An increasing number of Japanese companies are abolishing the “post off” system, whereby employees are removed from line management around the age of 55, according to the Nikkei. The aim of this system was to restructure the organisation and cut labour costs. Average income fell by around 20% post “post off”. However, as most Japanese employees do not retire until they are 60, this meant 5 years of “digestion” as the Nikkei charmingly puts it, before being finally expelled.
The system dates back to 1986, when the retirement age in Japan was still 55, and a new law was enacted, making it compulsory to allow employees to work until the age of 60 – before they could receive a pension. The concern was that if seniors stayed on in management, it would make it difficult to “refresh” and have a generational change, and labour costs would rise, because of Japan’s seniority based wage system. So the post off system was introduced.
According to a 2022 survey by the HR Research Institute, 29.1% of Japanese companies have introduced a post off system, and the most common cut off ages are 55 for kacho or section chiefs and 58 for General Managers or bucho. Unsurprisingly, this has resulted in a loss of motivation for many employees in their late 50s, as they wait until they can retire.
NEC abolished the post off system in 2021, and around 1,000 managers have returned to their managerial positions and regained their salary levels. “I was evaluated in a visible way and my motivation increased” said one such manager, a software developer, who is now enthusiastic about applying for an extension to her employment, even after she reaches 60. Under the post off system, the manager had to direct her own ex-subordinates by going through her own boss, confusing everyone.
At the same time, NEC has ensured that younger and mid career people do not feel demotivated, by introducing a common evaluation standard for each level of the business, and evaluations are conducted by multiple managers, to ensure the evaluation is more objective.
The laws around retirement have changed in Japan too. In 2013 companies were obliged to offer employment to workers up to the age of 65 and in 2021 this was extended to 70. The need to keep older employees motivated has become even more acute.
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