This is the second of a series of interviews adding more insights of other professionals in regard to Japan, its culture or additional insights to the business environment. This time the focus is on Japanese employee management/sourcing.
Mr. Martin Stricker is the president and owner of the executive search agency Gaipro, Inc. (founded in 2004): Gaipro specifically caters to Swiss and European companies that need to recruit key executives for their Japan operation.
Sibylle Ito: Is there really a difference in expectations of an employee from the Japanese side and the headquarters side?
Martin Stricker: Often be it for Japanese, European or US companies there are differences in expectations between group companies and top management at headquarters. To align those diverging expectations, to make both sides pull in the same direction, is one key management task. This being said there are some diverging expectations specific to the Japan – foreign headquarter setting. Some globally operating companies naturally assume that Japan, its markets and the Japanese people, at least in principle, behave completely just like in any other western industrialized nation. However, these companies are often disappointed when they try “their usual way” on Japan. Often it does not work, at least without some kind of modification.
Similarly Japanese employees and companies like to focus on their own experience and way of doing things. The way things are done in Japan constitutes an important part of the “expectations”. The way things are done outside of Japan is not as important, because many companies still like to focus on the Japanese market more than export markets.
SI: While the rest of the world seems to be very global oriented, Japan seems to have always a different approach in business. Isn’t this just a myth?
MS: Yes and no. Especially the Japanese blue chip companies are very globally oriented. Companies like Sony, Toyota, Fujitsu depend heavily on overseas sales and cannot afford NOT to be globally oriented. They often even have foreign managers in their top management levels.
However, it is also true that Japan’s approach to business is different in many ways. The high service quality, the multi-tier distribution network with several layers of agents only to mention two examples are unique to Japan. Many foreign companies have embraced specific Japanese methods because they are different and successful.
SI: What are the typical “clashes” of culture that you experience?
MS: Western concept of structured and logical approach to business issues versus Japanese concept of trust and relationship building.
Focus on efficient decision making versus focus on sounding out and satisfying all key players. Further the opposition of time management versus abundance of time.
SI: From your experience are there really two types of employees: For Japanese company only or for foreign company only?
MS: No. Often the really successful employees can work in both types of companies because they have a flexible mindset. That is why they are successful!
However, there are practical issues. Just to mention an example foreign companies often require a high English level thereby excluding a certain part of the workforce.
SI: Thank you very much for taking time to address my questions. I am sure further questions will come up.
Mr. Stricker can be contacted at the Gaipro website (http://gaipro.com/en/form/ please write Attn: Martin Stricker) or then through LinkedIN (http://jp.linkedin.com/pub/martin-stricker/0/291/267).
Brought to you by Sibylle Ito (シビル伊藤).