Speaking to Alex Eymieu, a Partner at premier executive search firm CTPartners, from his Shanghai office a few weeks ago on the osmosis of many senior executives from the Western world to their emerging market counterparts – and specifically China – it would seem that the recipe for success for those deciding to up sticks and make the move relies almost entirely on balancing the right ingredients of West and East.
The Balance of East and West
“Assessing the balance, I think, is the most important skill for recruiters today…having enough understanding of the local practices and enough understanding of the global governance to balance or assess a candidate’s ability to do the job,” is key explains Eymieu as we discuss the ins and outs of recruiting ‘native’ candidates versus those of a more international flavour.
Having spent the past 20 years in China as a French national, it’s clear Eymieu is well positioned to offer both a service and perspective that is becoming increasingly important to Western companies looking to set up shop in China, as well as Chinese employers looking for Western executives.
For the former, an implicit understanding of where a company stands in its internationalisation is key; knowing whether that company can integrate its staff into a local Asian market is just as important as knowing whether it can support a native executive in its ‘Western ranks’. For the latter, ensuring the right support infrastructure pre-exists within the company needs to be complimented with a candidate’s acquired “soft skills” such as cultural etiquette and sensitivity in order for a right fit to occur.
Taking It Personally
However, the job of a recruiter isn’t over once a candidate has been placed – and the idea of a ‘right fit’ only really applies in the theoretical ‘on paper’ realm. Naturally, the “onboarding” process is ultimately the employer’s responsibility, but for the likes of Eymieu, placing senior executives into emerging market positions relies on an inherent understanding that – regardless of candidates’ years of experience – it’s still a natural shock to the system to enter into a world of unfamiliar practices and cultural differences. As such, looking at personal strengths is just as important as industry experience and credentials, if not more when compared to the standard candidate screening habits of the West.
“The first 100 days is critical. In this time, we’ll very quickly see of a person is going to fit and stay within the first 100 days, so we remain very close to them and make sure that they are successful,” explains Eymieu. “Coaching may be a way for people to take responsibility in a new environment better. I’m a big believer in executive coaching…as it can help executives to have a better sense of their own soft skills and how they can listen and discovery a different way of looking at things and fit into the job.”
Channel Your Current Employer
As Eymieu points out, it’s this idea of finding a “different way of looking at things” that means candidates have to be considered in a personal light as well as a professional one – a point that Spencer Green, Chairman of one of the world’s most progressive business Event companies, GDS International, further exemplified in a live interview with Meet The Boss in New York.
So how can senior executives looking to break into emerging markets such as China go about doing just that? Exposure is an obvious weapon in the armoury, but perhaps not in the external market sense we’re used to in the West. As Eymieu explains, employers in emerging markets are fully aware of the steep learning curve at play, meaning the likelihood of active candidates looking for work with new employers is extremely low.
However, flip the route on its head and burrow your way in through your current employer, and you’re chances increase dramatically. “Almost all the major companies today have access or offices and business in emerging markets. Find an opportunity within your current employer, then once you’re exposed, get some coaching to open your mind and get to a point where you know what you don’t know.”
That is, without fail, the takeaway here: “Get to a point where you know what you don’t know”. It’s how we learn, it’s how we grow – but most importantly, it’s how we become more accepting of, and encouraged to explore, new cultures and the rich vault of experience just waiting to be found.
Author: Nick Pryke