Shanghai Skills Survey

  • ManpowerGroup issued a survey to gain a deep understanding into how the Shanghai labour markets work and to clearly identify whether the talent pool has the right skills.
  • The Shanghai government now has a knowledge base through which it can better implement improved policies and will lead to economic benefits.
The problem addressed by the campaign: 
  • This practice was designed to address the lack of understanding regarding the definition of actual skills gaps and future skills requirements in the Shanghai labour market.
  • The objective of the Shanghai skills survey was to identify the shortage of skills by profession and by industry and to identify the nature of the skills shortages by profession.
  • ManpowerGroup engaged international labour market experts to design a questionnaire in conjunction with local stakeholders, and adjusted it for local conditions.
  • ManpowerGroup quantified the future vocational skills required in the 19 districts of Shanghai by comprehensively surveying nearly 3,000 companies collectively employing over 650,000 employees.
  • International labour market experts analysed the survey outcomes and used international benchmarking to compare Shanghai with other megacities.
  • The main challenge was to identify the relevant industry sectors and job categories for the economy today and in the future.
  • A secondary challenge was avoiding overly detailed job and skills descriptions. This was necessary to deliver statistically robust findings.
  • The true measure of success in this case is the extent to which the outcome later influenced the learning activity and training policies of the Shanghai labour authorities. Today, ManpowerGroup cannot resolutely claim that policy was directly affected by this study. However, following the delivery of the results, the labour authorities did choose to undertake study tours in various European countries to learn more about how other countries are addressing and meeting their needs related to skills shortages. A primary objective of these tours was to deliver the opportunity for the learning of international best practices and exchange of ideas in relation to skills shortages.
  • The learning and policy processes commenced approximately one year after the results were delivered and covered a period of around two years. Following this, there was a period of internal policy discussions in Shanghai.
Why has it worked?: 
  • The skills shortages survey is a primary example of how an activity can meet the needs on a number of levels of two very different stakeholders. The initiative delivered results in two separate ways that were mutually beneficial for both the Shanghai government and for ManpowerGroup.
  • For ManpowerGroup, the results of the survey deliver a deep understanding into how the Shanghai labour markets work and a clear identification of whether the talent pool has the right skills.
  • For the Shanghai government, it was an activity that demonstrated how information was sourced, digested and then acted upon. The municipal government is, of course, accountable within its own legislative construct and can now be credited with having the knowledge base within which to better implement improved policies, which in turn can lead to economic benefits.
Conclusions and Recommendations: 
  • Resist the temptation to allow the survey questions and categories to become too detailed. Too much data across too many categories does not deliver statistically robust findings.
  • Recognize that in countries that are inherently dependent on exports, it is quite difficult to single out the export relevance of skills.
  • Structure forecasting questions so that they encourage the respondent to focus on a more strategic response relating directly to a business plan, rather than allowing for a more personal response that is then difficult to categorize. Implications for talent and HR can then confidently be deduced from the information obtained.
Foundational Issues: 
Information gaps
Level of Collaboration: 
Level 3: Collaboration on an industry or regional level
Economic and political context: 
  • ManpowerGroup joined forces with Chinese labour authorities to help governmental agencies, state-owned enterprise and foreign companies to transform the effectiveness and efficiency of their employment systems and services.
  • ManpowerGroup opened its first international partnership office in Shanghai in May 2005 and entered into a cooperative agreement with Shanghai’s Ministry of Labor and Social Security to support China's rapidly evolving labour market. The partnership office has implemented various initiatives to assist governmental agencies, state-owned enterprises and foreign companies present in Shanghai, transforming the effectiveness and efficiency of employment systems and services.
About the Author(s): 
  • ManpowerGroup has been serving the Chinese market since 1964. Today, ManpowerGroup has more than 400 recruiters operating in 20 cities across the nation.
  • ManpowerGroup is now partnering with the Chinese government to support the country’s rapidly evolving labour market by providing professional talent assessment, career development planning, human resource consultation and international experience exchange service to governments and related organizations.