South African executives have become prime targets for head-hunters from all over the world – and Chinese recruiters have been especially active in this country.
Neil Maslen, MD of executive search firm Mindcor, says he and his associates come across executive search consultants from all over the world who are actively searching for outstanding South African management talent but the Chinese were among the most aggressive recruiters.
There is no doubt that the word has gone out that that this country produces first rate executive talent; moreover it produces talent that transplants well into other countries because of the flexibility of South Africans.
Maslen says his own company had gone into a growth cycle with a number of major search assignments given to them in the past few weeks looking for top executives with proven entrepreneurial skills who could help companies grow.
“Without exception, the people we were dealing with were optimistic that the worst of the recession was over and that the economy was ready to go into growth mode hence the need for new executives to help drive the growth cycle.”
He says companies are also implementing serious talent retention strategies in order to maintain their best people in order to remain competitive when the recession was finally over.
“Candidates are facing tough times due to an ever increasing talent pool. Many thousands of excellent men and women were laid off when the US and European economies went into full-blown recession. What is interesting is that we are getting CVs from some of these executives because they see South Africa as a growth opportunity and there is more of a willingness to locate here than to some other third world countries.
“South Africa has for a long time been known as a market that has produced top class executive talent. Many South Africans are heading up major international companies around the world and South African executives had always been in great demand and have proved that they can adapt to new environments quickly and effectively.
"Chinese high-tech companies are just beginning to understand the need for marketing, brand-building and globalisation and they are looking for skilled marketing executives who can help them achieve that goal," says Maslen.
"Foreign expat executives have fewer options today," says Michael Norman, a vice-president for Sibson Consulting, a human resources firm based in North America.
"But for those with unique skills or knowledge there are growing opportunities working for Chinese companies," he says.
China's economy grew a stronger-than-expected 7,9% in the second quarter, one reason Sibson – which is looking for local partners – sees high demand from Chinese firms for executives with specific technical or marketing skills.
China International Intellectech (Shanghai) Corp, an executive search and consultancy, said that last year, it recommended more than 1 000 foreign executives for positions in multinationals doing business in the mainland.
The list of Chinese companies taking advantage of recruiting foreign executives is growing as they expand globally.