Harnessing the talents of 60,000 people at a Chinese multinational tech company in the ‘M-ICT’ age hinges on right corporate culture

As ZTE Corp. turns 30, its CEO reflects on some of the cornerstones of its success

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 December, 2015, 4:22pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 December, 2015, 4:24pm

Turning 30 is a defining moment, prompting many people to take on new opportunities and fresh challenges. Many brilliant careers start at 30.

In the year of our company ZTE’s 30th anniversary, my most important job is to fully harness the great talents of more than 60,000 colleagues in over 100 countries, making our company stronger and faster.

In the technology industry, exciting new opportunities are opening up as the inexorable growth of the mobile internet allows more people, businesses and objects to connect, creating smarter and more user-friendly services and applications. At ZTE, we call this the “M-ICT” age.

When I meet my colleagues in Asia, the Americas, Africa, Europe and the Middle East, I sense that they share my excitement as the age of M-ICT gives them new opportunities to develop new technologies and solutions that help our customers unlock the possibilities of mobile broadband networks, the Internet of Things and cloud computing.

I can’t remember a more exciting time to work in the technology industry since joining ZTE in 1989, when we were a very young company.

To enable my colleagues to succeed in the age of M-ICT, creating the right company culture is critical. According to a study by consulting firm Booz & Company, 60 per cent of executives believe that culture is more important than corporate strategy.

We are implementing new management systems and programmes that align with ZTE’s three core values: Cool, Green and Open.

We need to create cool products and services that are compelling to our customers and exceed their expectations. Our business needs to be environmentally responsible and sustainable. We must be more open to engage with new partners, and become more collaborative in the way we work.

Becoming cool, green and open will help inspire ZTE to deliver service levels that delight our customers; we will be able to share knowledge with one another more effectively and more efficiently; and we will be able to engage in healthy dialogue and feedback with managers.

Changes are starting at a managerial level. Senior management needs to be more responsive and faster in their decision-making, driving increased synergy between departments and promote greater collaboration among employees.

In the past year, we removed chairs at senior management meetings, requiring everyone to stand. No one is allowed to make long speeches, as we are all limited to five minutes’ speaking time. There is not a moment to waste.

As a large multinational company, ZTE needs to ensure all our departments and local offices can work together productively. We are encouraging employees to think beyond the goals and objectives of their own departments, and develop a company-level perspective.

Through our new programmes, employees are now taking a more holistic view of their work, assuming greater responsibilities and finding creative solutions that address the needs of the company, not just their teams and departments.

One of the new initiatives we launched was the CGO Club programme, which pairs fresh graduate employees with senior managers. The CGO Club doesn’t just benefit new employees through the mentorship of their managers - our managers have found their thinking reinvigorated, gaining creativity and energy from the new recruits.

The programme has been a great success, translating into higher employee performance, as well as increasing our appeal with young job seekers. Investing time and resources in your employees, helping them gain the skills they need to advance their own careers, generates the best returns for companies.

We’ve made it a point to hire talented, creative and hardworking people. The CGO culture at ZTE places increased demands on senior management and employees, so we’re making sure we provide the tools and support to help them rise to the challenge.

As a technology company, ZTE competes on the strength of our ideas and solutions. We are investing more in incubation programmes to encourage our engineers to test and develop fresh and “outside the box” technologies. These programmes have already fed many new solutions that are making our products and services more compelling.

The great progress we have made in our corporate culture needs to cascade through to all our offices in other parts of the world. To compete successfully on the global stage, ZTE needs to utilise the talents of our employees in all our markets.

Local employees are crucial to all business functions from management to strategy to product development and the supply chain.

In Germany, ZTE is one of the largest foreign employers in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. It is a priority for ZTE to garner the insights and perspectives of local employees, who are encouraged to offer suggestions and interact closely with colleagues at the headquarters.

At ZTE Germany, we have hosted many activities to promote greater cross-cultural understanding, such as a recent company-sponsored visit to a Chinese art exhibition, short-term Chinese language courses, and our quarterly “Town Hall” employee meetings.

Our success in Germany is a model for our operations for the rest of the world as ZTE’s business becomes more international.

Last year, we opened our latest R&D center- the 19th for ZTE globally - in Ontario, Canada. The contributions of local employees to ZTE’s business will increase further.

As the technology industry becomes more competitive, our employees globally need to cultivate leadership skills and assume greater responsibilities. Fostering an open and high-performance culture is key to our success.

There has never been a better time to work at ZTE. At 30, our best days are ahead of us.

Shi Lirong is the chief executive officer of ZTE Corporation