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Who Says Training Is An Entitlement?
For several years, I’ve been hearing a growing chorus about the human capital deficit in China, from top management in Chinese as well as international companies.
This is a far bigger issue for management in China than it is in overseas markets, making HR a competitive battlefield of critical importance.
It seems that nowadays in China, the challenge of attracting and retaining the consumer is much less daunting than that of attracting and retaining the right talent.
Smart companies have invested resources into extensive ongoing training programs for staff in China. As these training programs become well established, they also become a beacon for competitors, who often target them as poaching grounds.
I recently spoke with a 5-star hotel manager who said that they routinely overstaff entry level positions by around 20%, in order to compensate for expected high turnover rates.
With the significant increases in the minimum wage planned during the 12th 5-year plan, that will soon become a very expensive way to run a business.
There are two complaints I hear frequently from senior business managers.
One is that Chinese university and college administrators and professors are badly out of touch with the market realities which their graduates will face. As a result, they are not doing an effective job of preparing students for the real world.
This complaint no doubt has merit, but may be oversimplifying matters. It places the blame for a complex problem on one group (teachers), who cannot possibly solve it single-handedly. Nonetheless, the situation demands attention and steps toward a solution.
Economic reform without education reform is like farming without fertilizer.
The second complaint I often hear from management is that too many incoming employees seem to think that training is an entitlement which automatically accrues to their account.
Rather than seeing self-development as first and foremost their own individual responsibility, they tend to see it as something their employer owes them. This is a self-destructive attitude.
The biggest loser in the long run of this “training as entitlement” attitude is not the employer, but the employee.
On an individual level, this way of thinking is a corollary to the welfare state mentality prevalent in the days when central planning was the sole driver of China’s economy. “Chi daguo fan” (“吃大锅饭”) referred to an attitude of complete reliance on the State’s resources, accompanied by minimized quality improvement efforts by individuals or enterprises.
The logical extension of that attitude is to surrender a sense of ownership and pride in one’s own improvement goals. That can only erode individual initiative and personal accountability, let alone accountability to one’s employer, community, or society.
The individual then effectively become a passive pawn in some giants’ chess game. That is a sure-fire recipe for mediocrity, or worse.
Employers should of course provide training as and where appropriate, but employees would be wise not to take it for granted. At the end of the day, it’s up to each one of us to take primary ownership of self-improvement initiatives.