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The Too-Fast Track
China’s rapid economic expansion has revealed a paucity of leadership talent, prompting companies to elevate young managers who oftentimes lack the necessary tools but, regardless, are highly sought after by competitors and can change jobs almost at will.
By Ed Frauenheim
s vice president of Hyatt International Hotels and Resorts
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But that rapid expansion is revealing a gaping hole in leadership talent, prompt¬ing a dubious practice. Companies operating in China often give young managers loftier titles and greater responsibilities before they have soaked in the lessons of their previous job. Premature promotions stem both from a tight job market for managers and from all the new roles created by the country’s fast growth. But title inflation in China comes with big risks. Fast promotions can result in poor leadership quality, which threatens corporate strategies in the ever-more crucial Chinese market. Meanwhile, salary increases, which typically accompany higher posts, are eating into profits. And less-than-ready leaders in China pose problems for broader company succession plans. Helen Tantau, senior partner with executive search firm Korn/Ferry International in Shanghai, says many people in China now believe they should change jobs every two years to ensure their career development. "There’s too much opportunity and people are jumping around too much," Tantau says. "In China, 35 is seasoned." In the course of spending three weeks in China and interviewing more than 30 company officials and consultants, Workforce Management found that some major multinationals are attempting to solve the immature manager puzzle through a focus on employee development and careful attention to corporate culture. But many organizations in China lack a comprehensive strategy to