Creating Work for the Next Generation
Yin-chun Wei, head of the Ting Hsin business empire, shares his passion for personnel training and grassroots education, in China and Taiwan.
Creating Work for the Next GenerationBy Isabella Wu, Ching-hsuan Huang, Hsieh Ming-ling
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 367 )
Even seasoned China travelers are unlikely to have heard of the far-flung places that Wei Chuan Foods chairman Yin-chun Wei has been visiting recently on several arduous trips. Wei goes to such destinations as Quanjiao County in Anhui Province or Luodian County in Guizhou Province not for business, but for a personal endeavor: constructing schools and building houses in these remote, poor communities.
Last year the annual revenue of Wei Chuan Foods topped NT$10 billion, the highest turnover since the Ting Hsin Group became a major shareholder in Taiwan’s second largest food company (in 1998). But Wei nonetheless always keeps room in his busy schedule for talent development and philanthropy, because he regards them as the most important elements of social stability and corporate sustainability.
In his recent interview with CommonWealth, Wei talked animatedly not only about the blueprints for expanding Wei Chuan Foods and the Ting Hsin Group, but also about his plans for talent development and deployment. He kept reiterating the same question: What will our generation hand down to the next?
Serving the Public Interest for 20 Years
Wei Chuan Foods regularly dispatches inexperienced Taiwanese staff to work in China to develop their international experience and polish their ability to handle major tasks by themselves. The Ting Hsin Group, which developed its instant noodles and beverage business from the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin, has spent some NT$40 million on the establishment of an education and training center in the city. Under a continuing education program at the center, all executive staff members across China are required to return to Tianjin during holidays to attend a total of 400 hours of on-the-job training courses per year.
“There is nothing that you can’t manage in a business. The only question is whether you have found and planned human resources for the long run, whether you have let your employees know where they will be in 10 or 15 years,” Wei said, in explaining his talent development philosophy.
Although his business group has flourished in China for many years, Wei and his three brothers still care as much about their homeland of Taiwan.
Every year a foundation set up by the Ting Hsin Group donates NT$5 million for free school lunches for poor elementary and junior high school students in the Wei brothers’ hometown of Yongcing in Jhanghua County.
At the same time Wei also ponders how more companies could be encouraged to join a “one town, one company” scheme, under which companies would adopt one of Taiwan’s 319 townships each to boost their prosperity and foster the education of local children.
Although Wei has not accepted an interview with the press in ages, and has done his best to avoid discussing business development, he talked candidly with CommonWealth recently about corporate social responsibility.
Following are highlights from the interview:
Q: Lately you have been busy with a lot of philanthropic causes. Why are you willing to devote so much time to serving the public interest?
A: I keep telling my employees and management staff that every one has 24 hours a day to spend on various activities, so how do you allocate this time? You have a family, family affairs. Aside from that, you have your vocation, as well as the goals to which you dedicate yourself. You need to spend time on all three of them – commitments toward the greater good, vocation and family. It’s like a teeter-totter – you have to figure out how to balance them.
I always encourage my employees, telling them how to sow the seeds of fruition. If you sow a lot of good seeds, society will be auspicious and harmonious, and the entire life energy (Qi), the magnetic field, will become stronger. If you do fewer bad deeds, the entire country will prosper and the people will live in peace.
Q: You don’t seem to care only about making money. What do you think should be a company’s responsibilities and goals?
A: You definitely need to run your company well, since all employees and their families depend on you. A company needs to make money, because you need to give your employees stable jobs, and unemployment means chaos. Another ideal of ours is giving something back to society, which we’ve striven to do since the Ting Hsin Group was founded.
We four brothers always think about how we can give something back to Taiwan and China. In Taiwan we have the Ting Hsin He De Foundation,which promotes culture and education in towns and counties.
China allowed foreign investors to set up foundations only two years ago. Therefore, I am also always making plans about how I can give something back to China.
Q: Why is it so important to give something back to society?
A: I always ponder what we should bequest to the next generation. A lot of what our ancestors preached had a lot of wisdom – for instance, how to “confer virtue.” My father conferred a lot of virtue on us. Only if we have morals, meaning the way you treat others, do we have “felicity.” That’s why today we have this modest business success.
The previous generation handed down to us a lot of very good cultural traditions that our generation did not transmit very well. That’s our responsibility.
Among our previous generation was President Chiang Ching-kuo, as well as [Premier] Sun Yun-suan, [Economics Minister] Chao Yao-tung, and [Finance Minister] Li Kwoh-ting [widely seen as the three chief architects of Taiwan’s economic miracle], who saw to it that our generation has work. The responsibility of our generation is to make sure that the next generation has jobs too.
Nowadays, I ask many Taiwanese managers to go to China. We are still always expanding our workforce, in China and in Taiwan. Developing companies in the long term to give jobs to the next generation is a very big challenge.
My idea is that employees should have stable jobs, and that’s why a company must be sustainable. Talking about sustainability, lately I keep realizing that there is nothing in business that cannot be managed – the only point is whether you have found and planned your human resources over a long period of time so that your employees know where they will be in 10 or 20 years.
I have a belief that my father used to preach to me. Even in businesses that make money ever so easily, some people lose money, while in businesses that hardly ever make money, some people also turn a profit. Managing a company means teaching and training your staff so that the company can operate sustainably.
Training an Internationally Minded Next Generation
Q: Is talent currently your utmost concern?
A: Presently, I am most concerned about the next generation. When looking at the Asian labor market, the rise of Chinese talent and our own next generation, I ask myself the question, how we can make sure that they have work?
I think that our next generation has much stronger competencies than we have. They can work with six windows on one computer screen at a time. How could I ever manage to do that (laughs)?
When hearing the reports of some of our new employees who have just graduated from university, I also discovered that we pale in comparison with them. The only problem is that we need to figure out how to give the next generation an international outlook. It won’t be possible if we restrict them to Taiwan. In the future, getting a job will mean looking worldwide. That’s a trend that is not going to change, and China will be one of the main job markets too.
We need to train them as international-minded people, to enable Taiwanese businesses to cut a good figure on the international stage and realize sustainable management.
(Compiled by Ching-hsuan Huang, Ming-ling Hsieh)
Translated from the Chinese by Susanne Ganz
Chinese Version: 魏應充：讓下一代有工作，是這一代的責任