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A Kick in the Butt for Japanese Work Culture

SNA (Tokyo) — “In order for companies in Japan to sustain their current status, in a few short years, 44% of Japan’s workforce will be non-Japanese.” So believes Satoshi Ishizaka, the chief executive officer of the Third Way Forum, an event organizer focused around issues of Japanese globalization.

The Third Way Forum was launched in 2018 with the participation of fifty people. They are dedicated to shaping a new corporate culture for Japan which will be inclusive of international employees. It is sponsored by Indigo Blue, a human resources consultancy firm based in Tokyo.

The forum aims to create “a better hybrid, a new type of corporate culture which makes sense both in Japan and globally,” says Ishizaka. It provides an out-of-office discussion venue between talented professionals from a multitude of business backgrounds.

The name of the organization refers to the notion that the “first way” is traditional Japanese company culture, the “second way” is foreign company culture, and the “third way”– now being developed — is the Japanese global company culture.

In the discussions at July 1 event, the abolishment of the seniority system was proposed by a Nissan employee. Indeed, Hitachi has already been implementing meritocratic payment systems that challenge the traditional Japanese seniority system.

Another participant pointed out that it was a waste of human resources to confine high-potential bilingual staff to translation and administrative tasks. Inadvertently, many Japanese companies allow their most effective employees to wither away in thankless and largely unproductive posts.

Yet another suggestion is to implement more flexible working arrangements, whether this means large Japanese companies allowing some staff to work from home, or perhaps in open working spaces like those provided by WeWork.

The participants noted, however, that the necessary changes cannot be expected to happen organically, and that the forum and other organizations must push forward work reform in Japan.

Ishizaka believes that “many Japanese management teams and executives need a serious kick in their butt if they want their companies to succeed. I would like to see that, we, the Third Way Forum, could kick their butt so professionally, elegantly, and with our love for Japan that we can help them accelerate their required transformation!”

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