On managing the departure of a valued Chinese employee — Part I

Our guest article this week comes from Gary Baney, CEO of Boundless Flight. Managing Chinese hires is an important part of a corporation’s reputation and impression in China. Gary shares somes of his practical and valuable insights on this topic.

Here’s Gary:

One of the reasons many companies have hesitated to hire Chinese national employees is their fear that they might one day suddenly up and leave, returning to their homeland, never to be heard from again. As I hope to show in this short series of articles, this fear should not drive hiring practices. I have always believed that the best course of action is to always hire the best person available for the job and work through the details and lifestyle issues to the benefit of all.

When Xiaodong Yang announced to our software development company that he was returning to China in August, 2005 to once again be near his family, we could have taken the news as very negative. He had been my student at the Weatherhead School of Management, was one of our first four employees, had successfully headed up major projects for us with Goodyear, Penske Logistics, M.G. Maher, and others. He had invented our Blended Offshore Software Development Methodology and had exercised it with 100% success for more than a year. He had become a leader, a friend, a confidant, and he had FINALLY achieved a consistent proficiency at the English language!

We could have taken it badly indeed but instead, we chose to accept his personal needs as our own and dedicated ourselves to making the transition beneficial to all. This was quite a commitment for a firm that was then under $3M in annual revenue with fewer than 20 employees. Xiaodong’s departure to his homeland was going to be a significant loss but we were committed to retaining him as an employee and doing everything we could to see him prosper with our company in China at the same pace he had grown here.

Our first challenge was to team Xiaodong up with another highly trusted and valued leader in the company so he would have an unbroken chain of connectivity to the company during his transition. Dave Brumbaugh, another of my former students, was selected to head up this effort. He worked closely with Xiaodong on several projects in the six months before his departure and spent a lot of recreational time with him to make sure the quality of communication was as high as possible.

This initiative has had a significant dividend as the two of them are still valued technicians for the company and staunch friends. They have jointly managed over fifteen high-profile software development projects for companies such as Chapura Software, Thompson Engineering and American Greetings. The initiatives managed by the two of them represented over 15% of our company’s total profits…and Xiaodong is STILL batting 1.000 as he has not had a single offshore development initiative fail using his model!

Our second challenge was to give him a proper leadership role in the company. Our goal was to design a position that would simultaneously provide him with the level of influence he is worthy of and provide the company with clear, unencumbered access to him so that influence would flow freely.

In the next article, we will detail how we accomplished, and are still accomplishing, this goal.

Gary Baney
Boundless Flight, Inc

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