From Mao to More: Catching up with the next generation of talent in China


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From Mao to More: Catching up with the next generation of talent in China is the latest executive whitepaper from MSL China, and provides insights and understanding of upcoming graduates in tier one Chinese cities. It is based primarily on 55 in-depth interviews with Chinese students in universities throughout Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Chengdu, graduating from 2012 to 2015.
The Chinese saying “three years make a gap” accurately explains how fast Chinese society is changing and how generation gaps are being created. This creates additional challenges when companies are looking to attract upcoming graduates. Values and drivers are in flux, so HR Directors and Country Managers must stay up to date on target group values and mindset if they want to communicate effectively with this changing talent pool.
The whitepaper outlines the most important drivers of this group, as well as their attitudes to their career, international employers, managers and entrepreneurship. It also provides advice and recommended communication strategies for how to best engage, attract and retain this group of people who we identify as ‘Generation More.’

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From Mao to More: Catching up with the next generation of talent in China

  1. 1. MSL China Executive WhitepaperFrom Mao to MoreCatching up with the next generation oftalent in China By Charlotta Lagerdahl, Caroline Dahl and Liza Zhang
  2. 2. About the researchAt the end of 2011, MSL China conducted desktop About MSLGROUPresearch as well as 55 in-depth interviews withChinese students in universities throughout Shanghai, MSLGROUP is Publicis Groupe’s strategic communi-Beijing, Guangzhou and Chengdu. Majors included cations and engagement group, advisors in all aspectsengineering, finance, industrial design, architecture, of communication strategy: from consumer PR tolinguistics, tourism management, psychology, interna- financial communications, from public affairs totional economy and trade, public relations, communi- reputation management and from crisis communica-cation, journalism, law, sociology and human tions to experiential marketing and events. With moreresources. than 3,500 people across close to 100 offices world- wide, MSLGROUP is also the largest PR network in fast-growing China and India. The group offers strategic planning and counsel, insight-guidedAbout MSLGROUP Asia thinking and big, compelling ideas – followed byFor 23 years, MSLGROUP’s Asia team has counseled thorough, regional and local clients, helping themestablish, protect and expand their businesses and Learn more about us at:brands across this fast-growing region. Twitter YouTubeMSLGROUP Asia was awarded CampaignAsia-Pacifics Network of the Year, 2011 for its About MSLGROUP Brand & Talentenormous growth in the scale of its operations, clientrelationships, talent development, reputation and Brand & Talent is MSLGROUPs global practice forfinancial performance in the region. advisory to clients for maximizing their employee investment by attracting better people to contributeLearn more about us at: more to their business for Twitter Facebook From employer branding, to recruitment marketing, to employee engagement and change management, we find innovative and meaningful ways to manage ourAbout MSL China clients reputation as an employer before, during andFollowing the union with Eastwei MSL, MSL China is after people association with them. MSL China isnow a top 5 international strategic communications ongoing advising clients in mainland China in regardsagency in Mainland China. With 200 colleagues across to employer branding, internal engagement and4 offices, MSL China brings together over 20 senior change management, successfully combining localconsultants with more than 12 years of strategic China specific insights with best practice from thecommunications experience in this key global market. global practice.Part of MSLGROUP Greater China, the largest PR &social media network in the region today, MSL China Learn more about us at:provides knowledge driven, integrated campaigns and services spanning nearly every industry andcommunications discipline. MSL China has receivedrecognition from the International Business Awards,The Holmes Report’s “PR Agency of the Year,” theChina International PR Association and China’s NewMedia Festival for its creativity and effectiveness instrategic communications and industry-leading socialmedia offering. Photo by Joi on flickrLearn more about us
  3. 3. From Mao to MorePresenting the new, challengingGeneration MoreAttracting talent in Mainland China is a major challenge for multinational companies;local managers testify that their biggest challenge for growth in China is finding andretaining the right talent1. While it is a reality that current employees are hard to retain,and experienced hires are difficult to find, managers say that attracting recentgraduates has proven to be increasingly difficult2. This is widely because managerslack relationships with this group, and find it difficult to approach them; there is littleshared experience and few points of reference to rely on. Many of our clients havetold us that they simply do not understand how to attract and retain this new genera-tion.This might seem to be true for most markets, but our research shows that Chinaposes unique challenges in this regard:• Parents still wield strong influence over their children’s career decisions• Graduates have sky-high expectations, to the point of being unrealistic• Many graduates reject as outdated the notion that they have to work hard in order to succeed• Most education and career choices are considered random and uninformed; this leads to feelings of frustration and confusionChinese society is changing rapidly, and this creates additional challenges. Values anddrivers are in flux, so HR Directors and Country Managers must stay up to date ontarget group values and mindset if they want to communicate effectively with thischanging talent pool.Media often gives the impression that Chinese graduates are beginning to rejectmultinational corporations in favor of local employment. Our interviews show quitethe opposite; Chinese graduates still regard a career in a multinational as being highlydesirable.One of the most important findings from a communications perspective is that thereare large differences between job candidates. To help multinationals in China betterposition themselves among students who will be graduating during the years 2012-2015 from universities in Chinese tier-one cities, we divided candidates into fourgroups and identified several key strategies to enhance communications with them.Through this study, we outlined the common characteristics, influencers and driversof upcoming graduates, and categorized them into groups to help companies betterdirect outreach efforts.The next generation of Chinese graduates want more and will not settle for less.Therefore, we have chosen to call them the Generation More. 1 “How Generation Y Can Lead China”, China Briefing, 2011-03-22 2 “How Generation Y Can Lead China”, China Briefing, 2011-03-22
  4. 4. Who is thisGeneration More?
