pwc.jpgIt's a theme we have touched on before at EngagingChina, and no doubt will do so in the future. But talent management has emerged as one of the biggest challenges for multinationals operating in China so its good to see that western firms are now taking this problem a lot more seriously.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, the professional services firm, is the classic “people” business and so it knows more than most about the problems of recruiting and retaining top staff, particularly in a competitive market like China.

The firm's global CEO, Sam DiPiazza spoke at length about this topic on the occasion of its appointment of 55 new partners for its mainland China and HK practice. Of the 55, 40 are from the mainland and 15 from HK, and DiPiazza said PwC has put a particular emphasis on recruiting local staff and partners for its China practice.

The appointments bring the number of partners that PwC has in China to 330 out of a total staff of 8,000.

Of course, professional services firms are notorious for simply throwing money at a problem. EngagingChina remembers the huge sums that the professional firms paid to recruit “e-business consultants” at the height of the dotcom boom, only to then sack most of them a couple of years later.

DiPiazza said that financial incentives are important but not sufficient to keep people happy and productive.

“Work needs to be meaningful and employees need to know they share the same values as the company to feel they are making a difference,” he said, noting that a good example of PwC's values is the effort to build on the diversity within the firm. He proudly states that 36% of this year's new partners in mainland China and Hong Kong are women.

He is equally product of the fact that, among the newly appointed partners, more than half joined PwC as college graduates. That, he said, is testimony to PwC's success over the years in developing a culture that respects, trusts and takes pride in its staff.

While such phrases can sound a little hollow, it is clear that you have to offer something more than a bulging pay packet at the end of the month if you want to retain employees with coveted and transferable skills, particularly in a competitive market like China.


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