Simon Lance joined Hays in Western Australia in 2004 and by 2008 was Manager for Western Australia’s C&P division. In February 2012 he was appointed as Regional Director for Hays China, followed by promotion to Managing Director in 1st January 2015. Simon tells us about more about his new role, his past experiences, and the opportunities that are available with Hays …
What encouraged to you to take up this opportunity?
I have had a strong interest in living and working in Asia for many years, and believe that the next decade will see incredible opportunities for Hays in the region. The rapidly emerging Asian economies are creating strong career development paths for Managers and Consultants, who all have the opportunity to shape Hays’ strategy for the region. I have also always liked the idea of combining work with travel and had been looking for an opportunity to transfer internationally with Hays for a few years before finally making the decision to relocate.
I have followed China’s emergence as a major global power closely, particularly through the recent global economic turmoil, and believe that Hays has a truly unique opportunity to rapidly establish a large-scale, industry leading business. China’s slowing economic growth has been the topic of considerable debate and speculation but it really does not present any major barriers to our own growth and expansion. China’s strategic importance to multi-national companies will only increase and, along with many other service-industries, the recruitment market continues to go through a rapid expansion and transformation, creating some really unique and challenging opportunities.
How have you found working and living in China so far?
I actually found the transition really straight-forward. I don’t speak Mandarin but fortunately our staff all have high-levels of proficiency in English, making the professional transition very comfortable. Socially, China’s major cities all have large expatriate populations and I have found it really easy to make friends & contacts, from all corners of the globe. International travel links are great (and cheap), particularly within SE Asia so, although I miss the beaches of Australia, I’ve had the chance to explore some really interesting destinations.
How do you think your new role will differ from your previous one?
The geographical and logistical difficulties of managing a large team, based in four separate locations across an area the size of Australia, is definitely a new challenge. It also takes time to understand the Chinese business and culture. The fact that our business is relatively young, and the industry is going through such a rapid transformation, means that we are constantly looking to innovate and evolve to stay ahead of the competition. I find that working in China demands a much greater degree of autonomy & accountability at every level of seniority and, although it does present significant challenges & pressure, I really enjoy the different business culture and environment.
How has your past experience prepared you for this new challenge?
I have lived and worked in several different countries in my career and have managed multi-Specialism businesses, so was comfortable that I could adapt my management style to suit a different culture. I have also been involved in Hays businesses at different stages of growth (start-up vs. established; large vs. small; boom market vs. declining market) and believe I have been able to build successful, productive teams in each situation. Overall though, I think best preparation was to approach the transfer with an open mind, seeking to pass on the knowledge I had acquired in my career while learning as much as I could from my staff and colleagues in China.
What will you be focusing on during your first few months?
My initial priority was to restructure the business, consolidate our core Specialisms and drive strong productivity increases, which we achieved successfully in a relatively short-space of time. The focus for the business is to continue driving productivity increases, while investing in our people and technology resources to develop a business of significant size & scale. I believe culture is at the core of our success, so we are also pretty focused on having a lot of fun along the way!
Do you have any tips for any colleagues thinking of moving abroad with Hays?
I think the best advice is to stop thinking about it, and just commit to a move! I have no hesitation in saying that it will probably be one of the best decisions you make in your career and life, so don’t hesitate - seize a good global opportunity and don’t look back. When it comes to relocation itself, keep an open mind, take every opportunity to learn from your colleagues while sharing your own knowledge and experience, and enjoy the experience of a new country & culture!
What are you most looking forward to in the future?
Overtaking Japan as Hays Asia’s largest business