Doing Business in China

Here’s an article in BBC Capital on doing business in China. Having skills to successfully do business in a cross-cultural context has been gaining currency over the last few years. With China an important hub for both production and consumption, organizations operating in the rest of the world cannot afford to ignore the region for the potential impact on their bottom line. The article provides some tips for those travelling for business to China for the first time by addressing questions such as “… what does it take to succeed as a manager or executive leading a company into China? How do you adjust when you’re entering the country for more than just a weeklong trip where knowing how to greet and socialise with business associates is crucial? And how can you make sure your business or division flourishes?”

Continue to the article …


Changes at Apple, post – Steve Jobs

Changes taking place at Apple:

  • Leadership – Steve Jobs dies; Tim Cooks is the new CEO
  • Corporate Benefits – New employee discounts on Apple products; charitable matching program
  • Retention efforts – Apple becoming more aggressive about giving counteroffers to some employees thinking of leaving
  • Turnover – Apple employees more willing than before to consider quitting
  • Blue Sky – New initiative at Apple to allow small group of staffers to spend a few weeks on a pet engineering project (similar to Google’s “20% time
  • Leadership Style – Mercurial Jobs, genteel Cook; Cook sits down randomly with employees for lunch at the cafeteria whereas Jobs mostly had lunch with his design chief; Jobs was simultaneously revered, loved, and feared. Cook clearly is … not scary. He’s well-respected, but not worshiped.
  • Labor Issues – Whereas Jobs downplayed labor issues in China, Cook has personally visited factory floors and met with Chinese officials.


Executive Search Firms losing business to Internal Recruiting

Executive search is a process undertaken by a firm A to hire a candidate for a high-level, executive or senior position. The firm A can either be an organization that undertakes the search to fill an executive position within the same organization, or it can be a firm that undertakes the search to fill the position for another organization, B. In the first case, the search is an internal search. In the latter case, the firm is an ‘executive recruiter’ (or an executive search firm), which specializes in recruiting executives for other organizations, i.e., for their clients.

Executive search firms have the skills, resources and the networks that many of their clients do not have to search and select the right candidate for these top-level positions. The fee they charge their clients is based on their contractual agreements with their clients. For example, a search firm will charge contingent fees when the agreement is that it will be paid only when it successfully hires the  right executive for the position. On the other hand, a retainer agreement means that the search firm will be paid upfront for its services. For example, a component (one-third) before the search begins, a component (one-third) after a period (such as thirty days after the search begins) and a final component (one-third) after an executive has been successfully placed.

As per a recent WSJ report, many of the Fortune 500 companies are now relying less on these external executive search firms and developing their own internal recruiters to fill the executive positions, in the process saving themselves millions of dollars. For example, Time Warner claims to have saved more than $100 million since January 2003 when it shifted efforts to internal recruiting.

Does it spell the end of executive search firms? I don’t think so. This is another example of the ‘make or buy’ decisions that organizations face. Should organizations make a product in-house or buy it from an external supplier? Should organizations have their own ‘executive search’ process or should it outsource this process to specialized executive search firms?

How much of the recruiting costs it can save through internal recruiting? How critical is internal recruiting to its strategy? What is the volume and how frequently do  the executive positions need to be filled? Does it have the expertise and networks to successfully carry out the search? These are some questions that need to be addressed before organizations decide to shift the search internal or external.

Efficiency vs Face time

“Do organizations reward efficiency?” asks Harvard lecturer, Robert Pozen, who has a new book out on productivity. In an NYTimes article published today, he points out the fallacy of a system that rewards “face time” over efficiency.

“Efficiency worked against me” he writes, when working for a law firm that billed clients by the hour. Firms that bill by the hour emphasize hours rather than results. More hours = more revenues. Greater efficiency = Fewer hours = less revenues. An industry-age mindset applied to 21st century professionals.

He has suggestions to fix the problem:

  • Limit meetings
  • Reduce reading
  • Write faster
  • Forge new relationship with your boss

The article can be accessed here

Employers’s access to Candidates’ Facebook

In the previous post, I had discussed the practice where employers, as part of the hiring process, seek access to job candidates’ Facebook pages either by asking for their Facebook passwords or asking the candidates to open up their Facebook wall posts for them to view.

This practice is now drawing lot of attention and criticism from several quarters, with the legality of this practice being questioned.

Senators are now asking the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) to look into the legality of this practice. As per Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer, Erin Egan, employers who seek access to candidates Facebook information might be potentially exposing themselves to “unanticipated legal liability” – they might get sued. “… For example, if an employer sees on Facebook that someone is a member of a protected group (e.g. over a certain age, etc.) that employer may open themselves up to claims of discrimination if they don’t hire that person.”

While several states such as Illinois and Maryland are considering to pass laws to prohibit such practice, as per a Politico article, “in California, Democratic Sen. Leland Yee introduced a bill that would prohibit employers from asking current employees or job applicants for their social media user names or passwords. That state measure also would bar employers from requiring access to employees’ and applicants’ social media content, to prevent employers from requiring logins or printouts of that content for their review.”

Facebook cautions the users from sharing their passwords. “While we will continue to do our part, it is important that everyone on Facebook understands they have a right to keep their password to themselves, and we will do our best to protect that right.”

Cover Letter, Resume, Interview, Facebook

Craig in my HR class sent me this TIME article that draws attention to the practice of employers increasingly checking job-candidates’ Facebook pages before hiring them. It adds to the list of other such Articles reporting how candidates are asked to share the Facebook passwords or add the prospective employers as ‘friend’ or log in during the interview and show them the wall posts.

What is problematic about the practice?

As per the Equal Employment Opportunity law that prohibits discrimination against any race, religion, color, sex or national origin, at the time of hiring employers are not supposed to ask for or seek any information from the job candidates that is not directly job-related. Such information (for example, age, marital status, physical/mental disability, gender, etc) can possibly bias the employer against the candidate and lead to discrimination of members from those groups. Employers are therefore cautioned against obtaining information about the candidates that might not be directly job-related. Thus, from an EEO perspective, looking up job-candidates’ Facebook pages with or without their knowledge would be wrong because a person’s Facebook profile most likely carries lot of information about the candidate that the law specifically warns against collecting. [Here is a Forbes article that questions whether it should be illegal for employers to do so.]

What makes it okay to do so?

Economy. Given the state of economy where there are more qualified applicants than job openings, the competition amongst the applicants for the fewer jobs makes some applicants more willing than others to share their Facebook pages with the employers, thereby creating a pressure for others to follow suit or risk being rejected for the job.

What do employers say about it?

Employers are admitting (studies reported on CNN, NYTimes, Forbes) that they use the information gained from an applicant’s Facebook pages to make decisions about hiring that person, and in many cases have reported not hiring the applicant upon finding information that pointed to the applicant’s drug usage, drinking pics, bad mouthing of previous employers, colleagues, etc.

Take away for Job Applicants

If you are in the job market, and have a Facebook profile, better ensure that you don’t have any information – pictures or posts – on your Facebook wall that might present you in a bad light.

Recruitment by Marine Corps: ‘Seal’ the deal

“The war in Iraq is over, the troop reduction in Afghanistan is under way and America’s next war front is far from clear. If you are a military recruiter, how do market your product? The Marine Corps thinks it has the answer: focus on something the world has in endless supply — chaos.” As per the recent article in NY Times,

  • Marines Corp opens its latest marketing campaign
  • Uses social media, TV commercials and print-ads
  • Campaign strategy is based on results of a national online survey
  • Estimated to cost more than $3 million
  • The TV spot leaked onto YouTube, followed by web-only videos on Facebook, to be followed by TV commercial on ESPN