Young Chinese workers aren’t like their elders

Jason Tu, co-founder and chief executive of MioTech (an artificial intelligence platform for financial institutions), has written a piece for the Nikkei Asia noting how outspoken young Chinese employees are no longer rare given the 400 million Chinese born between 1982 and 1998 are more entrepreneurial, global, and independent-minded than their elders. And many Western companies are still unaware of what the country’s younger generation is looking for. Tu noted:

The previous generation had a rough time. War, hunger and poverty drove families from rural to urban China to work and start their own businesses. As their children grew up and joined the workforce, their needs were simple: to make money to feed, house and educate their own families. Their attitude was straightforward: keep your head down and get things done in pursuit of higher pay and upward advancement.

The young urban generation has its basic needs satisfied and is looking for more. MioTech, my two-year-old artificial intelligence-powered data analysis company, is staffed entirely with millennials, the oldest of whom was born in 1983.

Recruitment interviews often end with requests for extra job responsibilities, accelerated career development and a fun company culture, rather than the old standard talk of pay and working hours.

Tu goes on to note how people outside China had criticized Sequoia Capital partner Michael Moritz for a Financial Times column (Silicon Valley would be wise to follow China’s lead) in praise of the China tech work ethic of “996” – 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week. However and while 996 was never Tu’s policy, the work hours kept by most staff “is not too different because we need to move fast as a startup to keep ourselves alive amid fierce competition.” Tu also noted that his top performers:

… even come to the office voluntarily on Sundays whenever there are things that need to be done. 996 is less about a schedule and more about responsibility: millennials want responsibility and should be given room to show it.

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