Career Fly Special Interview

Previously, Executive Research Fellow and General Manager at NLI Research Institute
Tomikazu Hiraga interview.

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We spoke to Mr. Hiraga, who researches business trends and economies in Asia, about the placing of foreign national human resources into the HR market in Japan. Profile of Mr. Hiraga

Resolving the lack of HR is not the only reason for employing foreign national human resources!

C – If that “objective” perspective and ideas beyond what Japanese can conceive would be added to the existing technology and services, we can definitely expect interesting things to come out of it! And in order to make that chemical reaction happen, there are 3 points necessary to get companies to take the initiative in hiring foreign national human resources, isn’t there?

Hiraga – Those would be, “internationalization of headquarters,” “global standardization,” and “localization”. I believe that the internationalization of headquarters is a very important point that provides the foundation for a company. I’ll talk about this point from two perspectives, that of external change and internal change. Firstly, regarding external change, through our theme here of “proactively hiring foreign national human resources,” companies can obtain capable human resources externally to bring stimulation internally, forming a culture of international diversity within the company thereby. Secondly, on internal change. The “officialization of English” is probably representative of this, and typical examples probably come from Rakuten and Uniqlo. There are probably various opinions regarding its introduction internally and externally, but in the case of Rakuten, there has been big results, and they became a company capable of recruiting capable human resources globally. At first the average TOEIC score was 500, but evidently it is over 800 now. To gain and make effective use of great human resources of the world, I feel it is necessary to change from the internal side as well. Next is “global standardization”. Toyota, Komatsu, YKK and the like can be said to represent those Japanese companies making efforts to construct and saturate global standardization.

C – And what is global standardization?

Hiraga – The construction of business plan that brings together the overlapping points from various parts of the world is first of all necessary. Focusing on action guideline based on that is important. To accomplish that, it is necessary to clarify strong corporate values. Especially important is it’s permeation. In order for business plan/action guideline, goals to permeate all the way to various bases in the world, it is necessary to understand the perspectives of the local staff and come to a better mutual understanding. It is important to think through together step by step the meaning behind the business plan/action guideline, think about how best to express things in the language wherever in the world business is to take place, and build on conversations and ideas.

Next is “localization”. This is premised on global standardization, but in countries where the environment or background differ due to regional and cultural situations, localization (adapting to the location) is sought after. In cases where the thinking or the way of doing things by the Japanese headquarters do not agree with the circumstances of a given location, a flexibility that caters to the needs of that location is much sought after. Say on the topic of hiring of personnel, there is the issue of perspectives on employment duration. In Japan the idea of lifetime employment or long-term employment is commonplace, but that may not be the case with foreign national human resources. There may be people who do not seek to build their career by dedicating themselves to one company. Such personnel think about how to shape their career through various industries, occupations, and work. They think, all right now that I’ve accomplished this much in my career at this company I’ll join in on a new project elsewhere! I’ll find a new job! Japanese companies must understand that there are many people who think this way. Then it will be possible to come up with ways to create a personnel system or plan that will be mutually beneficial. To illustrate, agreeing to a 3 year employment period, or agreeing to customized employment benefits that goes with a short-term employment contract, or whatever way to match individual situations.

C – What can accelerate the implementation of foreign national human resources here on out?

Hiraga – Concurrently transforming the minds at the top and the internationalization of headquarters. In today’s world where various Asian countries are catching up and Japan’s position is relatively on the decline, Japan will not always in a leadership position. We are in an era when each country learns from what is best in others. The expansion in awareness and commitment with the people at the top that can pull forth globalization shall become a huge driver of the implementation of great foreign national human resources.

C – As I deal with managers daily, I must say there are many who would have a hard time changing. Moreover, there are those who want to change but don’t know how.

Hiraga – Sure. Relevant to your point is the instance of tourism promotion in Niseko, Hokkaido, that may be interesting. Niseko aspires to be a world class tourist area even as it is located in Japan. They are doing many things to make that happen. They take the initiative to observe what rival tourist regions overseas may be doing, or have their staff proactively welcome foreign national human resources. It can be said to be a typical example of the need and effectiveness of diversification for the expansion of domestic demand in Japan. There are some who think, we are a tourist nation!, but there is still a strong tendency to see things from the side of supplying tourist services, and I feel there are still areas where the needs of the tourists have not been well understood. Realizing this, and to achieve greater customer satisfaction, perspectives diverging from Japanese will bring more effectiveness.

C – Globalization becomes necessary already on a domestic level. I hope there will be a rise in managers who realize the need for this and sense impending danger approaching.

Hiraga – I remember what an acquaintance told me when Mr. Ghosn became the CEO of Nissan and gave rise to foreign executives. The problem became not some abstract thing like making English the official language inside company, but that if communication could not be made with foreigner executives then it became impossible to do one’s daily work. Without such drastic and sensational changes perhaps it is difficult for great transformation of company culture or acquire a sense of impending danger.

C – Well, I was certainly able to gain a greater sense of danger thanks to this interview with you (haha). Thank you so much. I realized all over again how important and necessary all of this is after listening to you talk on the topic of how “businesses cannot avoid utilizing foreign national human resources”. I’m happy to tell you that this interview was a good opportunity for our company, as an agency that introduces foreign professional women to the job market, to become even more determined in proactively introducing foreign national human resources to companies.

Hiraga – Thank you very much.

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