A Summary of Our Posts

We have a lot of new visitors coming to our blog – welcome if this is your first visit! We have been regularly posting articles, opinion polls and updates to our blog since late 2010 – we now have quite a library of resources at your disposal and thought that we would this week provide some easy links to some of our most popular posts from the last 11 months.


Our articles have focused on a range of topics but all have had a link to employment guidance/news, specifically within Asia and the Property and Construction markets. Some of our most viewed articles are below:

There are many others to look at which you can browse through by clicking here

We have also been regularly publishing a monthly Opinion Poll – we have always had a fantastic response to these and now have quite a selection of data you can look through.

You can also track our monthly news and updates by browsing from the following link – Ellicott Long’s Monthly Updates

Finally we have our many Chinese City Facts – we will continue to post these as regularly as we can – after all, there are certainly enough cities in China to write about! You can browse info on a variety of cities by clicking here.

We hope you continue to enjoy our blog and we have many more interesting articles to post in the coming year!


Chinese City Fact: Nantong

Nantong is a city in Eastern China of nearly 2 million inhabitants. Due to the constantly shifting sands around the estuary of the Yangtze River, the current location of Nantong is not the same as the earlier settlements in the region.

'nantong/old building01' photo (c) 2010, Robin Chen - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Due to it’s deep harbour, Nantong is one of 14 ports in China open to Foreign Investment in recent years. It remains an important trading hub, particularly within the textile industry. Nantong is also still a strong agricultural area in China with many improvements being made in this area. For those of you interested in slightly more random facts, Nantong holds the title of being the first city in China to open a folk museum!

For more information on Nantong, please visit: http://nantong.jiangsu.net/

Shortage of Senior Staff in Mainland China

This week we wanted to publish a recent article which appeared in the South China Morning Post regarding the shortage of senior talent available to firms in the mainland. It highlights a growing problem that many of our clients are experiencing as they look to develop their businesses in China. We would be keen to hear your comments and thoughts on this article and whether your company has experienced similar situations.


by Jonathan Story, published October 1st 2011 South China Morning Post

Companies establishing a mainland office are struggling to recruit senior staff with the suitable mix of skills, qualifications, experience and language

“If you can’t make the people issues work, forget it.” That, in a nutshell, is the view of business people with experience on the mainland.

Companies setting up there report that finding local mainland staff with the right combination of skills, qualifications, experience and language, often English, is extremely difficult. The pressure on recruitment is as intense as the competition for the still relatively small pool of mainland senior management talent. McKinsey & Co, the global management consultant firm, estimates that while by 2015-20 Chinese companies with global aspirations will need some 75,000 senior managers with international experience, there will be only 3,000 to 5,000 potential candidates that fit the bill.

The challenge is to find candidates on the mainland with the right combination of qualifications, skills, experience and language for a particular position, and establishing those criteria is important because language can sometimes be a red herring. A common trap is to hire people whose language ability is good, but who don’t necessarily have the appropriate bundle of skills.

And it is critical to recognise when an appointment isn’t working out. Consider the experience of Kristina Koehler of Klako Group, which specialises in corporate services for the mainland market. She tells a story of a German client who was setting up a sales office in China. The client hired a Chinese general manager who had spent several years in Germany, and almost seemed more German than the other company officials were. He was posted to China, but it became apparent that he lacked the people skills to do the job. After a year and a half, he had grown the China office to 11 people but headquarters had finally had enough. They fired everyone, and started all over again.

Chinese universities graduate 250,000 engineering students each year, and many foreign companies have built relationships with the most prestigious universities to try to beat their competitors to the cream of each year’s graduate crop. The graduates know their theory, but foreign companies find it valuable to sponsor research and training to develop the skills they need.

The criteria for recruiting to a particular position may include the relevant skills, such as length of experience, market knowledge, or experience working with suppliers. But even more important are the candidate’s integrity, their personal values for their fit with your company culture, and their readiness to learn. Skills can be taught, but attitude is hard to change.

The bottom line is that companies have to develop their own staff, and recruit people who appear to be trainable to the required standard. The type and amount of training offered will be one of the tools to attract the best candidates. Training does not come cheap: B& Q, a Britishbased retailer, expects to spend the equivalent of 15% of the first year’s salary of a new hire on training, with new employees spending their first three months shadowing other employees. The research and development centre of Denmark’s Novozymes may be about new products, but it is also focused on selecting, training and developing people the company hopes will become senior managers in the future.

But once you have spent the money and time giving your staff the analytical, interpersonal and other skills they need to compete in a global business world, there’s a new problem. As Heinz Gaugl of RHI, the Austrian producer of heat resistant products, says: “ as soon as you train someone, their market value goes up.” Headhunters are everywhere, Chinese staff send out their résumés on spec to test their market value, and competitors often will offer your best employees more than double their salary to move.

With turnover of staff at more than 15 per cent – I have heard of cases where it reaches 90 per cent – retention is a big headache. Salaries have to remain competitive, but the money is only part of the compensation package. The mainland’s move towards privatisation has taken away the job security and social benefits for life, the “ iron rice bowl”, that mainlanders had taken for granted, and employers are now expected to shoulder some of the burden. Housing, transportation to and from work, subsidised meals and medical insurance, for instance, are common.

Then there is the sense of belonging. A company that shows commitment to developing its staff is demonstrating that it takes a long-term view, that the employee is going to be part of the “ family” for a long time and will be able to grow within the group. The mainland is seeing a religious revival, including ancestor worship, where the importance of the family past and present is joined by thoughts of the family’s future. Companies need to tap into this cultural desire to belong to an extended family.

