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Hays: In addressing engagement in China, enterprises need to pay attention to retention

Updated: 19 Jan 2016

Chinese businesses are facing workforce retention concerns, with a lack of engagement a significant factor, according to recruiting experts Hays.


The recruiter’s latest Hays Journal points out that just six percent of Chinese workers were engaged in their jobs in 2012, according to the Gallup engagement index. While this figure was up from two percent in 2009, it is still almost half the global average of 11 percent (as measured by Gallup in 2009).


The obvious concern for China’s employers is that, by implication, 94 percent of employees are emotionally disconnected from their work and consequently underperforming. In fact, 26 percent of respondents reported being actively disengaged, with their unhappiness undermining their colleague’s productivity.


Government data already point towards a moderate economic slowdown. As Simon Lance, Regional Director of Hays in China notes: “As China’s economy moves from low-skill manufacturing to more skilled, innovation-driven roles, local employers will need to move increasingly quickly to address the issue of workforce disengagement if they are to maintain a competitive edge.


”Skills shortages remain a challenge in this market, and consequently a retention strategy is of great importance. To address retention and engagement issues we suggest employers focus on creating an attractive workplace, help employees with their career progression, and motivate employees ,” says Simon.


According to a Hays survey conducted in January 2013, China has an issue with high staff turnover yet more than a third of Chinese companies do not have a retention strategy in place. As to the reasons for which candidates are prompted to find a new job, lack of career progression ranks first for 34.9 per cent, followed by the need to seek new challenges (22.3 per cent) and salary (13 per cent). Other factors include poor management (8.9per cent), lack of training and development (7.2 per cent) and office politics (5.6 per cent).


“We suggest employers start thinking about retention while attracting candidates, and this comes down to having a strong employee value proposition and employer branding,” says Simon.


Hays suggest these retention measures to improve employee engagement: 

·         Open communication with staff

Honest communication with staff is the first step in creating a successful development pathway. As part of your workforce plan, we recommend sitting down with employees individually to ensure you discuss and agree their career development.  Discuss their career goals. Communicate your strategic action plans and their place in those plans. By working together with employees you will boost confidence and morale and foster a feeling of involvement. 

·         Performance management

Performance management is central to development and it’s no surprise that employers of choice have solid performance management methodology. This can be as simple - but essential - as a robust, regular appraisal system that is user friendly and which managers are committed to.  Formal performance feedback is critical and an excellent opportunity to ensure talent is engaged and on-track.


·         Career Development

Does everyone in the business know what opportunities they have available to them for development? Not everyone is interested in career development but top talent always is!  It can be difficult for small organisations to offer opportunities but career development is not restricted to promotion.  Can you offer additional responsibility?  Supervising other employees?  Coaching and training others?  Managing projects?  Chairing meetings?


·         Train existing staff

Many organisations also offer training as part of their development program. This also makes sense as a strategy to help overcome skills shortages, since by up-skilling your existing employees, you build a more talented workforce capable of handling the required workflow. You can advance individual employees’ skills in the direction of existing skills and knowledge gaps. In addition, training improves overall retention levels and staff motivation since career development is a growing concern amongst China’s candidate pool.  


·         Mentorships

Another strategy worth consideration is the use of mentorships.  Mentorships are not only a useful development tool; they can also be used to retain corporate insight and pass this insight on to other employees. This is particularly useful when considering how to share the knowledge of staff with unique expertise or how to retain the knowledge of your mature age employees. Through mentorships, less experienced employees gain the knowledge of their more experienced colleagues on a one-on-one basis. Given the informal nature of information exchange and the relationship-basis of mentoring, mentorships allow a business to retain such knowledge as lessons that have been previously learnt, right through to implicit awareness such as why reports are written in a particular way or who to contact in the organisation for particular information.


The Hays Journal can be found at


Hays, the world’s leading recruiting experts in qualified, professional and skilled people.


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About Hays

Hays is the leading global specialist recruiting group. It is the expert at recruiting qualified, professional and skilled people worldwide.


Hays Specialist Recruitment (Shanghai) Co., Limited ("Hays China") operates across the public and private sector, dealing in permanent positions. Hays China’s specialisms span Accountancy & Finance, Banking, Architecture, Construction, Education, Engineering, Finance Technology, Human Resources, Hays Resource Management, Information Technology, Life Sciences, Manufacturing & Operations, Oil & Gas, Property and Sales & Marketing.


Hays China operates four local offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Suzhou and Guangzhou. It is the local representative office for Hays plc, which is a global company with more than 7,800 staff operating from 245 offices across 33 countries.


Hays operates in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Chile, China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UAE, the UK and the USA.

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