  5. 5. MSL China Executive Whitepaper Catching up with the next generation of talent in China 5Parents still influencecareer choices…The Chinese saying “three years make a gap”accurately explains how fast Chinese society ischanging and how generation gaps are beingcreated. Consequently, the generation gapbetween Generation More and its parents isenormous. This creates tension between tradi-tional and modern values, pushing this young andseemingly enlightened generation to makesurprisingly traditional choices, based on what isconsidered important by the parental generation.“I think a lot of my decisions were made by myparents. I wanted to choose a university in Beijing oranother place but they insisted that I stay inShanghai. The pressure from parents is very heavyI think. I think my parents push their opinions on meall the time.”- Stephanie, Japanese Language MajorAccording to the students interviewed, parentsgenerally care about two things: job security andremuneration. They push their children to choosemajors which will help achieve these two goals orwhich they believe will do so; we found that bothparents and students are surprisingly unaware ofcertain realities, and instead base many decisionson assumptions, word-of-mouth or what isconsidered “hot” at the time. An example isfinance, which became immensely popular around2009 and 2010, since parents believed it implied abright future and high remuneration.“I wanted to learn finance. It was popular, notbecause I loved it.” - Summer, Electronics Major“Actually public finance was chosen by my motherand father. They thought it would be a greatopportunity; and I would have a bright future if Ichose it.” - Jamie, Sociology and Finance Major“What’s hot” also influences which employersGeneration More want to work for, includingcompanies they have heard about from friendsand acquaintances, but may not have a keenunderstanding of. Several students interviewedstressed that their biggest desire was to work forlarge multinational corporations that have highbrand recognition. Yet, when we asked studentsabout these “ideal” companies, they barely knewanything about them.“I’m not quite familiar with these companies.Between big, international accounting firms, howcan you really tell the difference?” - Jeremy, Informa-tion Management & Information Systems Major
  6. 6. As a result, Generation More is unsure about their futureand unhappy with their majors, which in many cases werechosen by their parents based on limited information.“I like teaching. It’s my dream job. Maybe teach in anelementary school. […] I got into ocean engineering. Myfather works in a shipping company and made the decision.I had no choice; I needed to continue my studies.” - Vicky,Ocean & Shipping Engineering Major…But Generation More bringsa brand new attitude to thetableWhat’s in it for me?Compared to the parental generation, where contributionand hard work are valued and aspired for, Generation Moreinstead wants to know what the employer can give them,and they have distinctly mixed feelings about workinghard.“My parents emphasize old things in society and workinghard. My generation, we think working hard is not the mostimportant thing. We think it’s necessary but not the most value and respect experience and seniority, while easilyimportant.” - Simon, Project Management Major accepting their own role as inferior and less knowledgeable.Our respondents, on the other hand, tended to stress thattheir aspiration is to learn as much as they can from one “[The boss] should be kind, be able to talk to his employees.employer and then move on. They are eager to gain Should listen to them carefully, not just listen to his ownexperience and are always thinking about the next ideas.” - Kenneth, Communication Majoropportunity.“I think the things I’ve learned here are enough. I have no …But they DO need a role model!more things I can learn here. Another door is opening for Having a strong faith in one’s own abilities, includingme.” - Kenneth, Communication Major questioning seniority, does not mean that Generation More is incapable of looking up to others. Instead, GenerationVery few students highlighted the value of growing with a More longs for role models – but not just any role for a significant period of time. Instead, the They fantasize about following in the footsteps of admiredgroup is impatient and impulsive: if they dislike their heroes and inspirational leaders.current employer, they will generally just walk away,without much afterthought. “Like Bill Gates; he didn’t go to university and he developed his own company.” - Chandler, English Language Major“I have heard that we should sign two or three years with acompany. Is that true? When I’ve learned the company’s Highly admired amongst Chinese university students areknowledge, it’s enough.” - Stephanie, English Language Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Kai-fu Lee (the former China CEOMajor of Google) and Jack Ma (the founder of Alibaba). One student explains why she admires Jack Ma:Questioning Confucius… “I think he’s creative, he always has innovations. When heDue to the substantial generation gap between Generation was young, he didn’t have a smooth life. He changed his life.More and previous generations, conflicts in the workplace […] The college entrance examination; he failed twice. Heare inevitable. Chinese youth are becoming less accepting didn’t give up.” - Stephanie, Chemical Engineering Majorof hierarchy and discipline. Whereas managers oftencomplain about a lack of independent thinking among This places huge expectations on their own bosses andolder Chinese employees, the new generation displays future leaders. For members of Generation More to nota level of critical thinking and a willingness to question feel that they have better ideas than their superior to bringauthority that