Training Practices in Japan

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  • Topic: Japan, Economy of Japan, Japanese language
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Current Event Analysis: Japanese Firms Try New Hiring Strategies

Source: New York Times
By: Miki Tanikawa
Published: November 12, 2012
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I. Article Review
In this article written by Miki Tanikawa, the writer demonstrates some of the hiring talent challenges that Japanese hiring firms and corporation-hiring managers are currently facing. Japan, the home country of tech giants Sony, Panasonic, and Sharp, has faced several talent recruitment challenges that have overturned the country’s reputation of excellence to a reputation that “is no longer considered to be on the cutting edge of cool.”

The appeal to work in Japan and for a Japanese firm isn’t appealing for any longer for several reasons. For a country with companies that “were next to Western firms in popularity”, Japan now has a smaller economy than China and has a less practical workforce compared to the skilled and specialized talent of the young in China, the West, and India. Beyond Japan’s poor performing economy, Japan has also faced some political mishaps that also made the country less appealing for the younger talent. With Japan on the brink of a territorial war with China, recruitment by Japanese firms of young Chinese talent has “fallen by more than half this year”.

Another struggle that job seekers face is Japan’s strict and strong traditional sense and its stubbornness in letting go of traditional work ethic practices and Japan’s “way of professional life.” Japan’s limited use of the English language has also scared many international talents from seeking employment in Japanese firms. American, Chinese and European new graduates don’t want to invest in the time or energy it would take to adjust their way of life to the Japanese way of life.

The most important challenge to the shortage of young talent in Japan is, the belief that traditional Japanese companies don’t give new talent much responsibility. Furthermore, the Japanese still feel that employees should start of small and “learn the ropes over time” whereas the Chinese and western firms hire new talent to utilize their abilities, strengths and specializations. Tanikawa points out however that there are some Japanese firms such as Rakuten and DeNA “that are no longer following the traditional belief that new hires should be given a reprieve to prove themselves.” These firms also disagree with Japan’s traditional “one-size-fits-all approach” which recently hasn’t proved successful as exemplified by Sony lack of innovation and technological advancements. Firms like Rakuten and DeNa, have been successful in outsourcing students from MIT and Indian universities and have already given them senior level tasks. These talents have taken that trust and have demonstrated excellent quality production both successfully and satisfactorily. As many firms are slowly transitioning to this approach, several firms are also using mergers and acquisitions as a gateway to obtain high-quality talent. Takinawa explains how companies such as Rakuten and NTT Data, who are expanding globally through acquisitions, have been successful because they have access to larger pools of talent.

II. Analysis
i. Introduction
Over the past decade or so, Japan has seen a downward shift in economy, innovation, employment opportunities, and popularity. Even before the earthquake and tsunami that struck the Japanese islands, several large Japanese corporations such as Sony, Sharp, and Panasonic that were known as industry leaders and were idolized by the rest of the world, experienced horrible financial performance strictly due to a change in talent management requirements and practices that had proven to be more successful than the Japanese professional traditions. It’s important to ask; how do the Japanese do things differently?

Japanese firms do a number of things extremely well. One is to...
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