The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

On March 10, a delegation of foreign business executives sat across from representatives of the Hyogo prefectural government at the 19th Annual Hyogo Global Business Summit. The focus was on securing global human resources required by global companies in Hyogo–Kobe.

International business is flourishing in the prefecture. But while 78 non-Japanese companies operate locally, attracting and retaining globally minded talent has been challenging.

Weighing in on the issue were representatives from the international business community, including three corporate sustaining members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ).

Hyogo Prefecture Governor Toshizo Ido opened the forum by speaking on the importance of shoring up global talent. The floor then passed to Motoyasu Tanaka, director general of Hyogo’s Industrial Policy Planning Bureau, who outlined Hyogo’s demographics, efforts to retain regional workers, and proposals to support the existing labor force.

Next, Makoto Kawai, senior manager of Global Government Relations & Public Policy at P&G Japan, talked about the University of Hyogo’s new Global Leadership Education Program (GLEP), which cultivates specialized knowledge and communication skills among students interested in global business leadership. GLEP students participate in focused, English-intensive courses and practical overseas internships, gaining the savvy needed to thrive in international companies.

Ido then invited each foreign representative to present ideas.

Patrik Jonsson, president of Eli Lilly Japan K.K., discussed the company’s aim to remain flexible and create an environment of acceptance and inclusion in Hyogo–Kobe as teams in Japan simultaneously develop medicines with colleagues at the company’s global headquarters in the United States.

Melanie Kohli, executive officer of Corporate Affairs Group, Nestlé Japan Ltd. (Switzerland), emphasized the need to boost English skills. Developing bilingual education programs and overseas homestay opportunities could go a long way, she said, and childcare services should be enhanced like those provided at the Nestlé regional head office.

Stanislav Vecera, president and representative of Procter & Gamble Japan, offered concrete advice on leveraging Hyogo’s existing overseas offices to promote local job opportunities.
Outreach on behalf of Hyogo companies from bases in Seattle, Paris, Perth (Australia), and elsewhere should bring in global talent. He also suggested Hyogo organize a booth at the Boston Career Forum, a premium locale for scouting talent.

Robert L. Noddin, president and CEO of AIG Japan Holdings, shared his experience of bewilderment on arriving in Japan as a Kansai Gaidai University exchange student years back. He praised progress made to ease the transition of non-Japanese into local society, but said more can be done to accommodate global talent. All of Kansai, he said, should bolster its brands by using social media and encouraging a startup culture.

Hans Rhodiner, executive director of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Japan, acknowledged that many lesser-known foreign companies struggle more than larger rivals with name recognition when it comes to attracting talent. He proposed a focus on boosting the competitiveness of mid-tier companies, and forming partnerships with Hyogo-based universities on workforce skill development.

Finally, Michael Mroczek, chairman of the Swiss Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Japan, reiterated the need for solid English communication skills. He suggested that Japan’s education system place more emphasis on individualism and creativity, and that entrepreneurialism be encouraged more at the government level.

Neal Jansen is director of the State of Arkansas Japan & SE Asia Office