Hiromi Tazaki is a well known figure in the Japanese business community here in the UK. She founded JAC Recruitment in London in 1975, and then opened offices in Singapore and Japan. “As I had only ever worked in Japan for a short while, for the first 10 years I found Japan very strange and really struggled to apply the logical approach I had learnt in the UK,” she admitted, in a recent interview with Nikkei Business magazine. “Japan sets up regulations but then seems happy to ignore them”.
Japan’s approach to hiring is completely different from the global rules. In the UK you do not put your gender, nationality, age or marital status on a resume whereas these are compulsory items on a Japanese resume. “Yet Japan has now entered an era where it must hire people who can be effective globally.”
British companies want to hire specialists, whereas Japanese companies want to hire generalists. But the view among global recruiters is that generalists are the most difficult to utilise. If Japanese companies want to compete with overseas companies, they need to hire specialists in each field.
“It’s also not enough just to be able to speak English. You need to be bi-cultural. You cannot always be facing Japan.” “Although there are not that many bi-cultural people in Japan now, their numbers are increasing. However Japanese companies are having difficulties hiring the best global talent because other non-Japanese companies offer higher salaries – probably around 30% higher, sometimes even double. This has been going on for 40 years or so.” “It is not an exaggeration to say that Japanese companies have been hiring at best second rate people overseas and relying on Japanese employees to cover the gaps. But of course this approach has its limits. It can work for manufacturing, but where the quality of the people is the make or break – in services – it is absolutely necessary to ensure that you have the best people working for you locally.”
“It’s not just a question of higher salaries – Japanese companies’ top executives need to be able to manage people who are more expert than them. It might be OK when you first venture overseas to hire people who are easy to boss around, but soon you have to start to replace them with stronger types. How soon you can do this will dictate whether you win globally.”
Post merger, many Japanese companies just leave it up to the legacy management to continue as before. But this is not much use if you want to realise synergies. According to Tazaki, it comes back to English ability – Japanese executives are capable of integrating with other cultures, but they lack the language skills.
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