China & Australia – Similar Employee Mobility Challenges

By Julie Yuen

Toll Transitions  I recently attended the Worldwide Employee Relocation Council (ERC) Conference in Shanghai on March 19-20, which focused on Talent Mobility in APAC. Worldwide ERC is the recognised association on global mobility concentrating on the forces and changes that shape the movement of employees within and across borders. The conference attracted mobility professionals, service providers, HR professionals and business communities from around the world. This year there were over 700 delegates demonstrating their commitment to the global mobility industry. It is always so encouraging to see so many peers and likeminded professionals committed to building their knowledge base and network.

Conference Highlights  This year’s 11th annual APAC summit focused on a wide range of topics which were relevant to the relocation industry in the Asia Pacific region. Some of the topics covered during the conference included;

  • Localisation – the challenges and opportunities that can arise from this more commonly adopted practice as organisation continue to look for ways to reduce expatriate relocation costs. The sessions focused on how organisations can structure their practices to more effectively manage their employee’s expectations to convert this often ‘unpopular practice’ into a win-win situation
  • The Challenges, Myths and Misconceptions about Managing Generation Y in the Workplace – as an increasing number of expatriates are falling into the generation Y category, organisations are learning often the hard way, that they have different motivations, objectives and drivers for success
  • Compliance Hot Spots – this session provided a high level overview of the changes in Australia’s tax regulations as it relates to LAHFA and the removal of the 50% capital gains tax discount for foreign resident individuals. A number of tax changes were also taking place in countries such as Japan, where any subsidiaries that are 50% or more owned by a foreign entity will be required to submit an annual report to the tax authorities.

China  Without any doubt, with the conference being held in Shanghai, engaging with other providers and listening to the various presentations delivered by well-respected mobility professionals in the field, China is a country that presents limitless opportunities and excitement. The speed of advancement and growth for the most heavily populated country where there is one birth every 1.90 seconds is truly astounding. The enormous levels of expansion in China was illustrated in one presentation about China domestic relocations presented by the VP of Human Resources at InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), who are the parent company to a large number of highly successful and iconic hotel brands globally. Some of the statistics shared about the company to give the audience a sense of the demand levels in China included;

  • Over the next 3 years, the total number of recruits required in China will be approximately 110,000
  • Currently in the pipeline, there are 160 hotels that IHG are considering to open just in China alone, with 90% of this pipeline being openings in tier 2/3/4 cities. At present, 66% of IHG’s General Managers (GM) are based in tier 2/3/4 cities as this is where the growth and opportunities lie
  • For GMs, 89% of the relocations have been within China due to the high demand for talent

Employee Mobility and Remote Locations China is also experiencing some challenges not that dissimilar to Australia. Expanding companies in China are facing the challenge of enticing employees to relocate to the more remote areas, where some of the markets remain untapped and many of the opportunities exist. Similar to the reasons why employees do not want to relocate to remote areas within Australia, in IHG the reasons why their employees turn down relocations in tier 2/3/4 cities is because of the drop in the quality of living, absence or poorer quality education for the children, lack of social networks and concerns for the longer term effect on the employees career. IHG Management has attempted to counter these concerns by implementing the following strategies;

  • Formulating a ‘hot list’ of candidates from nearby cities so that they know which candidates are already willing to relocate and the culture shock may not be as great if they are already residing in a nearby city
  • Conducting up to date benchmarking exercises to ensure that they offer competitive and relevant compensation and benefits. IHG appreciates that sometimes these benefits may need to be flexible to address the shortcomings of each individual city and ensure that the employees are well supported in the areas that are lacking. This will mean that what is relevant and required in one city may not be in another and companies need to recognise this
  • Effective onboarding from the company to ensure that employees’ first impressions are positive and they feel supported. This importance cannot be underestimated because this can often set the tone of the move and employees are much more tolerant and patient if they can see that the organisation is making a conscious effort to assist with the assimilation process, both from a personal and work perspective
  • Fast track and clearer developmental program is helping the employees see the ‘bigger picture’ on what the relocation can help them achieve in terms of their overall career path. This is targeted to help the employee focus on the benefits of the relocation as opposed to just the negatives and inconveniences of the host city

Julie Yuen

Julie Yuen, GMS Corporate Account Manager, Toll Transitions     Julie Yuen is a Corporate Account Manager at Toll Transitions and has been with Toll for close to 10 years. Being an Australian born Chinese who speaks fluent Cantonese, Julie shares a strong interest in cultural differences and how they affect our daily living. After relocating to Melbourne from Sydney in 2003, Julie has firsthand experience at appreciating how challenging relocating to a new city can be. Julie’s professional focus is in the field of Expatriate Management, having completed a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Human Resource Management and International Business and completing her honour levels thesis on “The Definition of Expatriate failure and the Predominant Reasons for It”. She gained her GMS accreditation with Worldwide ERC in April 2012. Julie has broad account management capabilities having managed Clients from various industry sectors covering Telecommunications, IT, FMCG, Financial Services and Engineering. Julie regards a large portion of her role as ensuring that Clients continually find increased value in the business partnership they share with Toll.

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