Career development and opportunities for advancement are the most important reasons for staying in a job. Advancement, new titles and greater responsibilities are a way in which the company can give “ face” – meaning respect – and the employee can gain “ face” in front of his or her colleagues, family and friends. Employees expect to progress quickly, and must be seen to do so, and this can be demonstrated by adding extra stages in the hierarchy, new titles and additional reporting layers. Sending senior staff overseas is another way of demonstrating how much the company values them.

And here is the paradox. In the last resort, what matters for companies wishing to retain their mainland white collar staff is that careers be seen to be open all the way up to the board level. That entails a big investment in training. Yet staff may see that senior positions are still largely filled by expatriates on the grounds that local Chinese managers are simply not yet ready to take on strategic roles. The Chinese will assume that they can only go so far before an expatriate stops them advancing any further – and if they see that glass ceiling as immutable, they will leave. And if you cannot retain your staff, you will never be able to localise.

So to buy time, you have to earn trust. If you can do so, you will be erecting the necessary barrier to exit, whereby your staff will know that it is a good thing to be with your company, and an unknown to leave for another. In the longer run, you’ll need to be planning ahead to internationalise your board.

Chinese City Fact: Haikou

Haikou is the capital of Hainan Province (Island) in Southern China and is home to a population of more than 2 million people in the built up area. Haikou started out as a port city and much of it’s trade continues to come through it’s port now.

'Haikou: Hai Rui Tomb1' photo (c) 2007, Pavel Krömer - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

In the old part of town there is a rich mix of architectural styles. Portuguese, French and South East Asian influenced mansions were built by wealthy Chinese individuals whose families have long since returned to the mainland. Haikou has the cleanest air in China although in recent years, with more people buying cars for transportation, air quality has diminished somewhat. The groundwater is classed as “mineral” quality and residents in Haikou are being encouraged to maintain their clean environment through a number of initiatives unique in China.

'Haikou: Huandao Tide Hotel' photo (c) 2007, Pavel Krömer - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

For more on Haikou please visit: http://wikitravel.org/en/Haikou

Opinion Poll: October 2011 (Poll Now Closed)

**UPDATE 2nd November 2011 – this poll is now closed. Thank you to all who voted. We’ll be looking at the results in detail in our October Monthly Update to be posted on Friday 4th November. We will publish another poll for you all to vote on later this month**

This month we would be keen to understand how you go about looking for a new position. Do you look to find work directly yourself or do you entrust the search to recruiter? This month we allow you to pick up to 3 options so if you use a combination of 1-3 of the below, please select them all. As always, we also want to get an idea of where our voters are voting from. Therefore don’t forget to tell us (anonymously) where you are based.

We will look at the results in our October Monthly Update at the end of the month.

Chinese City Fact: Yangzhou

Yangzhou is a medium sized city of some 4.4 million inhabitants in it’s greater area with 2.1 million based in it’s urban area. It is a historically rich city (no pun intended) being known in the past as one of China’s wealthiest cities. Scholars, merchants, painters and poets have all lived and worked here.

'DSC_0151' photo (c) 2006, sjiong - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

It’s historical importance and rich heritage however was somewhat destroyed during the wars in the early 20th Century and the city was in a state of decline. Railways replaced usage of the Grand Canal and the city fell into disrepair. It was only in the 1990’s that things began to recover. Now Yangzhou is a prominent tourist destination with sites such as the “Slender West Lake” and the “Tomb of Puhaddin” a popular draw. Yangzhou resident are also known for being fiercely passionate about their cuisine which is often extremely complex but without using an oily substances, instead relying on the natural flavour of high quality produce.

For more information on Yangzhou, please visit: http://yangzhou.jiangsu.net/

Useful Online Resources for Architects and Designers

This week we want to provide an article outlining some of the websites that we use to keep up to date with the latest news within the architecture and design industries. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments section below.

World Architecture Newswww.worldarchitecturenews.com

We like this site as it’s updated regularly and splits up architecture news by region so you can really find specific and relevant information quickly. We refer to this site almost daily and it also has a newer section for Interior Design, WAN Interiors.

Building Design Onlinewww.bdonline.co.uk

This is the online version of the UK’s Building Design magazine. It’s still currently free to look through the online version – you just have to register and you can browse the site at your leisure. Useful extra features come out annually including a World Architecture 100 supplement which highlights the world’s biggest architectural practices.

Architects Journal Onlinewww.architectsjournal.co.uk

Another online version of a UK magazine. Some free articles still available although a paid subscription is now required for most content.

Hong Kong Institute of Architectswww.hkia.net

A useful resource for architects in Hong Kong.


A good generalist architecture website that offers features and news. Tends to be more focused on US architecture. It’s also possible to submit articles for publication here. Check out our Graduate Article which they posted in 3 parts earlier this year: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

Interior Design Magazinewww.interiordesign.net

A useful online version of the magazine with a lot of articles, news and features for projects around the world

Interior Design Association Hong Kongwww.hkida.com

A useful resource for interior designers in Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Institute of Landscape Architectswww.hkila.com

A useful resource for landscape architects in Hong Kong


A social networking site for landscape architects. Some good forums and a great way to connect with other landscape architects.


A nice site looking at all aspects of sustainable architecture and design. A lot of articles and project case studies.