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When it comes to recruitment, the talent pool, job market, and trends differ from region to region. Kansai, an area whose name literally means “west of the border,” boasts huge historical, economic, and cultural significance and will soon play host to major global events. The ACCJ Journal spoke to Ken Shimabuku, senior director of RGF Executive Search Japan’s Osaka office, about how recruitment differs between Kansai and Kanto, where Tokyo is located.

Shimabuku joined RGF Executive Search (then known as CDS K.K.) in January 2008 and established the company’s Osaka office. “At the time, there were very few bilingual specialist recruiting companies with a presence in the Kansai region,” he explained. “To effectively and efficiently serve our clients and candidates in the area, we believed it was important to have a physical operation with consultants who have a deep understanding of the local environment and direct market experience.”

The bilingual talent pool, he explained, is much smaller in Kansai compared with Kanto. “This imbalance is directly related to the ratio of foreign capital companies, as well as Japanese multi­nationals, head­quartered in Tokyo rather than, for example, Osaka.” Core positions are mainly based at the head office, which means executive and mana­ge­ment level roles will more likely be in Tokyo.

Attracting top talent to Kansai-based companies—and retai­ning them long term—is usually a recurring challenge, Shimabuku explained. “The challenge is that the Kansai region, and the companies based here may not be considered as high profile. Educating the market and promoting the opportunities that exist here can take a lot of effort. But there is still an impressive list of Fortune 500 companies, market-leading small and medium-sized enterprises, and incredibly exciting startups with headquarters in West Japan.

The next five years are going to be crucial to the revitalization of the Kansai region. There are many upcoming high-profile events, such as the G20 Summit to be held in Osaka in June, the Rugby World Cup 2019, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Kansai World Masters Games 2021, and the World Expo 2025, which will take place in Osaka.

Shimabuku sees much positivity and potential. “Osaka is also reportedly considered to be a front-runner to land Japan’s first integrated resort. The major cities of Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto, along with the rest of the Kansai region, are riding a big wave of global coverage and PR,” he said. “And with the projected amount of economic contribution that these events and developments could generate, you will definitely see increased demand for talent.”

This increased demand is specifically in the hospitality and service industries. Shimabuku spoke about how companies are looking outside Japan to find qualified professionals. “There are simply not enough multilingual people available to take full advantage of the tourist boom that continues in Japan.”

With advancements in tech and health, the search for talent abroad is not limited to just the hospitality and service industries. “Since many large electronics manufacturers and pharma­ceutical companies have a strong presence here, there is always going to be a demand for top talent. More than ever, companies must look beyond Japan’s borders to find qualified professionals who fit.”

RGF Executive Search Japan understands the organizational structure and corporate culture of each client, and what it takes for a candidate to be successful in that environment. As Shimabuku explained: “Having the skills required to do the job is one thing, but being able to drive and add value to the goals of the overall organization is another level. We prefer to work with a smaller client base, establish a trusting relationship with line managers, and become an extension of our clients’ talent acquisition efforts.”

The consultants at RGF Executive Search Japan are experienced professionals who understand Kansai and the development the region will undergo in the near future. “We take pride in knowing that, through our efforts, we can contribute to the advancement of our client organizations and the prosperity of the local economy.” 

Attracting top talent to Kansai-based companies—and retaining them long term—is usually a recurring challenge.