Global Japanese companies have a diversity problem in their Japan HQ (and it’s not just gender)

Blue chip Japanese companies have traditionally recruited most of their employees through hiring them as graduates straight out of university as “lifetime employees”.  Labour shortages, job hopping in the younger generations and cutbacks on lifetime employment has meant that some companies have had to recruit more mid-career employees recently.  This entry track was in the past confined to specialist, non-line management positions and at a lower status to the lifetime employees, but recently I have seen more expatriate Japanese who have worked in other companies appearing in my seminars in Europe as expatriates with equivalent status to those who have been in the company since graduation.

Mid career hiring seems to me a good indicator of the degree of acceptance of diversity in its broadest sense, and Toyo Keizai obviously agrees, as they have published a ranking showing the percentage of employees in Japan who are “graduate hires” in the total year’s intake as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility data publications.

Companies in our EMEA and UK Top 30 largest Japanese employers who are also in the Toyo Keizai rankings of companies with the highest proportion of Japanese graduate hires are therefore in a rather paradoxical position of having a high number of non-Japanese employees in their overseas subsidiaries, being managed by a very traditional Japanese group of employees in their Japan headquarters.

Most of the companies in these categories are trading companies, banks and major manufacturers – the latter two having substantial domestic branch networks or domestic manufacturing and markets to cater for I suppose.  They include:

  • NYK 65 graduate hires in April 2017, 2 mid career hires in 2016
  • NTT Data 385/13
  • Canon 475/15
  • Toyota 1935/98
  • Sumitomo Corporation 157/8
  • Itochu 149/12
  • Marubeni 135/11
  • Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group 1347/115
  • Mizuho Financial Group 1394/175
  • Toyota Industries 284/27
  • MUFG 1206/111
  • Dentsu 145/19
  • Fujitsu 740/110
  • Mitsui 180/30
  • MS&AD Insurance 1183/254

No sign of Mitsubishi Corporation in the rankings – which may be due more to non disclosure of data rather than not being in the top 150.  When I was working at Mitsubishi Corporation, we used to refer to the hiring of similar Mitsubishi graduate types every year as having led to  a “Kintaro ame” situation in terms of diversity – Kintaro ame (Kintaro sweets) are rather like British sticks of rock, the same wherever you cut through them.


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