senior management may be unaccustomed to. to the table, they need their leader to be a larger-than-life character, someone to imitate and model themselvesYouth belonging to Generation More want to make their after. Most of our interviewees could not model them-voices heard – and be listened to. They long for flat selves and their careers after their parents, who theyorganizations where they can take initiatives and contrib- watched work hard while staying relatively poor; furtherute ideas. They typically feel that they have fresh view- fueling the need for an external hero. While technicalpoints that the senior staff may lack and they are eager to skills are important, Generation More longs for just more;express them. While this may not differ from young a boss, mentor, inspirer, life coach and spiritual leader allemployees anywhere in the world, we found this to be a wrapped into one person. Everything else might just proverather surprising finding in China, where the Confucian to be a huge disappointment.worldview has traditionally molded young employees to
  7. 7. MSL China Executive Whitepaper Catching up with the next generation of talent in China 7State Owned Enterprises vs. Multinationals are fun but a little risky The students interviewed had a positive brand image ofMultinationals multinational employers and, above all, American ones. Multinationals are seen as more open, with less rules and control than national companies. They are perceived toState Owned Enterprises (SOEs) are safe pay higher salaries, but also to have more fierce competi-but a little dull tion and higher pressure. They are also associated with international careers, teamwork, better developmentThere is a night and day difference in brand image opportunities and a stronger emphasis on CSR.between multinational and national employers. Accordingto our interviewees, state owned enterprises are too “Companies in European countries or America do betterhierarchical and rigid, and lack freedom and openness. than us. The companies of those countries will give back toHowever, they are also more stable and less risky with a society. In China, it’s less. Maybe the companies make a lot ofstronger emphasis on work-life balance as compared with money, but they hardly think about society.” - Chandler,multinational employers. State owned enterprises are English Language Majorgenerally associated with less challenge and competition. Most interviewed students want to work for a“In local companies it may be a bit boring, can’t offer many multinational employer during the initial stages of theirideas, and always have to listen to the boss. There is not career, then change to a job in a Chinese organization latermuch space for your own ideas. […] In multinational on, when the focus on family is stronger.companies, the work there; no excessive rules, just your ideasare worthwhile. If you don’t wear a suit it’s okay. You will feel “I don’t think I would take a job in a Chinese company whilerelaxed.” - Kenneth, Communication Major I’m young; I want a competitive environment, a challenge. When you’re young, you’re able to have that kind ofAlso, Generation More feels that the focal point in Chinese challenge. […] When you’re older, you might be afraid.” -companies is interpersonal relationships – guanxi – and Faye, Industrial Design Majorthe nurturing of those relationships; which they are notgenerally willing to prioritize. This generation prefers tofocus on their own capabilities; something they think iseasier to do in multinational companies.“If you want to be get a promotion you need to kiss yourleaders’ ass. That’s the government.” - Bill, Economic LawMajor“Foreign companies focus more on competence. Chinesecompanies focus on relations. If I work in a Chinese com-pany, I will have to spend a lot of time to maintain relation-ships with others, not improve myself.” - Christine, Interna-tional Economy & Trade Major
  8. 8. Generation More in Four:The Careerist, the Hedonist,the Adventurist & the Idealist
  9. 9. MSL China Executive Whitepaper Catching up with the next generation of talent in China 9One of the most important findings from our interviews is that Generation More is not homogeneous. While thisgroup shares many similarities, experiences and influencers, they are also separated by different values andaspirations. We have categorized Generation More into four archetypes: the Careerist, the Hedonist, the Adventuristand the Idealist. Careerist Hedonist Adventurist Idealist Focus Me & Me & Me & Me & my future my family the world society Drivers of Potential Personality Passion Purpose motivation
  10. 10. The CareeristMe & my future“You can compare with other things such as friends, family. compared to other profiles in Generation More. Money andIf you lose them, maybe your life will have very low quality salary becomes an important driver later on in their career.but you can also realize your own value, you have your owndream. If you have a good career, you can make your life “I would like to work for a company that can offer me a goodvaluable.” - Simon, Project Management Major salary since I’m a man. I need salary to support my family in the future. Maybe if I can earn a lot of money I may feelThe sky is the limit that I’m successful.” - Deam, Civil Engineering MajorCareerists have high career goals and they will sacrifice An example of a company catering to this group is Oracletheir personal lives for their careers. To female Careerists, China, which began its Graduate Development Program inbeing a strong and independent woman is highlighted as 2003 to train future employees. This is a comprehensivenot only a career goal, but a life goal. education initiative aimed at grooming talented graduates from top universities to become future technology“There’s no limitation I think. If I have the skills, being a