China Evergrande referral scheme pushes sales, pressures staff
* Employees asked to refer at least 50 potential buyers
* Second scheme in five months draws workers' complaints
* May be ineffective if buyers not serious candidates -
* Firm's official says no targets, no punishments in scheme
By Clare Jim
HONG KONG, Sept 14 (Reuters) - China Evergrande, a
major property developer, has drawn criticism in social media
for pressuring employees to provide names of potential buyers,
its second such referral scheme in five months.
Workers targeted by the scheme have been told it is
compulsory to refer at least 50 names before the Golden Week
holiday in early October, employees told Reuters.
"All Evergranders have exhausted their relationship with
their relatives and friends," said one staff member who declined
to be identified because they were not authorised to speak to
The employee told Reuters this campaign came with more
pressure because it was launched only a few months after the
Reuters spoke to one person who currently works at
Evergrande and two former employees for this article. The latter
two quit in the past year, saying the referral programmes were a
factor in their decision to leave.
It was not clear how many of its 80,000-plus employees were
part of the referral programme.
An Evergrande official told Reuters the company had recently
launched an "all-staff sales event, to give incentives to staff
to boost sales".
The official did not give details of the incentives, and
said there were no enforced targets for employees.
Analysts said they did not think the scheme pointed to
business problems at Evergrande, which they said has a
conservative sales target.
But it risks alienating employees and could be ineffective,
"The efficiency of the referral programme may not be very
high because the people being referred may not be quality,
potential buyers," said Toni Ho, RHB Securities' Head of Hong
Kong and China Research.
He said the scheme may be part of an effort to trim
inventory in lower-tier cities where a potential slowdown in
those markets is expected.
Evergrande is not the first Chinese developer to tap into
employees' personal networks to find new buyers.
Country Garden, another big developer, introduced
a mandatory referral programme a few years ago but has now made
it voluntary, said a company official who declined to be named.
The practice is not prohibited under Chinese law, said Dong
Zhengwei, a lawyer at Beijing Liang Gao law firm, which
specializes in anti-trust and real estate law.
Nevertheless, there have been a stream of complaints from
"Evergranders" on social media sites such as Zhihu.
Buliaochen, a Zhihu user identified as an Evergrande
employee, said they "paid in sweat, money and time" for the
first campaign and "now another one after a few months is
testing our limits once again".
Buliaochen did not respond to a Reuters' request for
Aside from the sales event, Evergrande is offering discounts
to buyers of up to 11 percent and other incentives to meet its
2018 sales target of 550 billion yuan ($80.5 billion). The
target is a 10 percent increase over the completed sales of the
Sales this year have reached 385 billion yuan by the end of
Evergrande's latest campaign began on Aug. 30 and runs to
Oct. 8, the day after the Golden Week holiday ends, according to
a company memo posted by an employee on the Zhihu site.
"Each person should refer at least 50 visitors," the memo
Employees were asked to provide the full name, mobile phone
number and ID card details of each potential buyer, the current
employee and former workers said.
The Evergrande official said the employee sales event did
not include enforced targets.
"There are no targets to meet and there's no punishment on
employees," the official said.
However, the current employee said she was told her
referrals would be a factor in her performance appraisal. She
said some managers demanded up to 200 names to justify a top
Some managers also circulated staff rankings according to
their referrals to push workers to perform better, she said.
"If you don't achieve the target then you don't expect a pay
rise," the employee said, adding it was "painful to live under
such immense pressure".
(Reporting by Clare Jim
Additional reporting by Yawen Chen in BEIJING
Editing by Darren Schuettler)
© 2018 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved. Reuters content is the intellectual property of Thomson Reuters or its third party content providers. Any copying, republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Thomson Reuters. Thomson Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. "Reuters" and the Reuters Logo are trademarks of Thomson Reuters and its affiliated companies.