Recruiting in China and Europe – Two Markets, Two Philosophies

The 2007 incepted HR consulting & recruiting company Facts & Skills, specialized in logistics and the supply chain, runs offices in Hamburg, Germany, Shanghai and Shenzhen, China. F&S founder Markus Bock and his Chinese partner Vivian Ding informed CargoForwarder Global exclusively about similarities and differences in both search markets. The outcome of the comparison is based on their daily doing and insights.

Vivian Ding and Markus Bock of Facts & Skills  -  credit: F&S
Vivian Ding and Markus Bock of Facts & Skills - credit: F&S

Senior Supply Chain Engineer, Trade Lane Manager Europe-Asia or Director Sales and Marketing Germany, these are but  just three out of dozens of current vacancies the Facts & Skills recruiting experts, sitting in the company’s Hamburg headquarters, try to fill with skilled applicants on behalf of their clients.
 
Different needs
In contrast, their colleagues in Shanghai and Shenzhen are predominantly working on orders to find specialists for managing and developing the supply chains of e-commerce flows. “E-Commerce is really going through the roof in China, which explains the fast growing staffing needs local logistics players have,” states Mrs Ding. This particularly applies to e-commerce platform operations managers or e-commerce last mile ops managers, jobs that are highly demanded in China.
According to the F&S experts, the Chinese recruiting market differs substantially from that in Central Europe, due to a number of key factors:

  • Chinese universities have introduced study courses in logistics only in 2005 and beyond, leaving the number of graduates still quite small. In contrast, in most European countries universities and academies have introduced logistics study programs much earlier.
  • For several years now, Chinese economic growth has slowed down, putting the logistics company’s focus on cost savings. Particularly the optimization of supply chain processes offers very high savings potential, which explains the local market’s high demand for experts who are familiar with the local circumstances.
  • Important to note is that in China skilled logistics managers and senior consultants are much fewer than in Europe. Therefore, they tend to demand higher wages compared to their European peers, respectively consultants claim higher daily rates. 

Focusing on vocational education
Given these sourcing circumstances, F&S plans to establish further training opportunities in China - according to the recruiter’s German concept and adapted to the needs of the regional market. In its initial stage, seminars lasting between 3 to 5 days will be offered. Preparations are underway. If all goes according to plan, the first courses will be run in Shanghai and Shenzhen in Q1 of 2018. A second vocational pillar F&S developed for China consists of practice-oriented modules spanning several months, in which local experts will impart knowledge to the trainees and pass on their skills to the participants. Once the members completed these courses successfully, they would qualify for managerial positions.
However, for the time being, F&S has put this intention on the backburner. Explains Markus: “Currently, it is difficult to gain sufficient acceptance for long-term training courses which do not include an official title or degree awarded by local authorities.”
 
Growing sourcing network
F&S is strong in the Chinese sourcing and recruiting market thanks to a joint venture signed with LogClub last year, China's largest media company in the field of Logistics and Supply Chain Management. Vivian Ding speaks of a “win-win situation” giving her company the opportunity to attend logistics events organized by LogClub in different Chinese cities, offering her company’s recruiting services to the participants and expanding the own network of industry specialists and decision-makers simultaneously.
Conversely, LogClub benefits from the additional services offered by partner F&S, this way attracting more people to its events. A Win Win situation for both. Regular events on current logistics topics in various Chinese metropolises form a good platform to expand the network to industry specialists and decision-makers. States Vivian:  “Due to the LogClub network we have access to 400,000 industry specialists. This way, there is almost no vacancy we cannot fill with a suitable candidate.” She goes on to say: “This is reflected in the market, which means that more and more attractive vacancies are reported to us.”

Sample of one of Facts & Skills current job ads
Sample of one of Facts & Skills current job ads

Locals replace expats
Further to this, she speaks of a new trend in the Chinese sourcing market, particularly in logistics. “In contrast to the past, employers are increasingly searching for skilled local personnel to fill a specific managerial function, whereas a few years ago they tried to hire external professional expats for performing executive duties.”
 
Conditions get tougher in the German sourcing market
Touching the German labor market in logistics and supply chain, Markus speaks of a significant transformation the recruitment process went through during recent years. “Finding suitable candidates to fill managerial and specialists positions is getting increasingly tough because the unemployment rate in Germany is very low, similar to many parts in Central Europe.” This reduces the number of available candidates sharply. Also, the demand behavior of qualified job seekers has changed lately, with candidates expecting more and more gratifications, benefits or privileges when changing jobs. Thirdly, there is a growing glut of job opportunities posted by online portals, affecting the highly developed and differentiated scope of duties offered to clients and applicants by professional recruiting agencies negatively.
Meanwhile, this development is also reflected in most Chinese cities, posing a new challenge for traditional recruiting companies.
 
Different paces
The personal motivations to change jobs are manifold: they range from candidates longing for further vocational development, their wish to broaden the decision-making latitude, improving competencies or – an often-heard argument by job seekers – to better their income. Further, dissatisfaction with the working environment and the lack of promotion opportunities are frequent reasons voiced by people who seek new perspectives for improving their occupational development.
As far as these and alike claims are concerned, there is no major difference between central European and Chinese job seekers.
However, one distinction exists: In Germany, the F&S specialists need eight weeks on average to recruit a suitable candidate and get him or her into work. Markus speaks of a “respectable result that inspires us to become even better.”
In contrast, filling vacancies in China, organized by the local F&S recruiters in Shanghai or Shenzhen, happen significantly faster.

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Recommendations from experts
So what do recruiting professionals Markus Bock and Vivian Ding recommend logistics and SCM specialists who intend to improve their career: Here is their advice:
“Check your credentials. Draw up a personal interim balance in periodical intervals, providing yourself with a clearer comprehension of your vocational situation by asking yourself which are your abilities, where do you want to go from here, and what are you willing and able to contribute to your company or a future employer.”
Conversely, logistics companies should also ask themselves if the working atmosphere and communication climate is positive. They also should check if employees are offered tailored carreer prospects.
“A contented workforce is the best form of advertising for any company,” concludes recruiting pro Markus Bock. Enterprises’ having a positive reputation his agency gladly cooperates with by providing qualified and precisely fitted candidates for filling managerial vacancy, if required.

Heiner Siegmund

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