We often write about how Western companies in China make the mistake of failing to recognize that their Chinese employees are little different from their employees back home.  The typical Chinese employee wants increasing responsibility, wants to be respected, wants to be trained, wants a clear chance at promotions, and wants to be fairly compensated.  This is the easy part.

The China Solved Blog [link no longer exists] recently did an excellent post on what it calls HR with Chinese characteristics,” setting forth methods to help solve China employee hiring and retention issues.  It talks about the importance of Management Development:

You have a plan for your smart young managers. You know you want to promote them and let them take on more responsibility. Have you told them yet?  Give it a try and see what happens. Panel says.  Improved Performance. Crazy, I know. But when you tell young managers you are planning for their future, they start planning as well.

It goes on to advocate education and training as an incentive:

The oldest trick in the book. Pick up the tuition bill for MBA, training programs, language school, etc., in return for an agreement to stay with your company for a specific period of time.  Has been working since Arp sent Gop to that wheel-making workshop in return for 2 years of labor and a mammoth tusk.

But we Westerners already know all this.

No ….  China Solved really earns its keep by pointing out something that is actually counter-intuitive to Westerners, yet absolutely critical in managing Chinese employees.  It is something with which I have had to try to deal in managing foreigners who work for my international law firm and, frankly, it has always driven me absolutely nuts.  There are some cultures out there, and China is one of them, where the expectation is that promotions and raises come first, with employee performance following:

Bottom Line: Just remember, Western managers wait to see performance, then they give the raise and the promotion.  Chinese staffers want to see the raise and promotion, then they’ll deliver the performance.  It’s up to you to figure this one out.

Strange (to us anyway), but true, so try to get used to it.