Monday February 24, 2014
Happy Chinese New Year! Earlier this month, regardless of your proximity to China, most corners of the earth were touched by its New Year celebrations, as the Chinese nation welcomed the year of the horse. Whilst we are all familiar with the seasonal red dragon that decorates the streets of China, the Chinese also have many cultural traditions and superstitions followed at this time of year, which are less well known or publicised. For example, few Chinese will wash their hair on New Year’s Day, to prevent washing away their New Year’s luck. It’s also common for doors and windows to be opened on the stroke of midnight to enable the old year to escape Chinese homes. And as for children? It is even better! According to tradition, the longer a child is allowed to stay awake on New Year’s Eve, the longer life their parents will lead.
As we can see, New Year traditions, superstitions and cultural traits differ greatly in China when compared to a typical New Year’s Eve celebrated in the West. These cultural differentiations do not stop at New Year. Indeed, as globalisation continues to eliminate the geographies of space, we are able to witness a fusion of cultural traditions in a number of settings, such as the business meeting. Unbeknown to many in the West, it is cultural practice in China to present your meeting guests with an expensive gift on introduction. Even before this point, cultural appreciation is necessary when exchanging business cards: did you know that it is Chinese etiquette to give/receive the card with both your hands and to study it and ask a question before stowing it in your pocket? These small cultural understandings can be the difference between successful, fruitful business partnerships and disastrous first meetings.
It’s clear that cultural appreciation is essential in fostering fruitful business partnerships; in tandem with the expanding number of Chinese graduates in the UK job market, it is therefore essential that, as an employer, you have a cultural understanding of some eastern practices which will help you in hiring and retaining the best eastern talent.
1. Competitive advantage
Chinese graduates are characteristically hard working, being exposed to an achievement culture from an early age. As an employer, this means you are likely to have an outstanding calibre of candidates jostling for your top jobs. However, it is important to be aware of your company’s competition. Chinese are ambitious and hardworking and they will expect the same from you. If you cannot offer them career progression, they will be likely to move to one of your competitors who can. A possible suggestion to help facilitate this would be performance based bonuses, which are incredibly popular in Chinese companies.
2. Development is key
In tandem with their achievement culture, the Chinese are always eager to develop and learn. As such, to help retain your employees, a good soft benefits package which includes opportunities to develop on the job skills and also life skills, will no doubt encourage engagement of your Chinese employees.
3. Family is important
Within the Chinese culture there is deep respect for family, both immediate and older generations. In business in general, this respect for elderly people is often reflected in initial introductions: the oldest member of a group is addressed first and it is deemed insulting to make eye contact with him, until he invites you to do so. From an employer perspective, companies in China - such as Jaguar and Land Rover - have family initiatives to appease this cultural tradition, such as family fun days or community activities. As employers in the UK, it would be logistically impossible to emulate these practices, however creating a more family focussed work relationship – whereby the hierarchal business structure is removed in place of inter-relationships between departments and colleagues will help to satisfy the importance of family.
So as you see the Chinese red dragon swaying through the streets of China, or your nearest Chinatown, take a moment to consider the cultural differentiation between the east and the west. Whilst this diversity and fusion of diversity is the beauty of globalisation, it is essential to have a key appreciation of these different cultural traits, in order to survive in the globalised 21st Century.
Want to discuss ensuring your organisation is aligned to global culture? Give Sally a call 020 7836 6999 to find out more.