Employer brands in China

image1-career internationalA recent survey published by Career International researches the ways that different demographic groups view employer brands. It underlines that in the current war for talent companies need to increasingly market themselves as brands in order to appeal to and capture potential employees.

The report was launched to HR professionals at the Second Employer Brand Strategy (Asia) Summit in Shanghai. In the article below Ms Li Jie, Operations Leader for Career International Asia Pacific, explains some of the findings of this survey.

According to our findings, when focussing on an employer’s ‘brand’, employees in first-tier cities look for a employment that is “fun, interesting and challenging”; those from the post-80s generation are more interested in benefit packages; leadership think more in terms of corporate culture. When you consider all the combinations of the different generations, the positions they hold and the variety of regions where they reside, there are a multitude of factors that influence the decision of a particular candidate to select one job opportunity over another. What are the employer brand elements that affect this decision?

It is important that companies start to spend some time away from studying their customers and devote some time to the study of employee psychology. As companies begin to market themselves more as products, the likelihood of transforming target customers into employees increases.

The China Talent Climate Report was conducted between March and April 2013 by Career International’s research centre. It covered 10,380 employees from 14 different industries in more than 30 cities across China.

Regional differentiation

Certain trends can be found regardless of the generation or geographical location of the respondents. For example, 93 per cent of respondents from second- and third-tier cities ‘care’ or ‘highly care’ about an employer’s brand—which is only one per cent more than those in first-tier cities.

However, if we analyse some of the data in more detail we can start to see differences emerge. For example, respondents from first-tier cities rank employment that is ‘fun, interesting and challenging’ as the eighth most important factor. In contrast, a ‘legal employment relationship’ is ranked at number eight by respondents from second-tier and third-tier cities.

The details in these results allow us to profile employees more precisely. The fact that respondents from second- and third-tier cities place more importance on the legal employment relationship indicates that they may be more conservative in nature, perhaps due to a relative lack of employment opportunities.

In contrast, employees based in first-tier cities generally have more channels to pursue more job opportunities. This means that their priority shifts more towards employment that is more personally gratifying rather than employment that is just safe and secure.

Generational differences

Our survey recorded variations in how different generations prioritised their employer preferences. Interestingly it is the youngest generation, the Post-90s, that place the least importance on an employer’s brand:

Importance of employer’s brand by generation

  • 94% of Post-70s ‘care’ or ‘highly care’.
  • 93% of Post-80s ‘care’ or ‘highly care’.
  • 90% of 50s-60s ‘care’ or ‘highly care’.
  • 87% of Post-90s ‘care’ or ‘highly care’; 1% ticked ‘Don’t care at all’, the only generation to do so.

Because Post-90s employees have grown up in the era of the ‘information explosion’, their opinions towards a particular employer’s brand may have already been largely formed by a multitude of outside influences. It follows then that they would care less about the perceived influence of an employer’s brand, and instead concentrate on an employer that can offer self-fulfilment by providing a more satisfying role.

It is the Post-90s generation that place most importance on jobs that are ‘fun, interesting and challenging,’ although the importance of this may decline over time; entry-level jobs that are ‘fun, interesting and challenging,’ are not so prevalent. Often these jobs involve elements of repetition so it becomes more important for this generation to explore opportunities for improving their career prospects, such as developing smart approaches to working.

Although current graduate unemployment rates remain high, it is this Post-90s generation that companies are competing for. A good idea is to select and groom Post-90s candidates through internships. During the life of an internship employers can set evaluation programmes to help them recruit permanent staff members based on work competency and their fit with the overall corporate culture.

One of the noticeable differences between Post-70s and Post-80s generations, is that while both ranked ‘salary’ and ‘opportunities for personal development’ in their top three employer brand elements, ‘benefit package’ rounded out the top three for Post-80s, while Post-70s selected ‘corporate culture’. To explain this we need to understand that these two groups are at different stages of life: Post-80s are, generally speaking, in the process of getting married and having children, so benefits are a higher priority; Post-70s have, by and large, passed this stage and are raising children, taking care of elderly family members and seeking stability and safety. They are looking for an employer that shares these values, so corporate culture becomes more important.

Differences among employee positions

There are also differences in the importance ascribed to an employer’s brand when the survey data is analysed according to the position held by the respondents. The highest was from employees at management level, 94 per cent of whom ‘care’ or ‘highly care’ about an employer’s brand; the lowest was entry-level staff, where 91 per cent ‘care’ or ‘highly care’.

Leadership and management place more importance on corporate culture, operational performance and social reputation and corporate image. Professionals and entry-level staff pay more attention to opportunities for personal development, benefits packages, jobs that are fun, interesting and challenging, and interpersonal relationships.

For more information on this research, please contact Angeline Hang on +86 (21) 6160 2718 or at angelinehang@careerintlinc.com.

As the leading total recruitment solutions provider in Asia, Career International, established in 1996, has over 1,000 professional recruitment consultants working in 36 offices across Asia, serving clients across 18 fields and industries. Over the past year alone, we have successfully recommended more than 20,000 permanent and dispatched hires for our clients, including 16,000 senior management, professional and technical employees. For more, please visit www.careerintlinc.com.