leaders. The program extends over two years andCEO is also okay for woman. […] I must go forward and participants learn technology development as well askeep going.” - Alex, Business Administration Major general business, practical skills and personal management effectiveness. Students who complete the“I always want to be a super-woman; a strong woman in my course are offered positions with Oracle. In 2008, nearlycareer. I want to be a leader. […] Maybe I will spend a long 200 students participated in the program.time at work compared to other women. I will not give up onmy career. I hope my child, when he grows up, he will be like Lenovo is another company always looking to recruit hard-me; independent minded, and not rely on others.” - Tiffany, working Careerists. The Chinese computer company’s keyIndustrial Design Major message is: “For those who do. We choose doers!” Lenovo emphasizes that “those in pursuit of vigorous dreams andCareerists make detailed strategies for how to improve prospective career development are encouraged to apply.”their competitiveness; of the four profiles, they have theclearest career plans. “Big companies often have good training programs; you know what you are capable of doing after three or five years.“In my opinion, the next ten years might be the most I appreciate some Japanese companies; they treat theimportant of my life; it might be a very busy ten years. It company like a home. Offer some training, feels like home.must be scheduled from morning to night. I need to I appreciate that kind of atmosphere.” - Faye, Industrialachieve my goals step by step.” - Stone, Technology of Micro Design MajorElectronics Major Careerists need to be constantly challenged and want toDriver of motivation: Potential work in a fast-moving, competitive environment with young and talented coworkers. They accept workingCareerists value the compensation package and growth overtime, as long as work tasks are challenging. Unlike theopportunities with the employer - including salary, other profiles, Careerists thrive on pressure since theybonuses, benefits, training, mentoring and fast track believe it can improve their personal abilities, and they areprograms – above other aspects. Learning and personal spurred when things are difficult.development are more important for Careerists’ first job
  11. 11. MSL China Executive Whitepaper Catching up with the next generation of talent in China 11“I want to do foreign trade. If I do trade with Chinese, it’s tooeasy. I cannot expand my horizons.”“I want pressure because I can stand on my own. Must be ajob that keeps moving, I just want to keep moving. WhenI cannot keep moving, I have to go back and I can’t bestronger when I always stand on one place. I just want to takeon more challenges.” - Chiang, International Economy &Trade MajorDream bossCareerists are in it for the potential, and the leader is thekey catalyst. Hence, they claim to have little or no interestin pleasantries and other “soft traits” – what they need issomeone who can motivate them to achieve and learnmore.“Actually, I think it’s hard for people who have substantialknowledge about the industry to be nice. Pressure fromveterans can motivate me to work hard; they are not mywork-friends. Their temperament is not really important.”- Yvonne, HR Major“I like leaders who are strict with their employees, it’simportant for the development of the company. I’m a person;if you give me some stress, maybe I will improve muchmore.” - Blanche, Financial Services MajorFortune 500 is number one Case I: PwC invests heavilyCareerists want to work for big multinational companieswith high brand recognition, which are industry leaders. in training programs toFortune 500 companies are especially sought-after. Still,Careerists have limited knowledge about the companies attract careeriststhey aspire to join. Accounting giant PwC invests heavily in“I wanna work for Apple, it’s one of the biggest, high training and development programs for itstechnology companies in the world. There’re a lot oftalented people working there, young guys. I could learn employees in China, something whicha lot from them.” - Yvonne, HR Major catches the eye of Careerists. PwC promotes the development of individualEntrepreneurial type: The grand careers and offers opportunities for trans-entrepreneur ferring to other divisions and departmentsAmongst Careerists, there is a strong desire to becomesuccessful entrepreneurs. Many of the students for short periods to gain different experi-interviewed said that they wanted to “create their own ences and exposures and to get a bettercareer” by establishing their own businesses. When understanding of the work they perform.outlining potential business opportunities, we found thatthis group’s high sense of self-reliance led to atypical According to PwC, an associate employeeentrepreneurial ambitions: receives on average 120 hours of training“Not just opening a company, but have it go to the stock in their first year and in 2010 PwC investedmarket; something like Nasdaq in China. If you can be better more than 1.2 million hours to teach andin this market, you will make more money.” - Liang Bin,Technology Information Major develop its team.“You always want your company to become famous; youwant to be a successful man. The Chinese say; if you’re asoldier, you’re not a good soldier if you don’t want to be acommander.” - Simon, Project Management Major
