach to securing and retaining highly-trained management talent that knows and understands the market, and how to conduct business in it. "

To learn more about CHINA 2024, or to schedule an interview with Stacy Palestrant or Niko Canner of Katzenbach Partners, contact Adria Greenberg of Sommerfield Communications at 212-255-8386 or

About Katzenbach Partners LLC

Katzenbach Partners LLC works with leading global companies to achieve breakthroughs in organizational performance. The firm applies new thinking about how organizations work, serving companies across industries to shape strategy, improve operations and effect change. Katzenbach Partners is building a different kind of consulting firm, one that integrates strategic problem solving with pragmatic insight into people and organizations.


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