Hitachi has been heading in the direction of unifying its Japan and ex-Japan human resources systems for some years now, so switching all Japan-hired staff to the more Western style “job type” system, away from seniority based promotion, was to be expected. But it is nonetheless a radical step for one of Japan’s biggest companies. If other Japanese companies are able to follow suit, this would help remove one of the most significant hidden barriers to non-Japanese and other “diverse” people being able to rise to more senior roles in the headquarters.
Most Japanese multinationals make a distinction between “proper” staff – hired in Japan, straight from university, with no job descriptions, on a general track which is influenced by seniority and the promise of lifetime employment and possibility to reach the very top of the company – and “contract” staff – those with job descriptions who are usually hired mid-career and have no job security or prospects of promotion. Those employees hired outside Japan are seen as being in the latter category.
Fujitsu has applied the “job type” system to 90% of its Japanese employees from April 2022. NEC is introducing the system to its senior management from April 2023 and expanding to the rest of the Japan hired staff from 2024. NTT finished introducing it to all management staff in 2021/2.
In Hitachi‘s case it became a necessity to do this, because of its major overseas acquisitions of ABB power grids and GlobalLogic, bringing in more than 100,000 overseas employees into the group. As of October 2022 the ratio of non-Japanese in Hitachi’s board of directors was 18% and the company aims to increase this to 30% in the mid to long term.
It’s not surprising that it is Japan’s technology and IT companies that are pioneering this. Such a move is an important precondition for digital transformation – it will make it easier to hire specialists such as AI engineers and data scientists, who would expect higher remuneration than would be available under the old generalist track, seniority based system.
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