Global Talent Management (GTM) in China: Between Globalization and Tradition

China global talent management

Summary. Although multi-national enterprises (MNEs) in China are looking for talents who can balance domestic and international challenges, the evolving education and Global Talent Management (GTM) systems struggle with the timely identification, development, and retention of a workforce that is matching the required demand of new and future skills. Respect for the Chinese culture and access to so-called guanxi business networks shaped by collectivist cultural values are needed to access business opportunities. On the other hand, the opening up of secretive circles and empowering students and employees for more self-determined and problem-based learning could provide avenues to close the gap between theory and practice as well as more equality in talent development, hopefully resulting in increased entrepreneurship and innovation.

Collectivist and centralized system’s effect on Global Talent Management (GTM)

Due to its considerable workforce size, the capability of Global Talent Management (GTM) practices of Chinese companies have significant effects on the worldwide economy [1]. Although multi-national enterprises (MNEs) are looking for talents who can work in an international setting, Chinese higher education overall is not able to timely [2] develop newly demanded skills as, for example, in marketing [3]. While caring a lot for close relationships, global communication may be challenging due to seeming lack of empathy for strangers. In East Asia, gene-culture coevolution contributed to explain a comparatively strong in-group coherence aimed at creating harmony and successfully navigating social stress. Quite uniquely, China is rating high both on institutional and individual collectivism, e.g., having a strong family cohesion and a high loyalty towards societal authorities. Also, everybody in China seeks to create a relationship network, so-called guanxi, that is necessary even more than education for doing business [4]. China’s communist party tolerates only one national union [5], but, at the same time, promote a merit-based market [6]. This might explain a widely observed unclear definition of GTM in Chinese firms [7]. Global and domestic TM practices often remain incompatible [8].

The challenge of matching skills and demand

The attraction and retention of talents cannot keep pace with the fast-growing economy [9] and poaching and financial compensations have become the primary HR means to buy in new employees [10]. However, non-economical values like career opportunities, success experiences, an organization’s reputation, and learning and development opportunities have been found to be vital in attracting and retaining talents in the global competition too [11]. Matching not only titles and status but real skills with related demand is considered the leading challenge China’s labor market is facing [12]. Especially for foreign MNEs the development of soft skills in addition to more technical skills is crucial [10].

Authoritarianism, theory focus, and R&D investment disparities

Due to afore-mentioned collectivism and tendency to obedience in Chinese society, Chinese students are rarely questioning an instructor, don’t feel allowed to challenge professors, are merely reproducing knowledge [4], and are focused on theory while neglecting practical solution development [10]. International theory and practice in GTM might risk inclining towards an ethnocentricity of dominating Western academic institutions [13]. Therefore, it is important that China continues to adapt concepts to its specific context, while, on the other side, does not behave overly secretive [14] to allow learning across borders. Within China, distribution of investments into sustainable human capital development should avoid creating disparities between regions, e.g., by not over-favoring the coastal areas [15].

Global mindset, problem-based learning, and the promotion of enterpreneurship

To foster self-determined learning that is promising better success in education, parents don’t need to intervene academically, and supervisors are advised to delegate more to employees and students to give them personal control and autonomy [16]. Problem-based learning (PBL) was proven to promote practicality and be an effective teaching approach in Asia if cultural barriers of traditional authoritative teaching styles can be overcome [17]. Also, investing tremendously in R&D, Chinese policymakers have already started to promote a more global mindset and initiatives advancing entrepreneurship and innovation [18].


[1] Cooke, F. L., Saini, D. S., & Wang, J. (2014). Talent Management in China and India: A Comparison of Management Perceptions and Human Resource Practices. Journal Of World Business, 49(2), 225-235. doi:

[2] Serena, R. (2010). Education and human resources management in high-tech organisations in China. Journal Of Knowledge-Based Innovation In China, (2), 186. doi:10.1108/17561411011054814

[3] John, W., & Xiaoxian, Z. (2011). Employability, skills and talent management in Zhejiang Province. Journal Of Chinese Entrepreneurship, (1), 24. doi:10.1108/17561391111106007

[4] Bains, G. (2015). Cultural DNA: The psychology of globalization. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

[5] Budhwar, P. & Debrah, Y. (2009). Future research on human resource management systems in Asia. Asia Pacific Journal of Management, 26(2), 197–218.

