Chun-nan Liu, Summer Internship in China
Chun-nan (Tony) Liu, MILR '09, shares his summer internship experience at SK Corporation's China headquarters.
Thanks to Robin Remick and ILR International Programs, I had the opportunity to work and live in Beijing in 2008 summer. Robin suggested an internship position with SK China, whose president and CEO is Tae-Jin Kim, MILR '93. Through the help of Robin and Mr. Kim, I departed from America to Beijing, having an excited mood for the coming summer internship.
SK in Beijing, the regional headquarter for SK in China, is in charge of seeking investment opportunities in China, building a good relationship with the Chinese government and local media, and providing strategic economic analysis for other SK branches in China.
I had been interning in the Human Resources department. My first task, an interesting one, was to hold a birthday party for employees who were born in July. I brought in themes of American birthday style: wearing birthday hats, putting lots of birthday decorations on tables and ceiling, playing several hit-pop birthday songs as background music. I took some pictures of birthday stars' wearing birthday hats and sent pictures to them. Some employees even drew some paintings on the wall. We made the birthday party exciting and fun.
My second task was to design an employee engagement survey. This was a great opportunity to apply the knowledge I gained via the ILR course Strategic HR Metrics. By applying the theory, I designed a series of questions which could measure six dimensions relative to employee engagement. As an outsider, the success of my project hinged on the cooperation with other senior managers who had a better understanding of SK values and work climate. I cooperated with managers from other functions and revised the questionnaire in order to fit SK's culture. Most importantly, my supervisor encouraged me and provided me with useful information, especially SKMS, the book introducing SK management system. I had a great time working with these managers and respected their constructive suggestions.
Localization strategy is one of the most important on-going objectives in SK China subsidiaries. The diminishing language barrier is the first priority. All Korean expatriates are learning Mandarin since Korean managers are required to speak Mandarin with Chinese employees. The head of the HR Department, a Korean director, can speak Mandarin almost as fluently as native speakers. Interestingly, they make it a point to speak Chinese in all meetings. In addition, localization is not only happening in the subsidiaries within China but outside China. Many SK managers from Korea participated in a four month language training course as well as Chinese Management training. In order to improve their business in China, SK is keen to develop Korean managers with fluent language ability and Chinese management knowledge.
Thanks to Instructor Basefsky, and his class HR On-line Research, I had the skills to undertake research to assist me in my projects. After having done several research projects for this class, I was quite familiar with HR on-line databases. I browsed those databases, finding research papers from academic journals and combining them as a systematic approach for implementation of localization strategy. By understanding the important indicators of localization, I was able to design a survey to measure the extent of their localization. Moreover, top management was interested in realizing the relationship between employee understanding of localization and their commitment to the company. We assumed the more the implementation of the localization strategy, the more the commitment that could be gained from Chinese employees. I found a mature theory of organization commitment from Cornell databases and designed survey based on the theory. After knowing the result of the survey, I could apply statistic software to calculate the relationship between employee understanding of localization and organization commitment.
Last but not least, President Tae-Jin Kim wanted me to compare SK's management practices with world class companies in order to improve the management efficiency in SK China. I chose GE and Huawei as my research targets and arranged an interview with their staff. Being raised in a Chinese environment and going to graduate school in the U.S allowed me to understand both country cultures and therefore to communicate comfortably with both GE and Huawei. Based on the interview results and academic articles, I analyzed the available info and presented my results to employees (about 17 people) at a meeting, and discussed with them my recommendations.
During the summer, I had a great time having lunch with coworkers and managers. We talked about cultural differences among Korea, United States, and China. Two of my managers had lived in the United States for years, giving me depth and breadth about strengths of American culture as well as the Chinese culture.
In addition, we discussed how to reduce traffic jams and the air pollution in Beijing. Since Beijing is growing so quickly, the city looks like a huge construction site. The rapidly increasing number of cars turns a typical road into a large parking lot. The sky is gray most of time and the air is filled with dust. In order to prepare for Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government made efforts to improve traffic and to reduce the air pollution. During Olympics period, the government terminated construction activities and limited the number of cars on roads. The sky went from gray to blue and reduced almost half my time spent commuting.
I went traveling around Beijing, enjoying delicious food, historical attractions, and Olympics-related constructions. China is such a big country with various delicious dishes from all of provinces. Beijing, the capital of China, gathers most of its famous dishes from all over China. Once, I had to wait in line for more than two hours to taste Beijing roast duck, the most famous cuisine in Beijing. The chef sliced duck in front of his customers, showing his carving skills. The cuisine was delicious.
Before the end of the internship, SK's President invited me to watch traditional Korean performance. I like to call this performance the 'Art of Drums'. Dancers carried various sizes of drums, knocking drums with different skills and changing ranks with melodies of music. The composer mixed modern elements into traditional performance, for example, street dance. The show is an exhibit of drummers' individual skills and the group's overall performance.
It seems as if this summer flew by quickly. I learned about the opportunities and challenges for foreign companies in China. SK, a multinational company, owns a strong global value, maximizes stakeholders' welfare, and adapts to the local environment. Thus, SK focuses on localizing its management system in an effort to effectively implement its values in China. I liked my projects and learning I acquired even exceeded my expectations. I know I am on the right track and Human Resource Management is my field of choice.
- Chun-nan Liu, Summer Internship in China