In dealing with China there is a huge mountain range to scale on a daily basis.

Many times during this trek, it’s common to fall down and as you are crossing this mountain range, you also realize, there are more and more mountains, one right after the other and there is no end in sight.

This mountain comes in the form of folks having no reason to do their jobs well.  From the person who takes your order in the restaurant to a sales person in a store to a factory sales manager who works on commission.

Topsy-Turvy China Management

“Is the commission is not enough incentive?”

The answer from the sales person would be (and I’m going off experience here) “the commission is not enough…we have to share the commission…the boss doesn’t pay us the full commission”..and it goes on and on.

“How about more salary?”  Increasing the salary would mean only more salary being paid.  It’s not incentive for job improvement.  In China the salary is sort of a “category”.  If you were comfortable with what you got paid, it was because the company/the boss were good.  If you were not paid well, it was because the company/the boss were cheap (bad).  But it never is a reflection of your own job performance.

It took me a few years of managing in China before I realized that “salary” is a different concept.  Much how when you pay the factory a “sample fee” to produce your sample, that fee isn’t paid to produce the sample you are expecting and in turn the factory do a professional job on the project.

That fee is simply for the factory to finally consider the project; even though you’ve been discussing it with the factory for months…or at least you thought you had been discussing the sample but it turns out they were only telling you what they thought you wanted to hear.

That is why, seldom when you do a first-time sample, not only is it not correct the first time around, but it looks like they put minimal effort into the project.

How to Motivate Employees w/out Vision?

Salary is the key that gets the employee in the door, to consider your company, to warm the chair and to do the bare-bones effort;  that is what salary covers in China.

There is no attitude of, “my own personal efforts can make or break the company.”  You’ll seldom find shards of “if it’s got to be, then it’s up to me”.

Company does good, it’s because it’s a good company, or boss is “good” (general terms like that are huge there) or the company has a good system, but not in a million years would it ever be from individual efforts collectively pulled together.  That’s just not thinking I saw or experienced.

When you work in manufacturing, you’d have an astronomical search to ever find the person or department or even an entire factory who was “at fault” on a problem.  The problems, errors and production catastrophes are never because someone dropped the ball.  The problem is more like a theoretical force that floats through space and time and decides to fall on certain situations…or factories….whatever the case may be.

So how to overcome?  How to get folks to care and not only care but put some dang effort and “oomph” behind what they are doing?

After 10 years of China management, I’m still learning. But I can tell you what my company or I personally have done that seemed to work a bit more than doing nothing.  China isn’t something you figure out…

Security and assurance are something the average person in China really wants.  We all do, right?  But it seems everyone’s dream job there, is to work for the government. The biggest reason is security.

They know that they will have that job until the end of time and hell or high-water couldn’t take that from them.  Not everyone is going to work for the government but an employer or a client still need to make an employee or a vendor feel “secure” with you (it’s funny isn’t it that in China, as a buyer you have to make a vendor feel secure with you as a client, in order for them to care about your business).

Give your factories or supplier the feeling there are going to be repeat orders, not just “fly by night” quotes, sourcing and the one-time order.  Too much of this goes on in the promotional product industry.  When making a relationship with a factory, find out more about them, what they have produced and what they can produce.  Make that part of your product line and endeavor to bring more business their way.  This gives them assurance that the relationship is not 1-sided.

In China management, employees are no different. Let them know they are appreciated and that all their mistakes are not going to be discussed or held against them.  This is big in China and there is a larger atmosphere of accepting mistakes.  If you change employees because of their little errors or even their huge mistakes, you’ll be changing staff more often than you change underwear.