[6] Chan, H. S., , , Chen, L., Yu, J., Chan, H., & Gao, J. (n.d). Party Management of Talent: Building a Party-led, Merit-based Talent Market in China. Australian Journal Of Public Administration, 74(3), 298-311.

[7] Shuai, Z., & David, B. (2012). Talent definition and talent management recognition in Chinese private-owned enterprises. Journal Of Chinese Entrepreneurship, (2), 143. doi:10.1108/17561391211242753

[8] Beamond, M. T., Farndale, E., & Haertel, C. J. (2015). MNE translation of corporate talent management strategies to subsidiaries in emerging economies. Journal Of World Business, 51(4), 499-510.

[9] Nankervis, A. R. (2013). ‘Building for the future?’ Government and industry responses to the challenges of talent management in China following the GFC. Asia Pacific Business Review, 19(2), 186-199.

[10] Scullion, H., & Collings, D. G. (Eds.). (2011). Global talent management. Abington, UK: Routledge.

[11] Harvey, W. S., & Groutsis, D. (n.d). Reputation and talent mobility in the Asia Pacific. Asia Pacific Journal Of Human Resources, 53(1), 22-40.

[12] Matching skill with demand. (2015). China Economic Review (13506390), 26(1), 60.

[13] Stewart, L. (2012). Commentary on cultural diversity across the pacific: The Dominance of western theories, models, research and practice in psychology. Journal Of Pacific Rim Psychology, 6(1), 27-31. doi:10.1017/prp.2012.1

[14] Liu, Y., & Pearson, C. L. (2014). The Importance of Talent Management: A Study of Chinese Organisations. Journal Of Chinese Economic And Foreign Trade Studies, 7(3), 153-172.

[15] Tang, L. (2013). Does “birds of a feather flock together” matter—Evidence from a longitudinal study on US–China scientific collaboration. Journal Of Informetrics, 7(2), 330-344. doi:10.1016/j.joi.2012.11.010

[16] Wang, H., & Cai, T. (2017). Parental involvement, adolescents’ self-determined learning and academic achievement in Urban China. International Journal Of Psychology, 52(1), 58-66.

[17] Hallinger, P., & Lu, J. (2011). Implementing problem-based learning in higher education in Asia: challenges, strategies and effect. Journal Of Higher Education Policy & Management, 33(3), 267-285. doi:10.1080/1360080X.2011.565000

[18] Fasheng, H. (2017). The Integrated Strategy of College Students’ Innovative Entrepreneurship Education and Professional Education in the Background of “Double-First Class” Construction. Revista De La Facultad De Ingenieria, 32(11), 501-506.

About mathias sager

Independent researcher, artist, social entrepreneur, and leadership and strategy advisor I was born in Zurich in 1975 and grew up in Switzerland. Currently, I’m living in Tokyo. I love open-minded people everywhere and the passion to working relentlessly for developing human potential, which is an overarching theme throughout all his work. I have extensive experience in leadership and management, organizational psychology research, and learning & development practice. I have worked as a teacher, a leadership trainer, as well as a senior manager responsible for client relationships, counseling, and virtual teams around the world. Also, I’m a social entrepreneur and serving as a strategy and leadership advisor in different ways. My goal is to inspire with interdisciplinary, innovative, and cross-cultural approaches to personal and professional development for the people’s individual well-being and common good alike. Continuously learning himself and keen to help, I appreciate any questions or feedback you may have at any time. Please connect here on any social media, as well as per direct email
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5 Responses to Global Talent Management (GTM) in China: Between Globalization and Tradition

  1. Learnography says:

    Success of education depends on the teaching theories of school system. We have to change this conventional learning to meet the requirements of future workforce. Brainpage theory of motor knowledge is never applied in school system that is necessary for skill development and high order knowledge for research.

    • mathias sager says:

      Thank you for that valuable comment. I agree with a message I saw on your blog too that the focus should be on ‘learning’ instead of overemphasizing ‘teaching.’ Thanks and all the best

      • Learnography says:

        Thank you for visiting my blog. I am very excited that you have seen my tag line. I am working on brain learnography in which teaching is not necessary and homework is not required. Everything will be finished in classroom and children will feel free at home.

      • mathias sager says:

        I like that concept because freedom then is the basis for self-directed learning that unlocks much more potential than a stiff curriculum and related distracting homework.

  2. Henry Lewis says:

    As someone who spent 14 years inside university classrooms in a variety of developing countries helping students create marketable skills, I give a big thumbs-up to problem based learning!

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