For foreign firms in China, the business environment just got even tougher.
Homegrown Chinese companies are now going head-to-head with multinationals when it comes to recruitment of top talent, salaries and career opportunities, new research shows.
"As local companies grow in size and prominence, they are increasingly able to compete against global competitors to win the next generation of Chinese leaders," said a joint report by Bain & Company and LinkedIn China on Thursday.
Nearly 6 out of 10 regional roles within multinationals in the country are now held by Chinese nationals, while 9 out of 10 regional roles in local firms are held by Chinese nationals, the report found.
Soon, homegrown talent will take over management and leadership positions previously held by foreigners, the report predicted.
The narrowing gap in recruitment of Chinese talent is the latest challenge for foreign companies. The world's no. 2 economy has long been a growth hotspot for businesses of all industries but market access barriers, an ongoing reform agenda, and heavy competition from domestic players are gradually dampening plans for expansion and launches.
41 per cent of European companies were re-evaluating their China operations and planning to cut costs, noted a June 2016 survey by the European Union's Chamber of Commerce in China.
Meanwhile, last year saw several American companies unload their mainland businesses, including Uber, Yum Brands, Coca Cola and International Paper, while McDonald's sold its China and Hong Kong outlets this week.
Up until recently, multinationals were considered the best place to build a career in China due to leadership development opportunities, access to global best practices, attractive compensation packages and culture, explained James Root, partner at Bain.
But as the world's no. 2 economy transitions from an industrial-focused economy to a consumer-oriented one, more service expertise is in demand, presenting new hiring opportunities.
"Recently, locally owned companies have upped their game in terms of the experience, salary, and employee training and development they provide, in an effort to woo talent away from their multinational competitors. Their fast-growing operations present opportunities for homegrown talent to rapidly take on leadership roles," Root explained.
As a result, multinationals must rethink their talent strategies to ensure they can attract top Chinese talent, the report cautioned.
As one of the C-suite executives featured in the report, Lenovo vice president Charles Wang said local companies are becoming more attractive because they provide the opportunity to drive greater changes. Whereas in multinationals, the China units are often limited to a following a specific direction that was developed at headquarters, he explained.