Executive Search in China – 2021 Outlook

China Eyes Strong Growth in 2021

The IMF’s forecast for 2020 growth in China was 1.9%. China is the only large economy that will post a positive growth rate in 2020. Most forecasts for 2021 in China estimate an 8 to 9% GDP growth range – citing challenges and opportunities from technological decoupling with the United States and growing restrictions on fundraising via Hong Kong or New York for Chinese companies.

Business Outlook

China’s economic rebound includes massive investment in infrastructure and real estate. There are increasing export booms boosted by the strong global demand for medical supplies, medical equipment, and electronics. There is a steady pick-up in domestic China consumption after a long period of sluggish growth.

China signed a new agreement with the EU and 14 Asia nations and pledged to open up industries including manufacturing, construction, advertising, air transport, maritime services, telecom, and free trade.

Talent Outlook

Each year, China produces around 8.5 million college graduates of which approximately 600,000 are engineers. This makes China the largest producer of engineering graduates in the world. Made-In-China was the reason for China’s economic growth after joining WTO in 2001. Now China moves from Made-In-China to Design-and-Innovate in China.

The large digital economy led by China’s Alibaba and Tencent, plus new Manufacturing, AI, life science and the New Energy sector investing in building new R&D centers; creates a very tight market in the recruitment field.

Many companies are expanding to the inland cities, a trend made possible by established highway and marine port infrastructure.

The consumer market is booming in China and on November 11, 2020, Alibaba and JD set record Single Day Sales of USD115 billion.

With these various positive factors, combined with an increase in the Life Science Industry as the government spent heavily in the fight against COVID-19, 2021 will likely be a busy and competitive year in China’s recruitment market.

Importance of Trust

Trust is second only to price when customers (talents) decide to purchase or pass on a new company. Companies today can’t just talk; they must act on the issues that matter to their customers. Human trust is complex and nuanced; once broken, it can be lost completely, but when earned, trust enables consulting firms to take more risks and protects them against headwinds. In today’s turbulent world, people are craving meaningful connections and they bring these expectations to companies. In 2021, companies must articulate their purpose, create differentiation, and build connections to earn trust with customers.” – Annouchka Behrmann, Edelman

Hiring Agile Talents

The selection criteria for tomorrow’s talent could scarcely be more different than the ones used today. Selection based primarily on credentials, skills, and knowledge will no longer suffice. You must come to know your potential hires – who they are and what motivates them. The ability to select the very best people to guide your organization in these turbulent times is the ultimate game-changer for you in China.

Reference: Agile Talent book by Cornerstone Amsterdam‘s Ralf Knegtmans and Cornerstone China’s Simon Wan.


Contact the authors, Simon Wan, simon-wan@cornerstone-group.com or Aloysius Tan, aloysius-tan@cornerstone-group.com
Information on Cornerstone’s Executive Search Offices in China