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Judging Chinese tech companies by their Glassdoor reviews, part 2
Editor’s note: This was contributed by Elliott Zaagman a trainer, coach, and change management consultant who specializes in aiding Chinese companies as they globalize. To contact him, check him out on LinkedIn, or add ezaagman on WeChat.
This is the second in a two-part series measuring how Chinese companies perform on Western HR website, Glassdoor. The first part looks at Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu, and Huawei. This part looks at Lenovo, Cheetah Mobile, ZTE, and LeEco.
If you don’t spend much time on the English-language internet, Glassdoor may be a new name to you. As one of the most popular HR-related sites, it is a go-to source for job listings, news, and most famously, its employer reviews section. These reviews provide current and former employees a platform to give a 1-5 star rating for a company, with sections for “pros,” “cons,” and “advice to management.” For many job-seekers, checking out a company’s Glassdoor page is essential before accepting a job offer.
For those interested in working for Chinese tech companies, this can be a helpful resource to better understand what to expect from each company. For the companies themselves, it can provide valuable feedback for how to improve their practices for attracting and retaining both foreign talent overseas and globally-oriented talent in China.
In this second article, we look at 4 more top Chinese tech companies: Lenovo, Cheetah Mobile, ZTE, and LeEco. Part 1 covered Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu, Huawei. In order to better ensure that the reviews are statistically representative, only companies with at least 30 reviews have been taken into consideration. Furthermore, while all companies will inevitably have a few disgruntled employees who may have had negative experiences for their own personal reasons, this article attempts to look at broader trends in the employee reviews, in order to provide a clearer picture of the general culture, atmosphere, and tendencies of each company represented.
With a large international presence, particularly in the US, Lenovo has nearly 1,000 reviews. With a rating of 3.3, they are far from perfect, but it is interesting to see the nature of the feedback about the company, particularly in comparison to Huawei. Their rating of 3.3 stars is actually the highest of any company in this article that has a majority of non-Chinese reviewers. When results were filtered to only include offices outside of China, the star rating stayed roughly the same, which was a stark contrast to many of the other companies, whose outside-of-China scores were noticeably lower. Many of the respondents reported having worked for Lenovo for over five, or even ten years, and even the negative reviews tend to express some feelings of affection towards the company, praising its people, management, and culture. What is also worth noting is what is not mentioned. While Huawei’s reviews are filled with complaints about discrimination, language issues, cultural insensitivity and even ethical violations, these sorts of grievances were noticeably rare in Lenovo’s reviews.
What is also worth praising is that for seemingly all of its reviews, positive or negative, a Lenovo global talent acquisition specialist gave a detailed, thoughtful response. Kudos to Lenovo’s HR for staying engaged with their employees and giving thought, attention, and energy to their employer branding. Judging from the reviews, it seems that through both their expansion strategy and HR initiatives they have done a commendable job at localizing in the US market.
On the not-so-positive side of things, the company’s less-than-stellar performance and downsizings in recent years seem to cause some reviewers to be concerned about the future of the company and question its priorities. Frustration with inefficient and lengthy processes were also a common complaint.
With only 33 reviews, Cheetah Mobile had the smallest data set to draw from, and it was quite interesting. Their positive reviews seemed a bit, well, over-the-top positive, and at the risk of editorializing, it seems a little… less-than-authentic. While it would be naïve not to assume that most companies do what they can to manipulate their Glassdoor scores, it’s impossible to ignore such an obvious red flag as the ones on Cheetah’s page.
The more negative reviews tell a very different story of the company, with complaints of language and cultural issues, poor interpersonal skills on the part of managers, and arrogance from the company’s leadership. As with just about every company profiled in this piece, work-life balance was also cited as a major issue.
The trends on ZTE’s page look very similar to those on Huawei’s. Both had similar overall scores, with substantially lower scores when results were filtered for overseas results, (each company, for example, scored a 2.7 on their US reviews). In both cases, reviewers praised the companies for fair compensation and being a good place to gain early-career experience. The complaints were similar as well, largely focused on issues of local autonomy and culture. Looking at these reviews, a reasonable person could come to the conclusion that while ZTE and Huawei are interested in doing business internationally, they do not have the same ambitions for creating a global corporate culture.
The less positive reviews, many of which came from ZTE’s Texas office, seem to revolve around the cultural differences between US staff and the Chinese HQ. Reviewers complained about the lack of local staff, even after ZTE has been in the US market for over ten years. Other common complaints include language issues, unsatisfactory levels of autonomy, poor transparency, and even contempt for Americans in general.
With an overall rating of 1.7, there is not much to say about LeEco’s Glassdoor page. With their well-documented rapid global expansion, cash crunch, and contraction, it is not surprising that many employees were left with a bad taste in their mouths. On the positive side, some reviewers did express positive experiences with LeEco’s collaborative team environment and opportunities to improve Chinese language and interpretation skills. But the more negative ones were far more numerous…
What’s an interesting point about the negative feedback that LeEco receives on its Glassdoor page is that the core issues that led to LeEco’s struggles (rapid overexpansion, poor financial management) were not anywhere near the most frequently mentioned complaints. Rather, the “cons” sections of LeEco reviews ran the gamut from dishonesty in the recruitment process, failure to localize to meet the needs of overseas markets, favoritism of Chinese employees and discrimination against non-Chinese ones, poor communication, nasty internal politics, and even racism, fraud, and corruption.
- BAT were top performers, but also had relatively low numbers of reviews from those who were based outside of China. Also, while reports of unproductive internal politics and abusive managers are somewhat unavoidable, it may benefit the companies for their HR department to take these complaints seriously and evaluate how to address the root causes.
- Work-life balance seems to be an issue for just about all of these companies. It may just be a necessary byproduct of working in the fast-changing world of a Chinese tech company, but if that is the case, companies may want to consider how to improve employees’ experiences while they are working those long hours.
- For many of these companies, a lack of an inclusive culture for overseas staff is clearly an issue. These companies may want to establish talent development employees for some high-potential non-Chinese employees that include Chinese language lessons, cultural training, and opportunities for trust and relationship-building with the Chinese leaders of the company.
- Of all the companies with significant overseas presences, Lenovo seemed to be the best at managing its non-Chinese staff (in the second part). This may be a result of the growth-by-acquisition strategy that they have taken over the last 15 years, but credit should also be given to Chairman and CEO Yang Yuanqing and Global HR SVP Gina Qiao, who have actively taken steps to implement inclusive practices, including mandating that the board of directors is no more than 50 percent Chinese, appointing a “CDO,” (chief diversity officer), and investing heavily in English language and cultural education programs.
Finally, one last note from me: While fairness and objectivity were aimed for in writing this piece, I recognize that it oversights are inevitable. I welcome any questions or concerns from those who may be impacted by this article.