Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article Flexibility pays offOn 1 Jun 2001 in Personnel Today Theregion’s employers must ensure that visas and documentation are in order, andthat the cultural, gender and age mix will not offend existing workers. EdPeters reportsRecruitmentpractitioners in Asia Pacific have to be as flexible as the region’s officialswho are charged with enforcing employment regulations. Just because somethingis enshrined in law, it doesn’t mean that is what takes place day by day. Butby the same token, it is vital for HR directors to read the small print to makesure they are aware of the pitfalls of hiring – and firing.Generally,the more sophisticated the base, the more straightforward the recruitmentpractices. Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia are prime examples wherelegalities prevail and Web-based recruitment is as much a part of office lifeas using the telephone. Travel to somewhere like Indonesia though, and it’s avery different story. “Most top jobs in foreign companies are run byexpatriates with titles like president, director or technical adviser,”said Michael Low, an independent recruitment consultant based in Jakarta.”Theoretically, technical advisers are not allowed to get involved inday-to-day operations, but that’s not the case in practice. There are a lot ofpeople around who have worked here doing just that for more than a decade –some much longer.”Asin all AP countries, expat staff require a work visa, but Indonesian companylaw restricts the number that can be employed. Expats make up around 1% ofNestle’s workforce in the archipelago, while Coca-Cola employs a mere dozen outof 9,000 staff. Internal HR departments for larger corporations will handle theannual visa application, but smaller companies usually turn to specialistagencies, charging about US$3,000 per time. A visa is essential, as working fora single day without one can lead to expulsion, with a knock-on effect oncompany finances and reputation.”Whenit comes to internal recruiting, it is politically correct – and this is apolitically charged country – to employ indigenous Indonesians, as opposed toany of the ethnic minorities,” says Low. “And when it comes totermination, you have to tread warily too. Someone who has been with thecompany for five years is entitled to 14 months’ salary if he or she is laidoff, and even if they are being fired for wrongdoing or resign of their ownaccord they get two months’ pay. Some will ask for more money as a matter ofcourse – you don’t always go by the book. It’s best to use discretion andprobably easier to pay somebody off – wages are very low compared to Westernstandards – than to get involved in a long wrangle.”Oneway in which recruitment practices in AP differ vastly from the rest of theworld is that there are few equal opportunity issues, and it is not unusual foradvertisements to specify age and gender and request a recent photo.ButHR recruiters do need to be aware of the need to run background checks, astotally inventing CVs – as opposed to merely tweaking them – is by no meansuncommon, especially in mainland China. Alan Wah-tong, an American-born Chinesenow working as HR director for construction company Wylie International inBeijing, comments, “There was a furore earlier this year when it wasdiscovered that Hong Kong’s Pacific Century Cyber Works tycoon Richard Li hadbeen claiming he graduated in computer engineering from Stanford University,when he had done no such thing.”That’snothing compared to the resumes I’ve seen come across my desk. It’s essentialnot just to background check but to double background check on qualifications.It’s not too difficult to forge a diploma, or for the applicant to persuade afriend to act as a bogus referee. Foreign companies pay well and areprestigious, so people will do anything to get through the door. Or the person youare interviewing could be from a rival corporation, trying to get on the insideto learn your business secrets. China, and some parts of Asia, are still prettyraw in this regard.” Finally,employers need to take cultural sensitivity into account. Malaysia, forexample, is made up of three races – Malay, Chinese and Indian – all of whomcan be clannish. Hong Kongese may have close relatives just across the boundarywith China, but still look down on mainlanders. And there is a strictnorth/south divide in Thailand, with people from the provinces bordering Laoregarded as near neanderthals by Bangkok residents. Employers in all threecountries should ensure that new employees will fit in culturally, rather thansimply looking at their qualifications and experience.Tipsfor recruiting in Asia Pacific–Check local employment laws and heed them.–Remember that even if it’s written in stone, there is probably an alternativeversion on another stone.–Run thorough background checks on potential new employees for sensitivepositions.–Maintain a cultural weather eye when considering new hires to avoid possiblefuture problems.–In some AP countries foreign companies are regarded as money boxes, andtherefore an easy and obvious target. 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