In the ongoing debate of asking if China can make software the answer is an obvious and unequivocal yes. China can produce more software engineers and millions of lines of code in a few months than some Western countries can in years. Strip out the foreigners, overseas Chinese, and Chinese returnees who came back from school and work in the US from this process and the answer is probably no. The question to ask is if China can produce original and innovative software products that are more than localized versions of overseas products the answer is a big ambiguous maybe.

In some ways, the game industry in China in terms of technology and design can be described as derivative or outright clones of Taiwanese, Korean, Japanese or American games. In a few years, China will develop its own killer genres and platforms but its not going to be this year. However, in the business and deployment aspect of games (which aside from military is probably the most advanced software product in China), China has forged new and innovative schemes that cater to the local market preferences and economic means. in fact,the business and deployment model for games may be more advanced in China than in the west for casual and MMORPG games. The server loads of Chinese online games will dwarf the peak concurrent user stats of US based game servers.

So why is the business end more advanced than the technological end? Because the market had to be more innovative or the market never would have been created. Licensing and cloning was the lazy way out for innovation in game design. 

 The conference board report below is quite dead on about describing China's HR challenge. It seems even more applicable to the software and game industry as well.

 -Frank Yu

 

 

Found via Talent in China Blog 

Bridging China's Talent Gap

Feb. 21, 2007

The number of young people earning university and graduate degrees in China is increasing rapidly, raising the human capital and the quality of China's labor force. However, these newcomers to the workforce often lack the practical experiences and softer creative and leadership skills required in the business world, notes an Executive Action report from The Conference Board.

One of the main problems is China's educational system, which relies too heavily on memorization. Companies need people with creative writing and speaking skills, teamwork skills and leadership ability, which are not yet taught well in most of China's universities and graduate programs.

China's rapid economic growth — the fastest in the world for the past quarter century — is fueling extensive foreign investment, with many companies setting up branch offices, regional headquarters, and factories in the country. One effect of this economic transformation is that demand for highly talented employees in China, especially people with local and international managerial skills, now exceeds supply, which is driving up some of the compensation packages for top talents and managers to global levels.

"Making the talent search more difficult is the fact that the more experienced managers are in short supply and command high salaries," says Judith Banister, Director of Global Demographics at The Conference Board. Banister co-authored the report with David Learmond, Executive Fellow and Program Director for The Conference Board Asia-Pacific Council on Talent, Leadership Development and Organizational Effectiveness. "For multinationals, it is now a challenge not only to recruit the best people, but also to develop and retain them," says Banister, who is based in Beijing.

Young Adult Population Shrinking

China's population is aging rapidly, but the expanding number of people aged 40 and over is not well educated and does not constitute an adequate pool of talent for companies. Conversely, the number of people in their 20s and 30s is shrinking over time, but this is where the talents are located in China today.

Fortunately, China's steep fertility decline has been accompanied by a sharp rise in the "quality" of children in terms of improved health, chances of survival, and levels of educational attainment. These young people are often hungry for responsibility, position, and the trappings of success in order to support not only themselves, but also their aging and large extended families.

Says Banister: "A lot of young Chinese managers bear this burden and will readily move between employers in order to get a bigger salary, more status and more opportunities. This is one of the reasons why staff turnover rates are often very high in China."

China's Education System Still Evolving

The Chinese government knows it must increase the number of educated people if it is to compete economically. The fact that a lot of young people want to work for multinationals — mainly because of the high status it gives them — has persuaded some multinationals to forge links with universities to bring about change that otherwise might happen very slowly. In some universities, this approach has been well received and multinationals are reporting success in getting whatever skills they want.

"It is an approach that should be mutually beneficial because it allows students to be trained in a way that is useful to the multinational," says Banister. "Those students then have a fast track into a job with that multinational when they graduate." However, the practice sometimes falls short of this expectation as there is still a strong tendency for the university system to rely on "learn by rote" techniques. "Teamwork and creativity are qualities still in short supply among Chinese managers," says Banister.

Bridging China's Talent Gap…

Positive qualities of educated Chinese workers:

  • Young, bright, urban.
  • Recently educated at university.
  • Eager to work for multinationals or for top domestic companies.
  • Hard working, ambitious and dedicated.

Common problems:

  • Foreign-language skills, especially spoken English.
  • Education often too theoretical rather than practical.
  • Inexperienced, but expect good salaries and rapid advancement.
  • Frequent job-hopping (with annual talent turnover in some companies 10-30%.)

Source: Bridging China's Talent Gap
Executive Action No. 221, The Conference Board

 

Here is Frank Mulligan's take on it

The report was completed by two pretty serious heavyweights, with specific knowledge of China, so it is worth reading. But if you don't have the time here is a bulleted summary, with additional background data of my own:

 
  1. The authors of the report are David Learmond, the former Unilever VP HR for China and Dr. Judith Banister, Director of Global Demographics for The Conference Board.
  2. The report starts by saying that number of young people earning university and graduate degrees in China is increasing rapidly. That's the good news.
  3. The bad news is that the new crop of graduates often lack the practical experiences and softer creative and leadership skills required in the business world
  4. The source of the problem is China's educational system which relies too heavily on memorization.
  5. On the other hand, companies need people with creative writing and speaking skills, teamwork skills and leadership skills. These are not taught well in universities in China. (Surprisingly, in some places they are not taught at all.)
  6. On the back of high Foreign Direct Investment and 9% annual economic growth, experienced managers are in short supply and command high salaries. By implication they are not a solution to the talent problem. Their numbers are too small and they do not have the time to train the new entrants.
  7. Recruiting is a challenge and always has been since the country opened up in 1979. Now retention and development join recruitment as a big challenge. An integrated Talent Management approach is advisable.
  8. China's population is aging rapidly, but the expanding number of people aged 40 and over is not well educated and does not constitute an adequate pool of talent for companies.
  9. Conversely, the number of people in their 20s and 30s is shrinking over time, but this is where the talents are located in China today. (This cohort is the most desired by companies and their average tenure is a scant 18 months right now.)
  10. The "quality" of children in China, in terms of improved health, chances of survival, and levels of educational attainment, has increased rapidly and they are often hungry for responsibility, position, and the trappings of success.
  11. The solution that has proven successful is for companies to forge links with universities to bring about change that otherwise might happen very slowly. (In China this would equate to 'help them to help you'.)
  12. The positive traits of new graduates are that they are young, bright and urban. They are eager to work for multinationals or for top domestic companies, and are also ard working, ambitious and dedicated.
  13. The downside is that they often lack foreign-language skills, especially spoken English. Their education is often too theoretical. They are inexperienced, but expect good salaries, training and rapid advancement because the economy is so strong. They frequent job-hop, and there is a good deal of the Peter Principle here, with 26 year old professionals already achieving managerial level in companies, long before they have the maturity to handle it.