Already the world’s largest mobile phone manufacturer, Huawei Technologies has set its sights on becoming the global leader in information and communications technology (ICT). Like an elite sports team, the company puts its success down to uncompromising focus and perseverance – its powerful spirit of being united as a team, in both good times and bad. “Even if all our factories, offices and research centers were destroyed, I believe that the strength of our core values would enable Huawei to be back up and running within days,” says Harry Bai, Huawei’s Global Vice President, HR. It’s clear that this mission and spirit are highly appealing to talent – Huawei is the company that Chinese people taking part in the Randstad Employer Brand Research most want to work for. How has Huawei created this winning formula, and, more importantly, how can it be sustained?

What kind of talent is Huawei looking to attract, retain and develop to help realize its vision of a connected, intelligent world?

Harry Bai: The future is here. From smart homes and safer cities to the business transformation enabled by robotics and artificial intelligence, we’re entering an era unlike anything we’ve seen before. We’re determined to be at the forefront of these developments by bringing the power of digital to every person, home, and business as part of a fully connected, intelligent world. 

It’s our people who can make this vision a reality. Technical skills are clearly important, but we also want to attract and retain people with the spirit upon which our business has been built. This includes people who can thrive in a challenging, cutting-edge environment. We also need people who are prepared to give their all for their customers and their team, take pride in their work, and want to keep improving themselves. 

This is very much a global commitment. We employ 180,000 people, from 160 nationalities in 170 countries, serving over a third of the world’s population. More than 70% of our employees outside China have been recruited locally. At Huawei, outstanding individuals become global citizens. They will understand and integrate into local societies, economies, cultures, and lifestyles.

We recognize that there is a lot of turnover within the technology industry. But realizing our vision demands patience and perseverance – breakthroughs come when people are prepared to put in the time and work. 

How do you ensure that your employer brand stands out in a highly competitive technology talent market?

Harry Bai: Huawei is a company that offers aspiring talent the best opportunities to realize their goals. A key part of this is fast-track promotion. People often think that it would take at least 20 years to reach the top of a large company like ours. Yet employees with potential are identified and considered for promotion from the day they join us and can reach senior positions in a couple of years. In 2017, we fast-tracked the promotions of 4,500 high-performing employees. In 2018, we aim for 6,000.

This is also a business that enables people to develop their careers and apply their ideas on the biggest possible stage. If you join a tech start-up, you might have 20 or so colleagues and a narrow market reach. Here at Huawei, you can work with 23 research and development centers and 36 joint innovation centers, and the innovations you develop can reach 170 markets worldwide. 

Naturally, financial rewards are also an important part of Huawei’s appeal. Our starting salaries are well above average and high performers can do very well in terms of pay, benefits, and share options. 

How do you retain key talent in an industry that is known for its high staff turnover?

Harry Bai: Aspiring talent will always want fresh challenges and will look elsewhere if their company isn’t offering them. By operating across so many different sectors and countries, we are able to offer our people a wide range of different opportunities throughout their careers, without having to switch companies. Outstanding individuals can freely transfer to the positions they like and find the career paths that suit them best. Our integrated HR policies and platforms are geared toward making these transfers as easy as possible.  

How do you help your people to realize their potential? 

Harry Bai: We encourage employees to take responsibility for their own growth and development, while providing platforms to support them. 

Our most important platform for this is Huawei University, which offers 25,000 courses. It’s not just recruits, and people earmarked for leadership who benefit. The University is geared to providing practical support throughout people’s careers – 40,000 people received training in 2017. We provide apps, online and classroom training that can help people adapt to developments in technology and can be directly applied within their daily work. This is very much a hands-on approach, with all the tutors and trainers being managers and experts from business departments.

We also want to create an environment that encourages innovation and employee growth. Examples include the innovation contest we run in our Wireless Network Product Line, which receives more than 4,000 entries every year. If the idea is innovative and is commercially and technologically viable, we’ll provide the investment for it to be incubated and implemented through a project team. More than a thousand ideas from the contest have been implemented, creating multiple technological breakthroughs for Huawei. 

How does your company sustain its spirit of dedication when you are growing so quickly and across so many different countries? 

Harry Bai: At Huawei, we say our business is transforming from “a big tree to an entire forest”. Despite the huge and complex changes, we still believe that it is necessary for all employees to identify with our core values. Our shared values make us what we are, and are the cornerstone for development. 
However, we recognize that we need to do more to communicate these values and why this is such a great company to work for, as our employer brand is not as strong in North America and Europe as it is in Asia and Africa. We’re investing a lot of effort in developing our employer brand and employee value proposition (EVP), building on our strengthening commercial brand and applying the latest employer brand management techniques. People in different regions and divisions collaborate virtually to ensure we are developing a clear and consistent strategy. While we still have some way to go, we’re gradually winning recognition from employer brand assessment agencies.

Knowledge base: What we can learn from Huawei

  • get the basics right. While many firms are offering increasingly unusual benefits to attract prized technology specialists, you can compete for talent successfully with the fundamentals of great rewards, great opportunities and a shared sense of mission
  • some tech firms don’t believe it’s possible to retain talent throughout their careers. However, by offering many different opportunities and making transfer easy, you can encourage talent to want to stay 
  • the resources and reach of large businesses can be very attractive to tech talent that’s keen to drive innovation

Harry Bai - Global Vice President of HR, Huawei

Harry Bai is a senior executive with over 20 years of experience at Huawei. As the Global VP of HR, Harry has extensive expertise in a variety of HR areas including recruitment and allocation, employee relationship management, leadership management, etc. Prior to his HR leadership role, Harry was a seasoned business leader with rich experience in ICT technology. This includes VP for the China and then North Africa region.