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Wing Lau, Consulting Manager of the Food and Animal Nutrition recruitment desk at Morgan Philips Executive Search Hong Kong, shares her insights on how animal feed providers are changing their production and hiring methodology in light of new laws in China.

The Chinese government recently launched a programme to eliminate the use of antibiotics in livestock feed by 2020, and now companies now look to redefine their business strategies and consider alternatives to antibiotics. The use of antibiotics has become a genuine concern for Chinese consumers and with the increase of biosecurity issues (especially with the 2018 African Swine Fever outbreak), there is an increasing demand of Chinese medicine and probiotic substitutions to improve animal health.

China’s animal feed producers are now recognising an urgent need to adapt in order to survive, with the more savvy businesses focusing investment not only on upgrading feed formulation to increase nutrition and animal health, but also on research into antibiotic substitutes. For instance, Evonik and Perstorp have most recently signed a research agreement to search for antibiotic alternatives. The chances are that the ban will additionally lead to greater use of additives such as acidifiers and enzymes, again with the intention to improve nutrition and animal growth.

Challenges in the candidate profile

With the changing market dynamics, feed ingredient suppliers find themselves in a race to hire technical experts with relevant technical experience, PhD backgrounds and innovative outlooks. Alongside this growing demand for greater technical expertise comes a parallel requirement for strong commercial leadership. On both fronts, the problem is a shortage of supply, with very few candidates stepping forward for these positions in the Asia Pacific market, and particularly in China.

Some of the challenges that we at Morgan Philips are currently observing when looking to hire in this market include:

  • A lack of English language capability among candidates.
  • Limited talents available with the combination of both technical know-how and commercial competence.
  • A shortage of nutritionist backgrounds in specific categories.
  • PhD-qualified individuals are relatively young and therefore lack the leadership capabilities to build and manage strategic technical teams.
  • Candidates are generally species specific which creates a niche target pool.

Despite China having been a focus market for many multinational businesses over the past decade, English-language skills remain a significant barrier in the employment market. The rate of local talent is rising, and international businesses are certainly open to hiring local talents and allowing English to be picked up on the job. As a result, fluency levels have notably increased in the past 10-15 years, but nevertheless, the vast geography of China – with many feed mills, operators, customers and suppliers based outside of English-speaking capitals – English skills have not been a prerequisite and are therefore not easy to come by during recruitment.

Similarly, in commercial leadership roles, this imbalance of talents and English capability is also very visible. This therefore results to a higher demand of Chinese individuals with overseas experience.

Growing Competition

Emerging markets continue to be a high growth market for a lot of the organisations because of growing opportunities. Chinese players in particular are growing very quickly, especially in markets such as Indonesia, Vietnam, India and Bangladesh. This therefore creates a much more competitive environment which results to a high demand in upgrading and recruiting for new talents.

The limited talents are not just in China but across Asia Pacific. When there is an imbalance between supply and demand of candidates, we encourage clients to consider alternatives when looking to hire. In this case, that could mean exploring hiring opportunities in animal health, considering relocating talents from outside of China, hiring alternative technical category expertise, or bringing in high-potential young talent to develop through enhanced succession planning.

For any hiring needs or guidance in your career move, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with Wing Lau by sending her an email.

Similarly, for any Mainland China talent solutions, Fyte Manager Roy Wu is also available via email.

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