business

Japan Inc's ritual hiring past sell-by date

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By Rie Ishiguro and Tomasz Janowski

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© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2012.

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A shortage of strong leaders and risk-takers, which the present recruitment and training system seems unable to produce, is seen as a major cause of the woes of Japanese companies,  from its once-famed electronics industry to auto giants.

Whereas in other countries, the risk-takers have gamblled and wrecked industries, unless they were bailed out by their governments. The middle path is best, I think. Japan just needs to relax the reins a bit, not throw away the system.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

FarmboyJul. 01, 2012 - 07:58AM JST

Whereas in other countries, the risk-takers have gamblled and wrecked industries, unless they were bailed out by their governments.

If you call forced loans (which have been paid back more than in full) bailouts, then sure... But then you would be mistaking propaganda for fact.

While hiring and training in batches is fine, allowing only bottom level jobs with practically no salary is not. That stagnates the education of the country, and marginalizes those who have ability. They need to open up some higher positions to those that can demonstrate ability, and pay them a reasonable rate (2.4 million yen would be considered a cheap job in countries with lower living costs, maybe give the ones with good job qualifications 4 million a year and a promise of merit based growth rather than seniority)

4 ( +5 / -1 )

This is the New World Order.

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I just imagined the anxiety of being able to get a new job or not for an about to graduate college kid, and then the pressure of fitting in in some new world of black suits. Kind of depressing.

The cram schools for manners are probably a good thing, tho. Kids have bad manners these days and need to know the basics when they go out into the world, whether it's a world of conformity or a world of creative competitiveness.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The history of economics is littered with companies that went out of business because they couldn't change with the times. Even the powerful Henry Ford was overtaken by GM because he refused to paint his cars any color except black.

What created Japan's "miracle" was it's exports. Relying on these exports is going to kill it in the future. The miracle only existed because they were the only ones in the game. They copied the production model from the west, and along with their then cheap labor, made lots of cash.

Now their competition is not only more nimble in response to the demands of the marketplace, but their labor is cheaper. Japan doesn't stand a chance.

Japan's "miracle economy" is going to go down in history as a one hit wonder.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Companies like Rakuten were not around "in the post-war era" as the article infers. The fact that even new Japanese juggernaut companies like Rakuten, Uniqlo, H.I.S. and others all still adopt and practice the "Spring Offensive" for hiring reinforces there are merits (and demerits) to the process.

As both a university instructor AND a senior corporate director I know it is wrong to single out and blame "the system" or the few for the failings of us all for allowing mediocrity and inertia to entrench itself in Japan's society. We've had the good life from the seventies through the early 90's and just can't face up to the "New Normal" as McKinsey coined as far back as in 2009. We all have to wake up and smell the roses... Sitting back and enjoying easy street ain't going to solve anything!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Mmm, conformity promoted. Group thinking. Yes men all over...

To me this is not very promising. Gotta agree with Gaijinfo that the economic success was probably a one time thing. I have never worked anywhere where so many people say so little about what they think. Leadership (helping people develop, making new leaders) is virtually non existent. Own ideas? Not that wanted. Followers that can bow and say "Yes, boss"? Hot items.

For me as a westerner, brought up with the idea that your own thoughts matter, this is and uncomfortable concept. Where I work, it is clear that the people sucking up most, working a whole lot if useless (and inefficient) overtime, are the ones going on to higher positions. Utterly demoralizing.

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This is a very good article. I said something about this in another thread. The system is producing followers and not innovators. It is a system that is suffocating itself. And it is perfectly okay to blame the system when the system is as mind numbing as it is in Japan. (Don't worry, China is worse--just wait until their bubble bursts.)

A bit of myth busting. Even in the old bubble days so-called lifetime employment was extended to an elite minority of workers who accounted for 17% of the workforce. (The percentage of part-time workers was also about 17%.) Also "lifetime" employment did not mean until you dropped dead at your desk. Easing out workers approaching their mid-50s by (for example) farming them off to subsidies was (and is) common.

Anyway, this article reminded me of a dreadful book I once read called "The Japanese School: Lessons for Industrial America." Two things stand out in my mind that the author, B. Duke said: Japan owed its greatness to it obedient workers and its lack of "foreign-oriented minorities." It was published in the late 1980s. Just then Apple was happening. Then the Internet and Google and Yahoo happened. Japan was left in the dust. Welcome to Silicon Valley. Lot of "foreign-oriented minorities" there and lots of brilliant engineers in blue jeans.

I like what Steve Jobs told graduating Stanford students: "Don't live someone else's life." A lesson for industrial Japan.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The current heads of Japan’s companies are often criticized for failing to keep pace with fleet-footed foreign rivals, but most are a product of that system and there is nothing to suggest it will change any time soon.

For some reason this reminds me of a company I came across at a job fair years ago in Tokyo. The CEO of this computer company was so proud of his company being international and global and forward-thinking - too bad for him our entire conversation was in Japanese, and all their posters had spelled it GROBAL

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I like it The758. Another one that used to amuse me was the Japanese listed company whose official English name was "Geostr". It looked more like "Geostar" from the Japanese but they insisted the English name wasn't a typo...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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