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HR: HR Localisation is Much More than Hiring Natives
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8 years ago, when I came to China for the first time, half of the positions in foreign companies in China were aimed at people who were from other Asian countries or other foreigners with Asian experience. However, in 2012, 80%of  RMG Selection’s clients are MNCs and 90% of their positions require a Chinese candidate. Another official report, released by Talents Pool of Jiangsu Province Foreign Affairs Service Centre, also says that 95% of employees in foreign companies within their province are Chinese. It seems like the HR localisation in China is almost completed.  Are most of the HR departments in those foreign companies are proud of their human resource localisation, because they hired so many Chinese candidates?
 
First of all, let’s see what ’localisation’ is. Localisation happens when an imported product, service, person or identity is given the local ‘look and feel’ with respect to language and identity. It is not simply a case of translating instructions and text on packaging into the language of the intended country; it is a way of fitting something to the target audience of the country. Then, in my mind, HR localisation is fitting your HR system to the people, society and employees in the target country. So to hire local employees is just the talent localisation, a small part of ’HR localisation’. According to my experiences, in 5 countries and 8 years working in China, I would say that there are four other tasks which should be performedin order to localising your HR System to here China.
 
Value Localisation
The most different aspect between China and other countries is the culture. But culture is the base of every single piece of business action. Chinese culture, as a representative of Eastern culture, is one of the longest surviving cultures worldwide. One of the important reasons for that is its adaptability and flexibility. But too much flexibility inevitably results in not attaching importance to the establishment and implementation of a formal system, relying more on the ‘rules of man’. Value localisation is not simply to adopt the local cultural values; it is a way to merge and combine your culture with the Chinese one. The best practice here is to explain your mission via the local language and logical thinking. And you should show your respect here. 
 
Take RMG Selection as example, our slogan is ’specialist, professional, recruitment’. But it is kind of ’dry’ for merging the local culture here. Then, we add a company culture explanation here as ’Work Hard, Play Hard; Happy Staff, Happy Clients’. With this meaning we build up a unique HR management style of combining a friendship-feeling and family-feeling. This is the feature that all of my employees are proud of. 
 
Reward Localisation
As a head hunting agency, we ask people why they join every day. There are many reasons from different people, but the most prevalent one of those is to be rewarded. The reward includes not only the salary but also all other kinds of benefits, incentives and inspiration. Chinese people think very highly of rewards and respects. In RMG Selection, we prefer to encourage any tiny correct action of our employees in relation to the bigger rewards available. Take new employees as an example. They will be keenly aware of such positive energy because here we pay special attention to the new employee’s incentives. New employees who produce fine performances will receive the praise during the general membership meeting. After that, a notice form will also be published via e-mail to the whole office. To increase positive responses, let the employees from China understand the attitude of the enterprise accommodating them. Also, increase their sense of accomplishment, pride and desire for further good performances. On the other hand, if you fail to consider these important Chinese values, you may lose the heart of your staff. There is another case from one of our clients. The way they calculate salary is to set up the highest income you will get and then minus some in the case that employees don’t reach their targets or make mistakes. However, the Chinese like the way of adding different items of income even though the final numbers are the same. We have heard many complaints from their employees and their turnover rate is more than other companies in the same industry.
 
Training Localisation
It is always good to have efforts from many areas. The employer could also train people to adopt the value, skills and views better suited to a localised way. Then we half the work of localisation with double results. One of the best practices is overseas training. For executives and managers, the main purposes are to nurture the international ties and strengthen the connection with the HQ. According to Shanghai Talents Market, there is a good number of MNCs which send their CEO from the HQ to Shanghai to pick up good managers. Those local managers will be sent back to the HQ having had global training. When they go back to China, they will be promoted to higher levels. For the graduates, the Global Trainee Program is a fundamental way to develop customised talents for your company. As we all know, Guanxi is incredibly central toChinese life. So I prefer the ’Mentoring System’ in China very much. In this system, every employee will have his/her coach and learn not only skills but also the way to deal with people in your company from the coach. Guanxi relates very much to the learning process. This is the way Chinese people feel comfortable.
 
Expatriate Localisation
Finally,, let’s go back to the original point - talents localisation. There is no doubt that this is the most important aspect of the for localisation process. But more is not alwaysbetter. How many expatriates you need really depends on your industry and culture. For example, 99% of employees in Wal-mart China were local people in 2006, while Motorola got 83.3% in the same year. And the Korean and Japanese companies usually have lower localisation level than western companies. My advice here is “please localize your expatriates as well”. Whatever you planned, it’s all about people. It will shorten the communication process of value, rewarding and training on all levels to make your expatriates understand the local language, culture, system and importance of social relationships. 
 
In one word, localisation is an effective way to achieve a win-win situation. 2012 is the 34th year after China released the reform and opening-up policy. Foreign companies here should practice their localisation strategy. In myexperience, I believe HR will play a more  important role in the whole process. It is just getting started.

By Robert Parkinson 
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