Is digitisation changing China’s hiring market?

By Robert Half 11 June 2019

China’s digital economy is thriving. It contributed 38.2% to the country’s total GDP in the first half of 2018, compared to 32.9% in 2017, with growth booming in areas including eCommerce and mobile payments, as well as technological innovation in traditional industries.

This heavy investment in digitisation is transforming business models and evolving jobs across the country. It’s creating strong demand for technology professionals, especially in the service sector, which is leading the digital transformation. With the country now accounting for 42% of global eCommerce, it’s become a land of opportunity for both local and international businesses.

But while this rapid modernisation of the economy is creating a wealth of job opportunities, many Chinese firms are struggling to match roles with the right talent.

So, where is digitisation having the most impact in China? And how can your firm thrive in a hiring market where qualified talent is increasingly scarce?

The new digital business

China has more than 800 million active users, making it the world’s largest internet market. Seizing on this unique opportunity, many companies are investing in eCommerce. In particular, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies are pushing ahead with their eCommerce plans, and actively recruiting for product managers, UI and UX roles to facilitate their digital rollouts.

More Chinese businesses are also shifting from a B2B to B2C business model as they take their supply chain and operations online. This transformation is requiring increased headcounts in areas such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementation, data processing, project management, and finance specialties to oversee the changes to business operations.

Urgent changes in cyber-security

Data security is now playing a larger role in hiring strategies as privacy protection becomes a business-critical concern. Recent international data breaches, and subsequent introduction of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and China’s Cyber Security Law, are helping to drive strong demand for cybersecurity specialists across China.

Candidates with expertise in network security, monitoring and response are in high demand – both within China and globally – as companies seek to protect their data and avoid regulatory penalties.

A growing data sector

China is expected to become the world’s largest data storage owner by 2020. This will occur as more international companies invest in onshoring their cloud-based solutions, and big data becomes critical to integrating digital technologies into the wider economy.

The country is seeing significant growth in demand for IT professionals skilled in areas like cloud architecture, analytics, virtualisation, DevOps and network security. However, specialists to fill these roles are in short supply, further highlighting the war for IT talent.

Soft skills matter

An increasingly popular catchphrase in the global business community is that every business is now a technology business – a recognition that next-generation technology is the key to future growth.

This trend is seeing job functions evolve as a result of digitisation, with increased expectation for IT talent in China to drive core business functions and help companies remain competitive. As well as proficiency with technology, organisations are seeking talent who can successfully negotiate with stakeholders and manage business alignment. As such, there is strong demand for soft skills, including communication, business acumen, vendor management, project management, and self-development.

Speed and transparency are key

The acute shortage of suitable local talent in China makes it imperative that employers adopt a smart and agile hiring strategy. Here are some tips on how to streamline the recruitment process and attract top talent:

  • Be flexible and transparent: Share information about your company’s performance in the job advertisement. Where talent is scarce, consider softening your skill demands or investing in professional development after hiring.
  • Align expectations: Leverage early screening interviews to identify the candidate’s salary and job expectations. This will reduce the number of negotiation rounds, speed up the hiring process, and help secure a talented jobseeker.
  • Non-financial incentives: Incentives such as a transportation allowance, stock options or medical insurance can offer a strong reason to remain with your company long-term, while helping to position your organisation as an employer of choice.

It’s also important that you continue to promote the benefits of the organisation during the onboarding process. It has been found that effective onboarding can help forge a closer connection between the employee and the organisation – making it more likely that you’ll be able to retain talented candidates in an extremely competitive market.

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