  12. 12. The HedonistMe & my family Just want a peaceful life “My dream is to go to Yunnan. Not a lot of competition. Have my little family, have my leisure time, I think it’s slow. Of course I would take my parents with me. It’s a solitary life, that’s what attracts me. The place is beautiful. I think I can be a teacher. As a teacher you can get two vacations.” - Stephanie, Chemical Engineering Major “I want to be a gardener, just plant some flowers; I think it is a beautiful job. Because I like the smell of the flowers, I think it can be relaxing to plant flowers in your garden.” - Daisy, Electronics Major To Hedonists, the definition of success is to lead a peaceful life with little to no pressure or competition. Goals do not exclusively apply to career, but also to their personal life and development. Hedonists usually don’t have a clear career plan. Careerist Hedonist Adventurist Idealist Relation- Young & Nice & friendly Multicultural Devoted & ships in talented Make friends & exciting engaged the Learning from in the Communicate Share great Co-workers workplace with ideas workplace foreigners Pushing Friendly & Supportive & Charismatic & Ideal & compassion- freedom- inspirational boss encouraging ate giving Drivers of motivation: Personality Hedonists value that their personality fits with the employer. The employer personality is mainly judged by their attitude, company work-life balance, job security, peer group profile, culture and leadership style. Among the four career profiles, these students dislike the idea of working overtime the most. “I don’t want to work overtime, because in my spare time I can do other things, and develop myself.” - Sophie, French Language Major “Maybe I won’t try to be outstanding in the company. If you do this, you will have to work overtime.” - Summer, Electronics Major This career profile will sacrifice their careers for their family and quit a job if they feel their private lives are suffering. “That’s why I want to get married at 25 to 28; I have three years for my career. After three years, I can change myself into a family and devote more time to my family. If my husband can support me, I will sacrifice myself and find a simple job to give more time to my family.” - Yinfei Fan, English Language Major
  13. 13. MSL China Executive Whitepaper Catching up with the next generation of talent in China 13A focus on relationshipsCollective values are fundamental to Hedonists. Of thefour profiles, this group is the most traditional and the onewho listens to their parents the most. Hedonists put moreemphasis on relationships than the other profiles. Theyprefer teamwork over individual work and want to developnew friendships in the workplace. Conflicts are stronglydisliked and they long for superiors who show kindnessand sympathy.“Everyone wants the boss to be a friend of yours.”- Stephanie, Chemistry Engineering MajorSEOs provide a fitting work environmentOf the four types, Hedonists are the most loyal to theiremployer, and they are the most tolerant of “boring” work.Hedonists typically prefer to work in state ownedenterprises since they tend to be associated with secureemployment, stability and work-life balance.“The quality of life, maybe, is an important part. Justbecause you’re in the government, you will get more freetime than other companies. […] I can do things I like in myfree time. Improve the conditions of my life and family. It’svery important; balance.” - Luixin, Sociology MajorHedonists put an emphasis on enjoying little, everydaythings; another area where state owned enterprises scorerelatively high:“You get a lot of things; like during the Mid-autumn Festival,the company will give you a moon cake or something likethat. The welfare is good. It’s easy for me to be happy, I findhappiness in small things. Don’t have too many complaints.”- Yan, International Economy and Trade MajorCompared with other profiles, Hedonists also focus moreon the physical attributes of the workplace.“Maybe some plants, flowers, in the office and the airconditioning is good, some air and some light can comethrough the window. And the temperature in the office isgood; about 24 degrees.” - Tina, Finance MajorEntrepreneurial type: The romanticentrepreneurThe Hedonists’ entrepreneurial dream is to establish andown a small-scale lifestyle business, for example a coffeeshop, a small hotel or a boutique where they can sellcurated books, flowers, handicrafts or other “things theylove.” They commonly talk about their ideas with friendsduring late nights while studying for an exam. Hedonistshave a slightly naïve attitude to starting a business; it isseen as a hobby and a way of self-fulfillment, where theycan make friends rather than enjoy the actual businessaspects or as an outlet for hard work.“We like the smell of books. Many girls like this; they willcome to our shop.” - Sissi, International EconomicLaw Major“I prefer to be the manager of a coffee bar. Many people comehere and I can see many people’s lives. When they comehere, I can see a lot of kinds of people; they might be happyor not happy. […] It’s interesting to research their lives I think.”- Stephanie, Japanese Language Major
  14. 14. Case II: IKEA looking for the rightpersonality fit when hiringSwedish furniture retailer IKEA takes a “marketing”approach to recruitment, in order to identify people withthe right mindset and behavior rather than just attracting alarge volume of candidates. The company has a strongcorporate culture and wants to hire people who can “live”the company’s ideals by communicating the IKEA spiritand vision and translating them into daily actions andbehavior. To get to know their target employees better,IKEA brought together twenty potential candidates. Groupmembers had to answer a series of written questions andparticipate in a personal interview, discussing what theyknew about the company. IKEA also wanted to see howcandidates reacted to recruitment specifications, and evenwhat language would best appeal to them. IKEA furtherinterviewed its present employees to get anunderstanding of how the recruiting policy was applied inpractice and how employees viewed their workexperience. Based on these research findings, IKEAproduced a range of ads to be used in different mediachannels.
