Our Executive Spotlight series features interviews with accomplished business leaders from around the world and puts a focus on insights, ideas and perspectives that shape organisational culture and performance across key industry sectors.
Hazel Cheng, Vice President of Human Resources for JinSheng Industry Group
Hazel Cheng joined JinSheng Industry Group in April 2012 after a long career with multinationals. She began her career as a University lecturer and joined a Sino-US Joint Venture and subsequently Ingersoll-Rand as HR Manager. She was quickly promoted to HR Director for Asia Pacific for the Security Technology division. With a new chapter in her career Hazel shares with us the challenges facing her and the industry as globalization brings a new set of challenges.
Could you give us a brief summary of JinSheng business?
Jinsheng Industry is a Chinese company that has been growing internationally. It was established in 2000 in Jiangsu Province of China. Currently the Company operates across a range of business sectors including textiles, machinery, construction, real estate and biological engineering, and operates 77 production factories and branches all over the world. The group is present in more than 132 countries and regions and currently employs about 10,000 people (50% of which are located in China). Its annual sales revenue reached RMB15 B (USD2.5B).
In 2011, it invested Euro 100M acquiring a 50% share of the world’s leading machine tools manufacturer in Germany. In 2013, it acquired the natural fibers machinery and textile components business units from a Switzerland-based high-tech industrial group specialising in machine and plant engineering in textile manufacturing, drive, vacuum, coating, and advanced nanotechnology. The transaction is structured in the form of asset and share purchase deals for a total consideration of USD 683M approximately.
How has globalisation impacted JinSheng?
For some Chinese companies, the ways of going global is to purchase multi-nationals companies that are ripe for take-over, due to a weak financial performance. This is done to minimise the initial cost of investment, but its very critical to turn the acquisition’s performance around very quickly to minimise further losses. Jinsheng is however going to market with the eye on acquiring businesses that perform better and that are more stable. This is why the newly merged businesses in Germany and Swiss are win-win opportunities for both sides. Globalisation enables us to take the global market as a whole, exchanging and allocating global resources in the areas of talent, technology, and market and that is what we really need for further growth.
And how about you? How has globalization impacted your own career?
My current role is more challenging than ever before. Don’t get me wrong – I love challenges! I’m also fortunate to work with people who share this sentiment. JinSeng has changed my perception of my role in the company: I’m no longer just an employee, I now feel like it is not a job, it is a career. The challenge of being part of helping to bring a Chinese private company into the global market is extremely satisfying and rewarding – I feel that nothing else I would ever do would come close to this.
Having said that the main challenges I have encountered are:
- Cultural differences and conflict – there are always cultural bias and we have to be sensitive to this when entering another market.
How far we can go and how much we can achieve, depends to some extent on how many people in the organisation share the same dreams and values. We are only as good as our people and it takes a long time to grow your teams to reflect the DNA of the company.
- Last but not least, it takes a longer time to embed our vision, mission, and value into our employees’ daily behavior. We must have a long-term plan. Our business is expanding tremendously and we need to have workforce that is united by our vision, mission and value; the best way to quickly reach that stage has become one of the toughest challenges.
Where do you turn for perspective on leadership?
I’m grateful for having had the opportunity work with two people: my superiors in Ingersoll-Rand, two American gentlemen. I learned a lot from them and they later became my personal coaches. Though I have left Ingersoll-Rand, I can still go back to them for advice if needed.
After I was promoted to HR Manager, China Operations, I was approached not long after, by another company for an AP level position. I took counsel from one of the gentleman who spoke with me about what inspired me, what could bring long term value and what that new job could bring to me. Soon I realised that the new job could offer me nothing but a big title and a little bit more compensation. Therefore, I decided to stay with Ingersoll-Rand, and eventually received new opportunities internally.
The other leader I look up to was the then China President of Ingersoll-Rand. He is a person not interested in power or authority, but passionate about helping others. His leadership style is not controlling, but sharing, supporting, willing to help, and giving everybody opportunities. I learned a lot from him and always turn to him for advice on leadership and career management.
Thanks to his support, I was sent to Singapore for a 3-year global rotation, being the first Chinese in HR function having such chance for a global rotation within Ingersoll-Rand.
A lot of people are talking about the need for innovation. What does innovation mean within Jinsheng and do you have any observations on how to be a catalyst for innovation?
