Retail in Asia

In People

Only 6pc of Chinese employees are highly engaged due to the predominance of hierarchical corporate cultures, finds study

Despite outperforming the US in 75 percent of Talent Management & Development benchmarks, only 6 percent of China’s employees are highly engaged, as compared to 19 percent in the US, based on studies conducted by LeadershipIQ in China and USA in 2011. That’s less than one-third by comparison.

In the study, it is found that between only 22 percent – 31 percent of Chinese employees believe that their colleagues give 100 percent effort at work, and as little as 3 percent – 4 percent of Chinese employees recommend their companies as a great organisation to work for.

This is despite companies in China outperforming the US in 75 percent of the surveyed talent management benchmarks such as building employee buy-in and support for change initiatives, helping employees grow and develop in their careers, effectively motivating employees etc.

The study shows that the key driver of employee engagement is corporate culture.

As high as 52 percent of the highly engaged employees in China come from an Enterprising Corporate Culture. Enterprising cultures are a meritocracy where achievement and talent drive success and where internal contests of creativity and intelligence are very much in evidence. Leaders in an enterprising culture tend to be driven by a sense of adventure and they value employee creativity.

In contrast, as much as 40 percent of China’s disengaged employees come from hierarchical corporate cultures. Hierarchical cultures are built on tradition and are supported by formal structure and a typically unwavering adherence to titular command. Leaders within Hierarchal cultures gravitate towards power, order and structure as they closely organise and monitor those below them.

Initially, LeadershipIQ had expected to find that employees would be most excited about being in a Social environment where everyone gets along with one another, says Mark Murphy, the firm’s chief executive. Not so.

"Employees wanted meritocracy and competition more than they were concerned with everything being very collaborative and harmonious," says Murphy.

The lesson is quite clear for companies operating in China. Enterprising cultures have higher levels of employee engagement than other types of corporate cultures in China. Employers in China should think less about ensuring employee obedience or making sure everyone has a great friend at work, and more about creating an adventurous meritocracy.