  15. 15. The AdventuristMe & the world Want to lead an exciting life “I’m still young and I want to experience exciting things. Life is too short. Life is always by chance. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll change my mind.” - Yvonne, Tourism Management Major “My dream is to stay in the UK and work as a Formula One journalist. Maybe it will not be as I expected, maybe I will hate it. If I hate it, I will just quit and go for another dream. You don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Maybe you’ll die tomorrow.” - Alice, Journalism Major Adventurists never make long-term plans for the future. Instead they prefer to “go with the flow” and “see what happens.” This group is the most changeable and unpredictable of the four types. “First I thought my personality is suitable for HR but then I thought it was very boring. I don’t like always working in the office. I’m not sure what kind of career is suitable for me. I always change, I’m changeable.” - Sharon, Finance and HR Major Adventurists are much like Careerists due to their focus on learning and personal development, but whereas Careerists have a clear and consistent career focus, Adventurists are willing, or want, to try different professions. Of the four profiles, they are the most confused about their future careers. “Actually my dream is to get different kinds of jobs in different places. I don’t like to have the same job too long. I want to try different things. Actually, I want to teach English. Maybe more jobs, maybe be a bartender. I want a good job to experience life, maybe in different small companies, different departments.” - Summer, Electronics Major Careerist Hedonist Adventurist Idealist Main No challenge Too long work Boring work Company not reasons or promotion hours tasks and taking for Better salary Too much workplace responsibility changing offer pressure No freedom Can’t express elsewhere opinions job Driver of motivation: Passion Adventurists value passion – including fun and diversified work assignments – freedom, independence and interna- tional assignments above all other aspects. They dream about working in a dynamic and energetic workplace with a multinational workforce. Adventurists like change and get easily bored if they are not stimulated. Of the four types, Adventurists are the ones who talk about being the most engaged in their future job – but only if they really like it. “I think I will stay until the day I’m bored with this kind of job.” - Vicky, Chinese Language Major
  16. 16. By highlighting “passion” and “people with passion” inrecruitment ads, Google has become one of the mostattractive employers in China – especially amongstAdventurists. Google stresses that “No matter what majoryou are in, if you have passion, Google is your home”. TheChinese e-commerce company communi-cates a similar message to its potential employees; theystress that they do not choose talent based on their major;instead, they look for people with passion. According, a person with passion will learn fast andwork better.While Careerists argue that it is not possible to combine acareer with a hobby, Adventurists think that it is. Forinstance, several students interviewed pointed out thatthey want to combine their interests in sports with theirjob.“I want to be a commentator, like a news reporter for tennismatches. I really like tennis and I play tennis.” - Cindy,Japanese Language MajorWant to be in controlAdventurists want to create their own path in the workplace, and they want their superiors to be supportive andnot interfere too much. They want to be in command oftheir own work time and treasure flexible work hours andthe ability to work from home whenever they want.“I think it’s the freedom to choose how to live, not be framed,I think it’s the most important. If the time is totally under mycontrol, I think I can accept overtime work. I think I shouldhave control of my spare time.” - Stone, Technology of MicroElectronics Major“Maybe I will be freelancer because I can have freedom from Case III: Procter & GambleMonday to Friday and only work on weekends.” - Jun Qian,Journalism Major pulls out the big guns toWherever the wind takes me attract adventurists“My dream job is freedom. I want to travel more than work, Procter & Gamble has already adapted itsfind a job which takes me to many different countries, maybefor one or two years. And then go back to China and then go recruitment efforts to Mainland China and what itout again. I don’t want to stay in one country for a long time.” offers to meet the needs of adventurous students- Sharon, Finance and HR Major belonging to Generation More. Rather than justOf the four profiles, Adventurists have the strongest desire promising higher wages, the company highlightsto discover the world outside of China. Freedom is a key opportunities for flexible hours, the chance toconcept for Adventurists. work from home, and the guarantee of regular“When I get tired of a certain city I will change jobs to another three-month Find another more interesting job, I’ll change. When I’myoung I will try different kinds of jobs in different places.”- Summer, Electronics MajorEager to interact with multinationals“The job should have a lot of foreigners. People with differentviews of the world, you can share opinions and ideas. If thiscompany can meet all my standards such as a lot offoreigners, send me to other parts of the world I can staylong-term. But just company very ordinary or I cannot getthings I want; I think I will change company very quickly.”- Jarvis, Architecture MajorAdventurists typically feel that working for state ownedenterprises implies too little excitement and too muchstability; this life does not suit their adventurous aspira-tions. Thus, these students prefer to work for multinationalcompanies or large Chinese companies with assignmentsabroad. Adventurists also have a desire to communicatewith different nationalities and they are more comfortablethan the other profiles in interacting with foreigners.“I think international companies are more fun, you can meetmore people. Exchange ideas and work abroad. And localones are very dull, maybe very boring. People are not socompetitive, don’t fight to reach their goals.” - Yvonne,Tourism Management Major
