Along with the rise of Japanese foreign direct investments, the number of Japanese expatriates has been reaching an unprecedented level in the past 10 years.
Experiencing a number of challenges with their foreign subsidiaries, Japanese headquarters have seen in expatriates a good way to insure the coordination of the subsidiary with the main office, transfer knowledge, while investing into the assignee’s self-development.
On September 15th took place the 4th edition of The Forum for Expatriate Management, led by Milena OSIKA (UniGroup Worldwide / Sterling Japan).
At this occasion, twenty human resources professionals were gathered to exchange and learn about Human Resource strategy in the context of native Japanese’s expatriation programs.
Mr Shiraki Mitsuhide, Ph.D., Professor in the Faculty of Political Science and Economics, President of the transnational institute for HRM in Japan and President of the Japan academy of international business studies, shared his most updated researches and vision about Japanese national’s expatriation.
According to the results of a survey conducted by Prof. Mitsuhide from 2008 to 2010 (880 respondents) on expatriates and local employees of Japanese subsidiaries in China and ASEAN, 5 major characteristics are found in successful Japanese national’s assignments:
- After the 3rd year of assignment, the satisfaction, performance and skills adaptation are more likely to develop at a high speed. Due to the period of adaptation in the new country, these items are on average perceived less than what could have been expected in the origin country in the first 3 years.
- Those who are fast decision makers, effective task accomplishers, and who can deal with problem problems rapidly are the most likely to succeed Positive actions from the assignee (getting out of the comfort zone, being curious and pro-active) are essential for the performance improvement of existing skills.
- Training opportunities at the foreign subsidiaries are essential to demonstrate and maintain Leadership. This allows to remind the company’s vision, and re-define clearly each ones’ role to achieve common targets.
- Those who prove to have flexibility of action and empathy are the most likely to be accepted by local employees (that is to say, the capacity of admitting his own mistakes, taking other opinions into consideration and give support to other departments).
- A willingness to adapt into the local society, by understanding customs, culture, and study local language with enthusiasm constitutes a plus for the transferee’s integration. Still, cultural adaptation shouldn’t be considered as the main factor of a success or failure of the international assignment.
When the respondents of the same study were asked to rate the Japanese management skills on the one hand, and the local management skills on the other hand, the survey pointed out that none of the Japanese marks on measured items could overpass the local middle / top management marks. The weakest points being:
- Lack of understanding of local business practices, customs / culture
- Inability to point out their superior’s mistake
- Low negotiation power
- Small personal network.
But the arrival of a new generation of expatriates is changing that:
Last August 2016, the Waseda University Institute for Transnational HRM completed a Research on the “Career and development of Japanese Young expatriates”, through a survey conducted on expatriates in their early 30’s and their direct boss (302 respondents).
Not only did 40% strongly desired to take the assignment before leaving Japan, but the true difference is made were their older counterpart were failing the most: 30’s generation already shows its capacity to understand a different cultures, and enlarge their network with locals, while demonstrating a stronger negotiation power.
Expatriates who answered the survey are still completing their assignment, so the study is still ongoing and will be completed in the next few years.
At a moment when Japanese companies need more than ever to internationalize their workforce, such studies are most welcome and concretely show that the Japanese government, companies and universities’ are increasing efforts to raise Japan’s position on the international employers ladder.
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