If you know Chinese and are trained in business, and/or can train others there, you've got a bright future because:
The particular shortages mentioned most often are of creativity, of an aptitude for risk-taking and, above all, of an ability to manage—in everything from human resources and accounting to sales, distribution, branding and project-management...Paolo Gasparrini, head of China for L'Oréal, a French cosmetics firm, says that "to find good people in China is not easy. Technically and in administration they are very good. But in marketing—a crucial discipline—there are just a few people with short experience and everyone is competing for them. You find yourself micro-managing more than you'd like." Mr Poon concurs: "If the tasks are across departments, or if it means working in a team or trying to relate to others, they [Chinese staff] still have a long way to go."
What has caused this?
Large parts of China's economy remain in thrall to the state, where loyalty to the Communist party more than business acumen drives career success. Jeff Barnes, "chief learning officer" at General Electric (GE) in China, says that the "issue we have is finding mid-level and top-level leadership. The Chinese talent is first-generation. They don't have role models. Their parents worked for state-owned companies."
Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution in 1966-76 wiped out a generation of management potential, as millions of Chinese learned that capitalism was evil. After a lifetime under socialism, many lack the mindset to adopt western working practices. In China, says Jack Perkowski, boss of Asimco Technologies, a supplier of vehicle parts, "the talent pool consists either of managers from state firms who are too bureaucratic or entrepreneurs who have come up through the private sector and are unconstrained by capital or the law."
International companies invest around a billion bucks there every week, but "As they expand, they increasingly need workers able to handle the complexities of multi-site operations. Staff shortages threaten these plans. In a recent speech, Arics Poon, managing director of Oracle for South China and Hong Kong, said that 'we need a group of strong, professional managers or we may fail to support our growth in China.' Anthony Wu, head of accounting firm Ernst & Young (E&Y) in Hong Kong and China, admits that 'we have decided not to tender for some major clients because we feel we don't have the staff to service them'."
Foreign businesses were planned to invest a lot of moolah there, but didn't realize it would require even more:
Business plans for China rarely reflect the cost and time involved in recruiting and retaining local staff. Firms are finding that they cannot replace expensive expatriate staff with cheaper local hires ("localise" in the jargon) as quickly as they hoped. Many underestimate the cost of local staff. Chinese graduates often have an inflated view of their own worth, complain some foreign managers...the growing shortage of executive talent may make the growth assumptions written into many business plans over-optimistic. F&G's Mr Viethen's lament that, despite being a business manager, "I spend most of my time on human resources, not sales," rings true at many foreign firms in China.
So get on over to China before too many people are swimming in the talent pool .