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Serena Rovai

DBA Graduate - 2007

Thesis title

Human resources management for foreign MNCs (multinational companies) operating in China : an hybrid form

Areas of expertise

  • Fashion and Luxury Brand Management
  • Chinese Business and Management
  • Cross Cultural Issues
  • Human Resources
Biographical notes: Serena Rovai is Director of the Europe-Asia Centre for Management and Innovation at Grenoble Ecole de Management and the doctoral Trium DBA program. She is also Director of the MSc in Fashion, Design and Luxury Management for GEM Grenoble and London Campuses. Serena is part of the faculty focusing on teaching Luxury Brand Management with a specific emphasis on Luxury Industry New Trends and Developments in Fast-Growing Markets and IHRM. Her expertise focuses on the Chinese Market and the new client's attitudes and cultural behavior. Previously Director of the Uni-Italia Centre in Beijing - a joint Academic Centre by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Italian Ministry of Education and University, Chinese Embassy – focusing on innovation and internationalization of universities and academic institutions in Asia with a specific focus on Luxury and Art. Prof. Serena Rovai was also delivering training in Chinese Business Development and consulting on the creation of new programs for the IED, European Institute of Design in Milan, for their Asian development. She holds a doctoral degree in Business Administration. She had also been teaching at the University of International Business and Economics – UIBE - in Beijing cross-cultural management as well as developing international academic project in China. In the past, she had been designing and delivering executive training programs for Fortune 500' clients and international institutions in China for the past seven years – Philip Morris, Am-Cham, Nokia amongst the others - and abroad – ISPI/Bocconi Milan, University of Memphis, University of Dallas, University of Indiana. She is conducting research on Chinese Business and Management associated to Tongji University Glorad Research Centre and chairing academic conferences and forums. Her papers have been published in management and scientific journals such as the International Journal of Human Resources Development, IO Management Magazine, Economia e Management (SDA Bocconi University) and presented to international conferences such as the IAMOT, EIASM, EFMD, CAMOT. She had been living in different countries in the Middle East and in Asia, including China for the past 10 years. She speaks Mandarin fluently amongst other languages.
This study recounts the story of a journey to China, in search of new ways to recruit and retain human resources that remain deeply influenced by ancient culture. It is also the story of four years of interactions with the Chinese population, social system, and culture while living, consulting, and travelling around the country. In particular, this investigation explores recruitment and retention policies in selected foreign multinational corporations (MNCs) operating in the People’s Republic of China and emphasizes the critical role of social, situational, cultural, and organizational issues. Competition for talent in a tight labor market continues to increase in China, where the number of business graduates cannot meet growing demand. Recruiting and retaining local managers may be the greatest challenge in the Chinese job market, because talented managers who can oversee local operations and have knowledge of both the local market and international managerial approaches is fundamental for success. The shortage of such qualified managers is especially acute in major cities like Beijing and Shanghai. Early MNC entrants into China have battled late-comers; now they compete with privatizing state-owned enterprises and local companies. This research examines the positions and key issues in literature related to the adoption and implementation of human resource policies, with specific attention to recruitment and retention in the specific national context of China. Both company- and context-related factors affect foreign MNCs’ choice of recruitment and retention policies, usually shaped at corporate headquarters. A case study with one major MNC that has long been operating in China provides insights, supported by information collected in interviews with various human resource professionals in other MNCs. The MNCs represent different industrial sectors in China and thus provide a homogeneous overview of the situation that avoids biases associated with a specific industrial sector. By examining socio-political, legal, organizational, individual, and cultural influences on the operations of MNCs in China, this thesis provides recommendations for successful management recruitment and retention policies. It also indicates which policies seem successful in China and offers insights into the factors that produce less than satisfactory results.