Our Solutions

How to Motivate an Employee in China

As many companies expand across China, the importance of understanding the culture and motivation of Chinese employees is more important than ever. Recognition is a core component of motivating a Chinese workforce, as is respect for the Chinese culture and tradition.

While 1.3 billion live in China, companies are competing to retain talented employees who are actively engaged in the workforce. By motivating an employee in China, you can make the most of your investment in the local workforce. Here are some of the most effective ways to motivate employees in China. 

Focus on the Big Picture 

China is associated with a collectivist culture in which citizens are raised with the knowledge of how they fit into the bigger picture. Chinese workers want to have a positive collective identity that aligns with their personal values.

Explain to your workers what their role is within the company and how they are an integral part of the success of your business.

Express how each work task impacts the team, product, clients, and the business. When employees feel they are indispensable to the company, they will be more likely to want to stay in the company even if there are other attractive offers.  

Develop Relationships 

Part of the holistic culture of China depends on developing strong relationships with others. You may need to devote extra time to build strong relationships and to instill a sense of trust, mutual respect, cooperation, and understanding.

By encouraging shared connections between coworkers, you can build a strong and motivated workforce. Because the Chinese value personal relationships to such an extent, it is important that you make efforts to develop a sense of loyalty with them. 

Respect Tradition 

The Chinese culture has strong traditions. Workers may look to people in the past for a model of how to act and interact. Additionally, the hierarchical interpersonal structure in China is important and must be respected.  

Be Sure You Actually Understand the Situation 

Because you may be working with a new group of people who speak a different language and have a different culture, be sure that you actually understand the situation by paying closer attention to nuances in language and social context. You can avoid tensions and misunderstandings by bearing this in mind. 

Provide Recognition 

“Face” is an important social concept in China. Chinese employees want to be admired and respected by their family and friends. Recognizing your staff will increase their standing in the eyes of the company. Recognition also sends a clear message about the character traits and behaviors that your company values.  

Indeed, many Chinese employees report that recognition for performing their job well is one of their top motivations. Make your staff feel proud to work for your company and provide recognition through public praise, gifts, and recognizing their prestige.  

However, it is important not to dilute the value of the workforce with too much recognition. If you recognize everyone at every opportunity, this will simply come to be expected and appear ceremonial in nature. Focus your recognition on the acknowledgment of work well done instead of simply acknowledging someone on a routine schedule. 

Give your employees in China context for the recognition. Explain the link between the team member’s work to the company’s goals and values. Emphasize how the recipient of your praise contributed to accomplishing an important goal for your company.  

Also, consider rewarding the team when making these acknowledgments. You may even want to give out team awards so that you can recognize collective efforts and encourage teamwork in the future. If you want to especially recognize one member of the team for exemplary work, contextualize this recognition in relation to their contribution to the team. 

Invest in their Future 

It is well known that the Chinese value education, and many report that they love learning. Take advantage of this by offering learning opportunities and other potential for advancement within the company as another means of motivation 

Provide Opportunities for Growth 

Employees around the world – including those in China – report having a clear career path as one of their top motivating factors. Employees who have a clear career progression and who feel committed to their company are less likely to leave the company for a new role.

Involve your employees in China in different aspects of your business so that you have a chance to better assess their talents and possible paths for advancement. 

Respect Privacy 

Because saving face is an important value in China, if disciplinary action becomes necessary, it is important that you discuss these issues in private. Avoid publicly shaming Chinese workers or criticizing them in front of their peers.  

Encourage Your Team to Talk and Listen to Your Staff 

Chinese employees may need to be encouraged to share their thoughts and ideas because they may think that disagreeing with an authority figure is disrespectful. They may also feel uncomfortable giving or receiving recognition.

Explain that you value the opinions of your staff and are willing to integrate their ideas into the workforce. Remember that you will always have more to learn from your staff, even if you have been in business in China for years.  

How Horizons Can Help 

Many companies struggle with cultural adjustments when expanding to a new country. At Horizons, we have helped many teams adjust to their new working environments and can provide specific guidance on cultural points that affect the management of a workforce.

Contact us today to learn more. 


Request a Proposal