Switching jobs, staying aboard

The Chinese economy offers lots of opportunities. If you are looking for new challenges, a higher salary or upward advancement, a new job could be an irresistible temptation. At Maersk Line China, mentoring ensures that many moves are made within the company.

Millie Li’s first two years with Maersk Line have been a learning experience, and with Silvia Ding as her mentor, this is set to continue: “Silvia is a successful female executive and we share the same background, so I am confident that her experience and advice will be a great help to my career”.

Young, talented and ambitious, Millie Li is someone to keep an eye on. Having spent just over two years with Maersk Line she is, according to all statistics from the Chinese job market, at a point in her career when opportunities outside a company prove most tempting.

Keen on developing further, Millie Li did make a job change recently, having started as a pricing analyst with Special Cargo at the Shanghai office after her initial years in Qingdao. The big difference for Maersk Line is that she made her move within the company.

“I am very happy with this new opportunity. Inside this company there are opportunities everywhere if you have the motivation and the ambition”, she says.

Opportunities and mentoring

During the first decade and a half of the new century, the Chinese job market has been blazing. According to CEB’s Global Labor Market Survey (2013-14), attrition rates have outpaced international averages due to a market and an economy awash with opportunity. This presented Maersk Line’s HR team with a stern challenge.

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“The most common reasons for changing jobs are compensation and development opportunities, so this is something we had to address, not least considering the many opportunities we have to offer”, says Wendy Ng, Regional Talent Acquisition Manager at Maersk Line in Hong Kong.

Mentoring is one area that HR emphasised. In job descriptions as well as in the day-to-day training of leaders, the “ability to attract and retain talents” was made a high priority, thus supplementing formal training and development with an informal relationship, defined by the mentor and mentee.

“We don’t have a structured mentoring programme for everyone, but it is something that is engraved in the hearts and minds of our leaders which they will take up naturally – and the outcome is positive”, Wendy Ng says.

A leader’s job

Silvia Ding is one such leader who has taken a mentoring role upon herself. After starting with the company in 1999, she has had a number of roles, taking on more and more responsibility before being named managing director for the South China cluster, Maersk Line’s second-largest, in November of last year.

“I take it for granted that mentoring is part of the leadership role because the leaders I have worked with have shown me the way. And mentoring goes both ways, giving me a new source of energy and motivation as well. I find it inspirational”, she explains.

A chance meeting between Silvia Ding and Thomas Theeuwes at a hotel in Guangzhou, China is also an opportunity for mentoring. They both see mentoring as something beneficial for mentor and mentee.

One of her mentees is Thomas Theeuwes, a Belgian national, who has been with the Maersk Group for seven years, living and working in China for the past two. He recently took on the position of cluster manager for Safmarine in North China, delving further into a leadership role.

“For any junior leader to develop, you can do three things: Firstly, you can undergo training, but training can only give you so much. Secondly, you can practice, but through practice, you make a lot of mistakes. Then, thirdly, mentorship can correct many of those mistakes. That makes mentoring valuable to me”.

Mentee becomes mentor

Theeuwes also sees mentoring as a way for the company to ensure that the right people have the right opportunities to grow, and he has taken the first steps into mentoring himself.

“I have begun with my first mentees, who are generally people who have been with the company for three to five years. My goal is to bring my experience to them, showing them how to make sure that they have enough exposure to develop into future leaders”.

In Shanghai, Millie Li recently became Silvia Ding’s mentee:

“This is a good thing for me, because Silvia is a successful female executive in the company, and we share the same cultural background. I can ask for her opinions and maybe she will have faced some of the same situations that I will face in my career”, Millie Li says.

For Regional Talent Acquisition Manager Wendy Ng, mentoring, complemented with opportunities, is a success, and the general attrition rate is on the healthy low side:

“Having said that, we still see this higher level of attrition for people who have been with the company for two or three years, and our ability to provide competitive compensation and opportunities are the keys to retaining them. Mentoring is important for making the opportunities visible”, she says.