  17. 17. MSL China Executive Whitepaper Catching up with the next generation of talent in China 17The IdealistMe & society Photo by kafka4prez on flickr“I just feel… China has to change. Journalism is a way to Drivers of motivation: Purposechange China’s situation now.” - Amie, Journalism Major Idealists value the greater purpose of the employer, including its corporate reputation and commitment to Careerist Hedonist Adventurist Idealist environmental, social and governance-related issues, above other aspects. How the company takes Spare Extra courses See friends Travel Volunteer work time Internship Learning a Daydream Seminars responsibility for its employees is also of great language significance. To Idealists, the company mission matters; it should have aWant to heal the world greater purpose and be aligned with their own values. Values highlight faith and devotion to the employer. Of theIdealists have high expectations for the world in which four types, Idealists put the least emphasis on financialthey live and being able to contribute to society is the benefits.primary career goal for these students. They are typicallyalready engaged in extracurricular volunteer activities in “When I search for one company, I want to know what kind ofschool, which they find meaningful and fulfilling. culture the company has and what is the value, it should have a high mission. If you don’t agree with the mission,“We do some charity; donate money to the poor. I think it’s you will not do your best, not devote yourself to the companyvery meaningful. […] When I graduate, I will also enter some or the career.” - Eddy, International Economy andcharity organization.” - Paul, Architecture Major Trade MajorIdealists particularly want to contribute to Chinese society.One interviewee pointed out that his career objective is to “Not quite important to earn money. Some people earn a lotchange people’s ideas and reform policies and wanted to of money but they lose more, maybe they lose their friends.”hold an influential government position to make this - Chandler, English Language Majorpossible. Whereas other career profiles mainly focus onthe well-being of themselves, their friends and families, Eager to speak their mindsIdealists prioritize the well-being of society. Equality, freedom of expression and responsiveness are“Contributing to society, that’s success. I will try to do central concepts for Idealists, and they want to work withsomething for society, to give a better life to all people in people who have great ideas; work in a team where allsociety. […] If I can earn a lot of money, is that success? members are devoted and want to change something.I don’t think so. It’s just one element in life.” - Eddy, Starbucks Coffee Company understands this. To attractInternational Economy & Trade Major Idealists, Starbucks China has created a new communication strategy stressing that employees “aren’t just choosing a job, but deliberately choosing a wonderful Careerist Hedonist Adventurist Idealist brand” where the company is proud of every employee and where every employee’s voice is heard. In fact,Definition A successful A peaceful life An exciting life Well-being of Starbucks does not use the term “employee”, preferring toof success career Family Being free society call coworkers “partners” to demonstrate the significance A big pay check happiness of each staff member; from barista to manager. Starbucks
  18. 18. Photo by kafka4prez on flickralso provides opportunities for each employee to engagein volunteer activities in the local community during work Case IV: Alibaba Grouphours; another feature that attracts Idealists. reaches out to idealists byIdealists are eager to speak their minds, and they are notafraid of criticizing whatever they feel is wrong in their taking responsibilityenvironment. Of the four types, these youth are the Chinese Business-to-Business e-commerce grouphardest to steer. Alibaba aspires to provide a better life to its employees and their families. In September 2011,“I hope that I can express my opinion. Everyone can express Alibaba Group declared it would launch a RMB 3their opinion very freely. We are free to say something.”- Eddy, International Economy & Trade Major billion interest-free housing loan scheme, called iHome, for its employees. Those employees who served the group for at least two years and areWant to learn about CSR issues planning to buy their first apartment can apply forIdealists typically want to launch their careers in these loans. Alibaba has also set up an educationinternational companies. Just like Careerists and fund worth RMB 500 million, which will be usedAdventurists, Idealists have aspirations to work abroad, for the construction of education facilities andbut not because they want an international career or to cooperation with related education organizations.explore the world, but because they believe they can learn Alibaba will cooperate with local schools inabout CSR issues abroad. Yet, Idealists typically consider Hangzhou to help solve problems regardingmany big and international corporations too commercial to preschool and primary education for the childrenwork for. The long-term goal of Idealists is to work in a of its employees. Alibaba will further give moredomestic company or start a business of their own. than RMB 40 million in one-time subsidiaries to“I would prefer to stay in a domestic company; my idea is to its junior employees due to Chinese commoditychange China, not American society. […] If I can, I will work in prices increases and rapid international company to learn about their professionalideas and skills about journalism and then go to China topractice it. […] You love the country; you think it can be better,more democratic for people to live.” - Amie, JournalismMajor “I can hopefully have a school of my own. So that’s why I’m gonna be a teacher on my own. I think I can do a better job.”Entrepreneurial type: The philanthropic - Jeremy, Information Management & Information Systems MajorentrepreneurJust like Careerists and Hedonists, Idealists dream aboutstarting their own business but with a different purpose;becoming philanthropic entrepreneurs is a chance forthem to contribute to society in their own way. They can befree and have their own objectives and independent ideas.Just like Adventurists, Idealists highlight freedom. Onestudent stressed that he wanted to start his own school asan attempt to change the school system in China.
  19. 19. Communication Strategiesto Attract Generation More;The Careerist, the Hedonist,the Adventurist & the Idealist
  20. 20. Careerist Hedonist Adventurist Idealist Going online One of the most common ways for all four profiles to get Company Family and Friends TV & spokesperson friends newspaper information about different employers is the internet. Teachers Recruitment Teachers Teachers Chinese recruitment websites are one of the most Recruitment common. The recruitment websites most mentioned in websitesSource Weibo, Renren websites Friendsof Official the interviews included: Recruitment Official Recruitment websitesinforma- websites websites websitestion Weibo, Renren 1. Official Weibo, Renren Official Teachers websites websites (the biggest and most popular one) Weibo, Renren 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. The company homepage is a frequent source of information, as are Chinese social media sites: Sina Weibo, Renren and Douban. Using social media channels, students are able to locate current employees at specific companies to get insights from them.
