The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Here are a few cold, hard facts about Japan, based on recent regional and global surveys:

  • Only 2 percent of HR professionals and 6 percent of leaders in Japan view their organizations’ leaders as being of high quality
  • Only 17 percent of leaders in Japan are confident they are investing at the right level to attract and retain talent needed in Asia

For the past six years, Japan has been by far the most difficult country in which to fill jobs To provide a forum for examining these issues at the highest level, the ACCJ Human Resources Management Committee invited CEOs to the first CEO–HR Dialogue on October 23.

More than 30 participants, primarily HR leaders of multinational and Japanese companies, gathered at host MetLife Insurance K.K.’s office for a half-day of insights entitled “Winning the Talent War in Japan.”

The highlight of the event was a discussion panel among distinguished leaders, moderated by former CEO of Shinsei Bank and Morgan Stanley Japan Thierry Porté.

The panel included Fulvio Guarneri, president and CEO of Unilever Japan; Yukari Inoue, managing director of Kellogg Japan and Korea; and Sachin N. Shah, chairman, president and CEO of MetLife Insurance K.K.

C-Suite leaders today must ensure their organizations have consistent internal and external branding to attract, develop, and retain talent. According to Bill Conaty and Ram Charan in their book The Talent Masters, top leaders spend up to 40 percent of their time building and deploying talent.

The ACCJ panel of CEOs agreed. “I believe in the power of coaching,” said Inoue. “I have turned people around by coaching them.”

In regards to developing female leaders, she said, “If we don’t promote women into commercial leadership roles, we will never build a pool of women in Japan who can become CEOs.”

Guarneri believes leaders have to spend time helping all employees think about their career and future. “Japanese employees don’t set career goals, but we need to help them understand they shouldn’t wait for the company to take care of them,” he said.

“We can move the discussion two levels up, if front-line managers won’t engage with their direct [subordinates] on career [discussions], for fear of losing them.”

According to Shah, “The longer people stay in a particular job, the less valuable they are to the company. We need to look at our top talent to move, before they feel they are ready.”

After the panel discussion, participants took part in break-out sessions to further explore such topics as performance management, how HR can add greater value, branding the employee value proposition, and talent development.

“The group work following the panel discussion was great, not only for networking but also for sharing ideas, making my own thinking more robust,” said Yuka Shimada, HR and GA director for Unilever Japan.

Keiichi Hotta, GM of global human resources for the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, added, “This was an extremely valuable event, [enabling one] to meet and interact directly with CEOs and HR heads in Japan. Personally, as I am dealing with HR strategies for both Japanese and overseas operations, I found this event very insightful, looking at the Japanese market from different perspectives.”

Roy Tomizawa is vice-chair of the ACCJ Human Resources Management Committee and head of Global Talent Management for Nikko Asset Management.
Top leaders spend up to 40 percent of their time building and deploying talent.