The Battle's on for HR Success in China - Pharmaceutical Executive


The Battle's on for HR Success in China

Pharmaceutical Executive

Human resources must lead

For all these reasons, having a well-rounded and strategically minded Chinese chief human resources officer (CHRO) is critical to business success. But herein lies another challenge. The HR function in China has historically not been viewed as critical or prestigious. As such, many HR leaders are very tactical in their capability and experience, preferring to take direction and execute within a more autocratic environment.

CHROs should be able to communicate with their business peers on how HR can positively affect the Chinese business portfolio within three- to five-year time frames. However, multinationals will find it challenging to land individuals who have both generalist and functional HR experience in China, and who have worked as credible business partners to senior global executives. Specifically, we have observed that the short listing for China-savvy CHRO candidates is a much more arduous process than other functional roles. For HR leaders, it may take 10 candidate reviews before even one can be short listed for consideration, compared to three out of 10 for sales leadership roles.

The fix for leaky talent

Research by PwC Saratoga on key human capital trends in Asia-Pacific suggest that most businesses invest in thorough market analysis when drawing up a business strategy, but neglect the strategic people plan required to drive it through. Currently, leading businesses are looking beyond the next budget round to plan talent needs.

As part of this effort, more CEOs are integrating HR with business planning at the highest levels of the company: 84 percent of CEOs in Asia-Pacific say that the CHRO, or equivalent, is one of their direct reports, compared to 77 percent of CEOs in Western Europe and 73 percent in North America. In highly competitive markets, such high level planning for recruitment and retention is absolutely critical to success.

Pharma CHROs who cover China should be provided with enough resources, training, and support to ensure that they are not trapped in a reactive and operational cycle as they operate in a fast-moving market, and are able to play a more strategic role. They need to be empowered to identify the needs of top talent and to ensure that they feel engaged and involved in key business decisions for their markets. Anywhere around the world, talented individuals want to work in organizations where they know that their ideas and opinions matter. They also seek personal and professional development. They will also expect salaries commensurate with their abilities as well as what the market is willing to pay. These are all important to retaining talent, many of whom receive attractive opportunities by other industry players almost on a weekly basis.

Gregory Lovas leads CTPartners' Life Sciences Practice in Asia Pacific, and has led many executive searches in China. He can be reached at


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