  21. 21. MSL China Executive Whitepaper Catching up with the next generation of talent in China 21The power of word-of-mouth companies and trying different jobs. Friends are a very big source of information for all the profiles but specificallyStudents looking for information about employers for Hedonists.frequently consult their friends; word-of-mouth is a veryimportant source of information. The Adventurist Adventurists are not as focused in their search efforts as Careerist Hedonist Adventurist Idealist for example Careerists, since their plans change con- Advancement Work-life Freedom and Work with stantly. They might come across an interesting initiative on possibilities balance flexibility CSR the web or in a newspaper, which makes them turn to Financial Stability Fun and Possibility to Baidu to search for more information. They are more likelyKey benefits Diversified contribute to be triggered by what they consider to be “opportunities” Harmony workmessage Challenging Freedom of compared to what they consider to be “jobs”, which means environment Friendly International speech/ that they to a lesser extent than the other groups are atmosphere assignments responsiveness scrutinizing job sites and companies career sites. Team work The Idealist Idealists get most information from the news; televisionThe Careerist and newspapers from both Chinese and international sources. These students are more likely than others to beChinese university students generally start searching for sensitive to what is going on in society. They are skepticalcompany information when they are juniors (3rd year) and and in need of objective information.seniors (4th year) in the university. Amongst the fourprofiles, Careerists are the most active in searching for “I will read some foreign websites like New York Times, BBCcompany information. They know the most about different and China Daily. I will search this way to know more aboutcompanies, including multinational ones. this world.” - Eddy, International Economy and Trade MajorThe HedonistHedonists prefer to work for state owned enterprises anddo not know much about different companies. Hedonistsand Adventurists put the most emphasis on experience;they will learn about companies by entering different
  22. 22. China graduate opportunitiesMSL China’s seven tacticsThe research has clear implications for companies’communications strategy when targeting Generation More. Develop a clear Employer Value Proposition (EVP),Below, we outlined a few key findings: 3 based on your most important recruit archetype. You cannot and should not treat Chinese university1 Do not neglect the family’s influence when it comes graduates as one collective entity. Accept that you1 to making important decisions such as the first employer. It is not enough to convince the cannot win them all; while at all times stay authentic and true to your brand, focus on the candidate, the parents need to support the choice drivers of the group most suited to your company as well, something which companies need to culture. consider when creating their communications strategy. 4 Up the ante in providing individually tailored2 Don’t sell – educate. Both students and parents are 4 development plans and career paths. Generation More emphasizes the individual over the collective,2 making surprisingly uninformed choices when it comes to studies and future employment. Be the and wants to know what’s offered in terms of personal development and remuneration. one who guides them. We recommend companies to start targeting students as early as the high 5 Build your corporate reputation. Brand awareness in school level, to outline the benefits of employment in your industry in an easy-to-understand way. This 5 the target group will give you a larger selection of candidates and supportive parents, even if it is a approach will lead to more informed choices at the “shotgun approach”, that in itself will not guarantee university level, decreasing the risk of unmotivated attracting the students who best fit your and uninterested people, and you will compete for organization. PR, advertising and other the attention of students (as well as their parents!) communication efforts outside narrow trade media in a much less saturated market. will impact students and their parents and strengthen the overall image and attractiveness of your company. Fame counts.
  23. 23. MSL China Executive Whitepaper Catching up with the next generation of talent in China 236 Focus on middle management. While the quality of 7 Companies in China need to keep in mind that not6 a company’s managers is always important, for Generation More, we believe that we may see a huge 7 even on their first day of on boarding, this group has a plan to stay on with the company for a long time. It clash between reality and expectations when they is a good strategy to create strategic alumni enter the workforce and start reporting to their first programs to ensure keeping the relationship going, bosses. To bridge this gap, companies should: and leverage the fact that there will be a big pool of ex-employees in the market who might – if the - Enhance middle management capabilities: The company plays its card right - be convinced to re- old truth “People don’t leave companies, join the company after they get more experience people leave bosses” seems especially true for elsewhere. Generation More. Companies need to understand the importance of its managers, If your company has exceptionally qualified leaders, we and ensure their training and management suggest leveraging this asset through communication. But capabilities. before you boast too much about your organization, make - Manage expectations; include elements in on- sure you are aware of the already sky-high expectations for boarding programs that outline the relationship managers, and consider the consequences of not living up and mutual expectations between recently to these expectations. graduated new recruits and their direct line manager.
  24. 24. MSL China regularly publishes Executive Whitepapers with insightsand comments on trends, the industry and society as a whole.To get information from MSL China or to subscribe to futurewhitepapers, as well as to contact us for any other matter, please sendus an e-mail on greaterchina@mslgroup.comor call us +86 21 5169 9311 (SH) or +86 10 8573 0688 (BJ).MSL China Executive WhitepaperMay 2012Copyright ® MSL China