My Dad visited China for the first time in 2009. He went for business but had the opportunity to see the Great Wall and many of the popular tourist sites you might expect. He took pictures and shared them- a first for my Dad. And six years later, he still finds a way to bring up China in just about every conversation. I am not exaggerating. It clearly made an impression.

Last week, I had my own experience in China. I was fortunate enough to visit Zhuhai for the inaugural HR Technology China conference hosted by LRP and China Star. With over 6000 registrants and 3500 attendees, I think it is safe to say that the event was a huge success. Every session was standing room only and the conference had captured the attention of Chinese officials, media and universities.

This trip also made an impression on me. Not only because I spent time with some of my favorite people in our industry (Trish McFarlane, Steve Boese, Jason Averbook, Kevin Wheeler, and the amazing LRP team) but also because of the energy and transformation that is happening in a country so rich with history and culture. Now six days later, I am the one who can’t stop talking about China. And… I am going to share a few things I learned last week.

  1. HR is a Big Deal. China accounts for up to one-third of the global growth in recent years and the business of talent is taken very seriously. Unlike in the US, where HR professionals are looking for ways to gain the support of business, HR is valued in China. Companies invest resources and technology to making sure they are recruiting, developing and retaining talent.
  2. Talent Acquisition is the Priority. As companies expand and look to compete for quality hires, talent acquisition is a priority. Identifying and attracting talent was a topic discussed throughout every session of the conference as companies look to hire the best talent and compete with large MNCs or foreign-based firms. Currently, only 20% of Chinese graduates are staying overseas. The majority of students are returning to China to seek employment.
  3. Services Are Where It’s At. HR professionals are eager to invest in new technology but first need to understand their processes. The demand for HR services in China seems to be greater than in the US. Conference attendees wanted to simplify some of the trends so they could make the best decisions around their technology.
  4. Branding is a City Thing: Employer Branding is a major component of any recruitment strategy for companies in China but the focus is on the city even more than the company. At the conference, both delegates and companies in attendance were creating a strong connection between talent and the city of Zhuhai through videos, marketing and messaging. A large technology firm I met with a few years ago was focused on branding efforts that would highlight the different cities in China instead of the overall company.
  5. The Student Population is Impressive: Many students from the local university in Zhuhai attended the conference. These individuals were eager to learn and connect with other attendees and presenters. They were passionate about the topics and ambitious about their future careers in the workforce.
  6. Social Media is Powerful: Although many of the popular social media sites we use on a daily basis are blocked in China including Facebook and Twitter, social media is a big part of HR. These companies leverage many social media sites including WeChat and LinkedIn. Over 50% of companies are using social media in their talent acquisition efforts.

This event was an amazing experience and I am grateful to LRP and China Star for the opportunity to attend. I will be posting a summary of my presentation on Employer Branding in China next week.