China Presents Challenges for Job Transfers

China is one of the top destinations worldwide where companies are transferring employees, but also one of the most challenging both for companies and transferees, according to a report by global relocation services specialist Cartus Corporation.

The report, entitled ‘Best Practices for Effective Relocation to China’ and a related video, ‘Relocating to China: On the Ground with Cartus’ point out that China is ranked as second worldwide in terms of importance for companies’ future business goals.

However, the list of challenges that employees must overcome for success are substantial. According to Cartus, the top five challenges in Greater China are:

  1.  Intercultural issues.
  2.  Finding suitable local candidates.
  3.  Controlling relocation/assignment costs.
  4.  Housing.
  5.  Language issues.

“Assignments can be extremely costly and can easily be derailed by an employee’s failure to adjust,” said Jenny Castelino, director, intercultural and language solutions in Cartus’ Asia Pacific region. “A key component to avoiding assignment failure is understanding and successfully navigating intercultural issues, which is China’s number-one challenge.

“A successful job transfer to China depends, to a significant degree, on an understanding of Chinese culture and of the traditional cultural values, such as hierarchy, saving face, and relationships.”

Castelino offers these best practices and intercultural tips for an effective relocation to China:

‘Guanxi’ or relationships, are very important in China. Establishing and building trust are both key, and relationships with family or friends can make a huge difference in the potential for professional development or opportunities. To build trust initially, you will need to make a good first impression by having a third party introduce you to a new group or contact.

The concept of hierarchy is deeply embedded in China’s culture. In Chinese business culture, this is reflected in a structure that is clear and unquestioned, and where everyone knows their role in the group. Subordinates are not likely to correct superiors in group settings, and decisions are typically made at the highest levels in the organisation.

Saving Face:
One way harmony is maintained in China generally, and in business specifically, is through careful attention to ‘face’. In China, face (or one’s reputation, to define the term loosely) can be lost, given, and/or saved. Even beyond not correcting their superiors, subordinates usually do not ask questions of them in group settings, and confrontation is to be avoided.

The China report is the first in a series from Cartus, which plans to follow up with guides on best practices for relocations to Brazil and India.


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