by Lisa Grimaldi | May 01, 2006

Gabi Kool

Gabi Kool

In March, Carlson Marketing opened its first office in mainland China. The Shanghai branch is headed by Gabi Kool, managing director, China, and executive vice president, Asia-Pacific. M&C spoke with Kool about this new market.

M&C:Do Chinese companies currently employ incentive programs ?

Kool: Yes, mainly for gift incentives and recognition programs, which are used as staff retention strategies. In fact, China-based companies are among the three biggest users of employee recognition programs in Asia-Pacific.

M&C:Will this area continue to grow?

Kool: Companies are struggling to manage the explosive growth in mainland China. The fight for market share is turning more and more into a fight for the available talent in the market. Most China-based companies are experiencing high annual staff turnover rates, with employees moving for financial and personal development gains. With China’s accession to the World Trade Organization coming up, the importance of sustaining and growing an engaged work force will become even more critical.

M&C: Who is running these existing programs?

Kool: Most of them are believed to be managed in-house. The Chinese motivation/incentive firms seem to be strong on the sourcing [supplying merchandise and gifts] side of the business but presumably still lack the experience in designing performance improvement programs. This is an area where Carlson will focus initially.

M&C:Do you think incentive travel will ever catch on in China?

Kool: I think it will eventually catch on with Chinese firms, but it will take some time before there will be adequate funding made available within the companies to do this in a similar style to U.S. incentive programs. Chinese management is very eager to travel, since most of these individuals were not in a position to do so in the past.
    Whether travel-based programs will take the form of a pure incentive trip is still to be seen, but in speaking to one of the banks here, we sensed that there may be a market for a combination of overseas training, incentive trips and relationship building.