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April 30, 2008

PwC China looks abroad to plug staff shortage

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) China is searching abroad for Chinese skilled professionals to cope with firm’s current market demand. The Big Four firm said a shortage of professionals, particularly in middle management, has led it to implement an internal programme called the China Sourcing Initiative.

Launched last year, the programme has already attracted professionals from London, New York, Los Angeles and Sydney PwC offices to mainland China and Hong Kong. They are tasked with recruiting new graduates and experienced people who have international experience, local Chinese knowledge and sufficient language skills. This initiative is in addition to the firm’s extensive localisation strategy that continues to recruit more than 2,800 people locally each year.

PwC Global chief executive Samuel DiPiazza, who recently visited Shanghai, said high economic growth rates in China has increased the demand for professional services to such an extent that there is a nationwide shortage of skilled staff. “Therefore, China-based CEOs must develop talent strategies that attract and retain the right people. The China Sourcing Initiative is one of the firm’s strategies,” he said.

DiPiazza warned that the talent drain will pose a serious threat to the pace of economic growth in the region and also the confidence of chief executives unless steps to address the problem are taken. These concerns were clearly illustrated in PwC’s 11th Annual Global CEO Survey.

Asia-Pacific chief executives who took part in the study were most concerned about the availability of key skills, with nearly four-fifths of CEOs citing the problem despite substantial working-age populations. Nearly eight out of ten chief executives agree that their organisation needs to change the way they develop talent.

DiPiazza added: “At present, it appears that chief executives are responding to the talent crisis by focusing on internal training and development of the existing workforce, but they need to ask how effective these programmes are and how they connect to the overall talent strategy. CEOs need to better understand, as well as clearly define and communicate, why their people issues are matters of crucial strategic importance and to embed their talent strategy as an integral part of their overall business strategy.”

Globally, PwC has implemented the Performance, Coaching and Development (PCD) programme that is being rolled out to over 9,000 employees across mainland China and Hong Kong. PCD is a training initiative focused on quality coaching and timely feedback in the everyday work of employees, which aims to enhance values and performance, as well as professional development.

Nora Wu, PwC Shanghai office lead partner, explained: “Every partner in the firm has spent two intensive days receiving specialised skills training in coaching, to ensure our leaders in the firm have the right skills to lead this important programme.

“A workplace culture that nurtures the development of its people will without a doubt help to retain as well as attract talent. We are actively building our corporate culture through changing behaviours, meaning our culture will be brought to life through well-defined behaviours, with our partners taking the lead.”

PwC China invested nearly one million hours in staff training in the 2007 financial year, and the average training hours per employee were about 100. The firm said it also intends to recruit 2,000 graduates in this year’s intake.

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