October 28, 2019
Work in Japan
Diverse individuals bring their unique capability to generate innovation
Globalizing talent, that is, diversifying talent to accelerate innovation, is a critical task facing many of Japan's companies. The call for highly-skilled international personnel in Japan has been particularly noticeable recently, and these efforts are resulting in growing numbers of non-Japanese persons with a high level of expertise and technological capability working in Japanese firms.
However, foreign-born employees working at Japanese companies often face challenges and concerns related to their work and careers: language barriers, Japanese views on work, and communication overall.
OMRON has faced similar challenges; its foreign-born employee base in Japan has increased by more than 35%* in the last five years, with many of those born in the Millennial generation.
OMRON and its employees are working day by day to create a company that lets the individuality and capabilities of its diversely-minded talent shine as brightly as it can, regardless of their nationality, culture, or background.
*As of the end of fiscal 2018
A Shared Experience Benefits All
In many Japanese companies, human resources departments develop fundamental systems, rules, and guidelines, and apply those as-is to employees of all nationalities. However, they are often not designed to handle the actual needs of their foreign employees. At OMRON, it was not enough just to support them as an organization; A forum was also necessary for them to discuss and share their apprehensions and concerns about their work with their fellow non-Japanese employees. As they became closer to each other, they developed an internal social network, with the help of OMRON HR personnel, so they could engage in discussions at any time. Foreign-born employees of OMRON work in a variety of areas: production, technology, development, quality assurance, HR, and so forth, with an enormous diversity in years of experience and other aspects. This diversity means that the concerns one person may have will frequently have been dealt with already by another; this initiative is meant to take that know-how and share it with others as codified knowledge available to all.
On the aforementioned internal social network, members engage in discussion, including about their concerns; this interaction led to the creation of the OMRON Onboarding Navigation, a booklet handed out to new foreign employees when they join the company. This booklet serves as a codified volume of the myriad experiences shared on that internal network. It is a comprehensive document based on real-life experiences, such as what best to do when first arriving in Japan, and it has been a great benefit to helping new international hires adapt to the OMRON environment and get started on their work more smoothly.
OMRON Onboard Navigation: A codified volume of present and past employees' experiences
This internal social network serves not only as a forum for employees to share their concerns, problems, and experiences tackling barriers in the interest of resolution, but is also a place for these employees to support each other. Here, each member retains ownership of the group, listening to the opinions of others and acting to share know-how with each other.
Members who participated in the event
OMRON has also set up an event where more senior international employees share their experiences building careers in Japan.
The event's main theme is Changing Mindsets, emphasizing the strength of different perspectives in an environment where being non-Japanese is often considered not a strength, but in weakness - due to language or culture or other aspects. At this event, unique identities are taken and turned into strengths. It serves as a forum where members offer up shared concerns, talk about their mindsets when facing adversity, and retell the record of their experience against difficult situations. These new realizations, these hints gained at this event serve attending members in their future endeavors.
Experiences shared by senior employees serve to catalyze career growth for attendees
OMRON Healthcare's Fatima Alqahtani discussed her involvement with this program.
"I am very pleased to see this type of internal social network and events. In the past, I had a hard time speaking up about the challenges I was facing. Through this community, I have been able to hear from others about their experiences and thoughts. At the same time, I have taken another look at my own workplace and work style. To change a situation for the better, we need to move past national and cultural backgrounds to communicate with our co-workers. We mustn't give up, no matter how many attempts it takes, and resist our nature to become defensive if there are any negative reactions. As one way to make my own workplace better, I started using an IT tool with a built-in translation feature. This helps me communicate across language barriers. I would love to introduce this tool to the rest of our community members."
Fatima Alqahtani, OMRON Healthcare
Building Cross-border, Cross-cultural Team Diversity
This initiative is not just for non-Japanese employees; it also brings in Japanese employees, including managers, to talk about the difficulties, the barriers, and the things they can do to help individual foreign employees reach their full potential.
Yutaka Iitaka, who served as President of OMRON Management Center of Asia-Pacific through FY2018 and is now part of the Global Finance and Accounting HQ, had this to say on attending the event as one of the Japanese co-workers.
" I recognized that so many diverse people are working in the Japanese region today so I look forward to their support in achieving a faster pace of innovation. Still, while we have advanced in our mindset toward diversity at OMRON, I feel that we still must work to provide greater care to those minorities from other countries. It is important for us to use initiatives like today's as a launch pad, bringing in others, like the superiors of those attending today, and create opportunities for us to properly listen to the voices of our international employees. I myself would like to also be more proactive in my communication, approaching those around me and helping to connect one person's path to resolution with others'."
Yutaka Iitaka, Global Finance and Accounting HQ
With the mindfulness and action of our entire employee base, we will build a place where diverse employees can demonstrate ability to the fullest and contribute.
With the core driver of Respect for All, one of our values in the OMRON Principles, we will continue to expand these initiatives that support the success of our individual employees.