For Jinsheng, innovation means partnering with companies that has great R&D capacity. We also set up our own R&D centre, led by an experienced scientist. We also sponsor education organizations like CEIBS and encourage employees to seek opportunities for further education.
Our Human Resources policy and structure also requires an innovative approach. As a fast-growing Chinese company, Jinsheng is quite unique and the traditional methodologies that learned in MNCs are not applicable, as JinSheng is a mix: it has the origin of a state-owned company, now privately owned with newly acquired international subsidiaries. When I joined Jinsheng, I felt like I knew nothing at all, as my previous experience was not applicable in this situation. To find innovative solutions for our organisation we set up a research team to study and analyze different categories of companies to find the most suitable Human resources platform that would work for us.
How does a leader inspire better performance? What’s the relationship between inspiration and leadership?
For a leader, above all, the most important responsibility is to inspire people, instead of managing or controlling others. To inspire others, they need to set up dreams and build up visions. Inspiration brings of energy; through regular communication, follow-ups, and milestones, those dreams will come true.
Our Chairman is a good example; he is a passionate person and always visionary.
How would you describe the culture within Jinsheng and how does it inform decisions about leadership and human capital?
Jinsheng is a fast growing and dynamic company and thus is core culture is still in the process of being shaped – exciting and challenging at the same time!
For example: when the company was a small private company the owners could be involved in all major decisions, now that the company is bigger this is no longer practical. We use external business consultants and Human Resources experts to help us with these challenges.
What are some things you enjoy most about your leadership role?
I enjoy coaching and the opportunity to be able to make a difference in people’s lives. I appreciate seeing them improve and develop, fulfilled in life and successful in their careers.
I also enjoy being able to influence decision makers with opinions and suggestions on how to solve problems or improve systems.
Leadership has also taught me that the skills I have gained in my professional life are transferrable to my personal life and thus enabling me to have a good work life balance.
What advice might you offer to emerging leaders and high-potential managers within any organisation?
- Always keep the overall company business in mind instead of your own role or function.
- Try to put yourself in your superior’s shoes and extend your attention from short-term results to long-term impact.
- Keep in mind that it is a team game and you are part of the team. Your career will be advanced faster if you are less self-centered.
- It’s good to have dreams, but it’ll be meaningless if your feet are not on the ground. Therefore, the best way is to keep the big vision in sight and take the daily tasks in hand.
- Take initiative and be proactive. You should never wait for others to find out your talents, and complain if others did not find you. Try to take initiatives, grasp and even create opportunities for yourself.
How can emerging and high-potential leaders get ahead in today’s world and what must they be mindful of as they grow their careers?
- Don’t jump (change jobs) too frequently.
- Search internally, think about what you really want, and then get to know when to hold fast and when to let go.
- Never stop learning.
- Build up a professional network.
As the world grows more interconnected, what commitments will remain important to Jinsheng as it continues to deliver for global customers?
Jinsheng will try its utmost to continue delivering a high level of quality and service for global customers by keeping the traditions of the newly acquired European companies. As is known to all, the companies we acquired in Europe have prestigious brands with long histories. Though ownership changed, the high level of quality, management team, culture, tradition, and commitment to global customers will by no means to be changed. Further, for the new operations in China, the core technical teams are from Europe. Equipped with advanced technology and with sufficient financial support, the new Jinsheng will be better prepared to service global customers.
What’s next for Chinese companies? What must it achieve in the next 3-5 years to fuel its future growth?
Chinese companies will play a more and more important role in the global market in the near future and I’m very confident of it.
First of all, to fuel their future growth, I personally think that the Chinese companies need to take a broad, long-term view with regard to improving their global organisational management capabilities. The Chinese companies must take the global market as whole, lead employees from different cultural backgrounds to work together effectively, through mutual respect and understanding, utilising their strengths and addressing their weaknesses.
Secondly, it’s essential to develop and retain top talent with a global vision. Obviously the Chinese companies will accelerate in acquiring assets and expanding in overseas markets, employees with a global vision will help the companies to be more competitive in the global market.
Lastly, we should have reverence. I mean, the companies we acquired in Europe have prestigious brands with long histories. During a long development period they have formed strong core cultures, values and traditions, in addition to advanced technology. As the new owners, we must show our highest level of respect to the people, values, traditions and culture.