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5 HR Trends Emerging in China During The Pandemic

Written By
Pedro Camacho
Content Producer

Before we dive in, let’s get one thing straight. Prior to the pandemic many Chinese enterprises were steadily deepening their use of technology in the workplace. Teleconferencing and video chat apps, for example, were widely spread and the number of telecommuters in China had been on the rise, from a mere 1.8 million in 2005 to almost 5 million in 2018. The new reality has only accelerated this technological revolution and then some, with an estimated 200 million people starting to work from home at the end of the Lunar New Year holiday in February

It’s clear that many organizations have been searching for alternatives to optimize communications and engagement in 2020 and HR departments have been heavily influenced by this digital landscape. Now, as China slowly begins to transit its post-COVID reality, certain trends have begun to emerge that could fundamentally change the industry going forward. Let’s take a look at five of the main ones to keep an eye out for.

1. Automation and Digitalization Are Driving Decision Making

A recent survey of more than 350 senior executives from China revealed a great deal about how companies have been functioning during the pandemic. Many respondents noted that routine activities across the board have been automated, leading to a more data-oriented operation. Communication between leaders and the rest of the company has also seen a digital upgrade, further accelerated by the need to become more deeply involved in strategy and policy decisions in a rapidly shifting business landscape. 

The use of digital tools such as video conferencing platforms and the need to access real-time data to make critical decisions have, in a way, reduced organizational bureaucracy. Some institutions have actually encouraged senior leaders to engage larger frontline teams using digital tools and analytics, shifting their approach from “managing with experience” to “managing with data.” 

When it comes to hiring and sourcing activities in the aftermath of COVID-19, native artificial intelligence (i.e., candidate matching and scheduling assistance) and machine learning (i.e., resume parsing and automated job recommendations) are expected to take on a heightened importance as organizations look to further streamline and automate their acquisition workflows. 

2. A Workforce With a Digital Skillset is Now a Must

A digital workplace requires a digital workforce. As companies have had to aggressively speed up their digitization strategies, workers across industries have had to adapt to rapidly changing conditions. Leadership has begun to implement systems to ensure that new skills, practices and behaviors are integrated into their organizations and continue to be integrated in a post-pandemic scenario. 

Many companies have taken advantage of the hiring freeze to look inwards, implementing internal mobility strategies that allow them to make the most of what they have. Such a strategy not only allows employees to develop their skills but also increases employee engagement by giving them the confidence that the organization is ready to support their careers. The pandemic can be seen as the catalyst to initiate a program with benefits that will outlast these times and create a foundation for leaders to empower future talent, talent that will be even more prepared to manage similar crises if they should arise. 

3. Productivity Apps Have Hit Their Stride

Because of social distancing and home office, the use of office Apps worldwide has skyrocketed. No real surprise there. But just how much they have actually risen might be a bit of a revelation. Globally, much of the attention has been drawn to Teams and Zoom, which have seen a usage increase of 894 percent and 677 respectively since the pandemic began. But work productivity Apps in China have gained more than 308 million users during this period, nearly equal to the population of the United States.

Take WeChat Work for example, the enterprise-level office management platform that combines the WeChat ecosystem with specific functions to manage communications within companies, leverage internal performances and boost business relations. WeChat Work has served more than 220 million people during the pandemic with its multi-conferencing functionality, not only making it one of the market leaders but spearheading China’s digital revolution in the workplace.

Amid this surge in usage, we wanted to make life easier for our Avature customers that are regular WeChat Work users. So we now offer single sign-on with WeChat Work, so users will be able to log into its portals directly from WeChat Work Station seamlessly, without the need to enter credentials again. At the same time, it optimizes processes for recruiters and hiring managers who can carry out a broad range of HR activities with ease and on-the-go. 

4. In-Person Gatherings Give Way to Virtual Events

On the surface, it would seem that social distancing signifies a barrier for communication inside an organization. But many companies around the world have been finding ways to make their employees feel connected. In fact, the aforementioned Harvard study revealed that leaders in China reported that communication during the pandemic, although less “in-person,” tended to be more personal in some cases.

We’re probably all aware of the impact of virtual video meetings in 2020, but another experience seeing a surge is the virtual event, which is widely considered more direct, brief and goal-oriented than in-person gatherings, and therefore more efficient. Take the recent 2020 Avature Strategic HR Virtual Summit in China. Originally, the event was supposed to take place at the JW Marriott Hotel in Shanghai but, as happened with countless worldwide events, the pandemic had other plans. Nevertheless, the one-day virtual summit still brought together over 150 HR leaders from the region and signifies, among other things, a comfortable, time-saving solution for all parties involved, as well as a way to optimize engagement and maximize networking opportunities. 

Virtual events are here to stay, even once the health crisis has come to an end. There will always be a desire for face-to-face networking and interaction, but the undeniable benefits and subsequent ROI mean that virtual events will continue to sit alongside physical events to play a significant role in the future.

5. Take The Time to Work On Your Employer Brand

While it may seem like a daunting task at the moment, many companies are doing everything in their reach to prepare for the end of the hiring freeze, whenever it may come.  One of the most effective ways of doing so is by working on showcasing your employer brand, offering insights into what it’s really like to work for you, and starting to build authentic relationships with engaged candidates. With a pipeline of engaged individuals in place, you will be able to speed up the hiring process and fill positions faster as they open up in the future, saving your recruiters time. 

One example of a company making good use of this practice is Shell, which has been strengthening its employer brand by utilizing digital platforms and cross-boundary collaboration. One of their most popular initiatives was their recent campaign for International Women’s Day, which encouraged female employees to share genuine experiences and stories, as well as selfies, through internal comms, business WeChat groups and their own Shell Women Network. After more than 50 were compiled, they then selected the top 10 stories and shared them through their China Recruitment WeChat and Weibo accounts where they tractioned 6.8k votes and 8.5k views from followers. The campaign helped Shell highlight diversity and inclusion, a key differentiating EVP message for the company in a cost effective way, garnering strong commitment from top management teams in the process.

In Conclusion

It’s safe to say that, for all the setbacks the pandemic has brought on businesses in the last few months, there’s also been a whirlwind of transformative changes that will have a lasting impact in the HR industry in the future. Being aware of them, and staying ahead of the curve, might mark the difference for your company going forward as you strive to stay ahead of the competition.

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