Zhejiang Province, located south of Shanghai on China’s eastern coast, has more than 55 million people. The provincial capital of Hangzhou, with about 9.5 million residents in the city, is an emerging technology hub and home to the e-commerce giant Alibaba, among other global and local companies. Plus, Hangzhou raised its global profile by hosting the G20 summit in 2016.
Now the province is trying to meet the area’s growing demand for talent from both within and outside China, while also attracting more global companies to the region. That’s why the province launched the Zhejiang Human Resources Consulting Association, a government-supported global talent and Mobility program that partners with the region’s companies and HR and Mobility providers, including Graebel.
To learn more about this emerging Mobility market, Meng Ziang Chy, Graebel’s director of business development for the Asia-Pacific Region, sat down with Yvonne Yao of the Zhejiang Human Resources Consulting Association. Here are excerpts from their conversation, as Yvonne shares the province’s talent-related opportunities and challenges, plus the Association’s Mobility goals. (For additional insights on Chinese market trends, you can also read Meng’s previous blog on this topic.)
Meng: What is the role of the Zhejiang Human Resources Association and how does it support global companies in the province address their talent needs?
Yvonne: We conducted a lot of research with the private sector in Zhejiang Province and found there was a need to attract additional talent to their companies. In particular, they want to attract foreign talent, which is an emerging trend. That’s because in order for companies here to expand globally and reach new customers, they need a diverse team that understands different cultures and has a variety of backgrounds and perspectives, all of which foreign talent brings. The Association was started in early 2018 to help these companies determine how to attract and provide services for international talent that want to live and work in Zhejiang Province.
Part of our work in promoting the province’s talent Mobility program also includes coordinating feedback with the Chinese government about the need to promote and brand the city of Hangzhou. It’s not as well-known as some of the Tier 1 cities, like Shanghai, so we need to create an environment that is attractive to international talent, since they’ll consider more than just the job opportunity when deciding whether or not to relocate. We can help create a better ecosystem to attract talent by ensuring there is adequate housing, international schools and access to healthcare. Plus, we assist companies in bringing Chinese nationals back to China, which is often an easier cultural transition and can meet their need for experienced, well-rounded talent.
Meng: Have you identified any unique ways to attract foreign talent?
Yvonne: We’re working with the government to potentially create a special internship visa for six months or a year. Work permits are currently complicated to obtain and typically are only accessible for higher-level employees. The hope is that this type of unique internship visa in Zhejiang Province would help employees, especially younger foreign talent, gain working experience, while also providing our local companies with good, international talent.
Meng: Why is there a growing need to bring talent into the province?
Yvonne: Most companies in the province, particularly in the capital Hangzhou, want to grow and become global. Plus, the Chinese government is encouraging companies to become more global. It’s a unique, top-down national policy that gets shared with cities, which then work with companies to achieve this goal. For example, right now Hangzhou is known for its e-commerce and technology industries. But, this expertise is not very well-known outside of China, and the government wants to make Hangzhou like an Oriental Silicon Valley! For that to happen, we need innovative and creative talent to come here.
What’s great is that the city of Hangzhou itself can be an attraction to foreign talent. Hangzhou still feels very local, and the culture is different than in Tier 1 cities like Shanghai and Beijing. We can use this to our advantage and highlight and embrace the uniqueness of the city, while also demonstrating how we can grow into an international mobility destination.
Meng: What do you think the biggest opportunities and challenges are for global companies to come to the province?
Yvonne: I think the biggest challenge to overcome is adapting to the local environment and our culture. China has unique ways of doing things and companies need to know how our systems and processes work. But, it’s also an opportunity for global companies because if they can learn our systems and adapt to our culture, they can open themselves to an entire new market. We’re working to help more global companies come to the province by making it clearer about how to move here and recruit the talent they need. Organizations are trying different ways to recruit talent, including partnering with Global Mobility companies like Graebel, or working with universities.
Meng: What is the Association’s short-term goal in the next 12 to 24 months?
Yvonne: So far, we have created an alliance of talent Mobility service providers and 22 of the largest corporate enterprises in Zhejiang Province. On October 25, 2018, we successfully held the China (Zhejiang) Human Resource Services Expo 2018 where our match-making event partnered the alliance’s enterprises needing talent Mobility support with service providers, like Graebel, that could support those needs. Our goal moving forward is to build on the work we’ve completed to-date and to continue to grow the network. We are dedicated to engaging and assisting enterprises and alliance partners in order to promote talent Mobility in Zhejiang Province.