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Looking out from the window that overlooks the skyline of Shanghai Lujiazui Financial District in Pudong district, Gan Jiansong makes no bone about his ambitions to fill the office spaces in the buildings, many of which house some of the most prominent banks and listed companies in China, with his furniture.
As the Asia Pacific director of American ergonomic furniture company Humanscale, Gan believes that his company’s signature chairs can be a key factor in helping Chinese home-grown companies retain their talents in an increasingly competitive environment for top minds.
Founded in 1983 and headquartered in New York, Humanscale brands itself as the producer of furniture that adapts to the body of users, instead of requiring the users to adapt to it.
Over the past five years, Gan has managed to boost the company’s sales in the Asia Pacific region by 13 times. China has been Humanscale’s fastest-growing market in the region.
“From labor-intensive to innovation-driven, Chinese home- grown companies have grown to a point where almost every boss agrees that talent is their most valuable asset, and all value is created while sitting down,” said Gan.
Using this argument, Gan has convinced major Chinese companies like Tencent to buy his ergonomic chairs whose starting price of 3,000 yuan ($452) makes it about 10 times higher than the average offerings in the market.
When Humanscale first entered China in 2010, Chinese branches of multinational corporations accounted for almost 99 percent of its business.
Today, 40 percent of the company’s sales is contributed by Chinese State-owned and private companies. The company currently has showrooms in Chinese cities such as Shanghai, Beijing and Chengdu.
Gan expects these two sectors to form a key growth engine for the company over the next three to five years.
An earlier survey conducted by Chinese online recruitment platform Zhaopin Ltd showed that only 20 percent of the 13,400 office workers interviewed feel “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their working environment.
The survey also discovered that the younger the interviewees are, the pickier they are about their office environments.
With a goal of helping Chinese business grow at a speed of 25 percent every year, Gan said the biggest challenge for the company is to have potential customers know about Humanscale.
Gan added that one of the positive signs he has seen is the rapid growth of small orders — those under 300,000 yuan — in the Chinese mainland, which indicates that the decision-makers in Chinese corporations are more open-minded and willing to try such products than before.
“There is a growing awareness among Chinese employees of the environment they are working in,” said Gan.
Latest statistics from the China National Furniture Association showed that annual sales of furniture products in China reached 2.4 trillion yuan by the end of 2015. Office furniture accounted for 20 percent of the sales.