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Employee Branding Strategies: What Works in Japan?

Hosted by: Cisco

Recently a group of Japan TA Leaders gathered at Cisco in their Roppongi headquarters in Tokyo to discuss what does and doesn’t work when it comes to recruitment and employee branding in Japan. The meeting was well attended by representatives from a broad range of organisations including, CBRE, Citi, Citrix, Coca-Cola, Covance, Philip Morris, Rakuten, Ralph Lauren,, Telstra and others.

Feet on the Ground

One of the biggest differences when recruiting in Japan, as compared to regional and global HQ locations, is the limited manpower on the ground. Whereas in many countries you might find specialists for things like social {nolink}media{/nolink}, marketing, or events, in Japan a single individual often covers all of these. Employees and resources are stretched, often to the point where it becomes a challenge to keep the talent pool engaged. An organisation’s employer brand is all about the relationship the company has with existing and potential employees, and without an engaged workforce it can be difficult to establish and build a positive employer brand.


Where’s the Talent?

To make matters more challenging, the candidate population in Japan acts very differently than in other markets, as talent tends to be less proactive when considering new opportunities. The Japan recruitment leader from one global IT company stated, “Less than 5% of the population in Japan is on social {nolink}media{/nolink} sites like LinkedIn, so the company really needs to think about diversifying its approach when generating the talent pool.” Everything from employee referrals, to using job boards and agents, needs to be considered in order to find the best talent. Unlike other markets such as India and China where organisations receive a hundred applicants for every opportunity and need to employ a funnelling system, in Japan it is sometimes difficult to get a single applicant. There is an underlying issue when it comes to the quantity of candidates when recruiting in Japan.

Hiring Quality

There are metrics for ‘cost per hire’ and ‘time to hire’ but there are no ‘quality of hire’ metrics, which is something interesting to consider. Companies that use the direct sourcing model can of course save millions of Yen in agency fees; however, the candidate who might have been introduced by an agent could very well bring in enough additional business to make that agency fee irrelevant. It can be time consuming and costly, but smart companies shouldn’t close off the agency channel completely, particularly in a market like Japan where the pool of talent actively looking for an opportunity is smaller. In most other key markets, the same active and passive job seekers can be found on a variety of channels. In Japan, people tend to use just one channel, be it one social {nolink}media{/nolink} platform, one jobsite, or just working with agents. So unless companies in Japan keep all options open, they limit their chances of ensuring the right quality of hire.

A Strong Push for Employee Referral

Another interesting theme that was discussed centred on employee referral programmes. The general consensus was that changing the referral bonus didn’t amount to any change in the number of referrals received in Japan. Two barriers to success that were mentioned included the employees losing face when they couldn’t get their friend a job, as well as being too bogged down with work to find the time to engage with the referral programme. A few companies had some creative ideas to overcome these challenges. One organisation has employees give the potential employee’s contact information to the TA team, who then contact their friend, minimising the time required by the employee, as well as the potential for losing face. Another method discussed was creating a group process, where employees would gather to brainstorm whom they could bring aboard from outside the organisation. One company found that these groups were more able to jog the collective memory, and therefore do a better job coming up with names.



It will be no surprise that there isn’t a single solution that suits all, in terms of recruitment and employee branding. Rather, it is a balance of quality vs. quantity vs. speed, depending on requirements. It is also about selecting the most appropriate strategy for the job, from direct sourcing to social {nolink}media{/nolink} to using an agency. Additionally, proactively engaging the market, as opposed to reactively responding to applications, and engaging the employee population to help source the right people can help significantly.

Oscar Fuchs, Managing Director of ChapmanCG, adds: “In Japan, for many multinational companies the building of an employee brand is still seen as a {nolink}luxury{/nolink}, when compared with all the other challenges facing the Talent Acquisition function. But where time and resources are used, we see that it does have an effect on the quantity and quality of applicants, especially when used in conjunction with other techniques. And the efforts on employee branding can be just as useful as a loyalty and engagement tool for existing employees, so we recommend that Japan HR Leaders think more about including employer branding as part of their overall talent retention strategies.” Companies do spend a lot of time and money to get this right, and keeping all options open, while paying attention to employer branding, can be the keys to finding the most suitable channels for sourcing the best talent.

Here’s What People Are Saying…

“What a great platform to meet, share and learn from talented professionals who are facing similar challenges in the market. It’s valuable ot learn about different HR initiatives and strategies from companies of diverse industry, size, maturity, etc. and their real-life successes and failures. I look forward to participating in the next roundtable.”Sonia Mayer, CBRE

“I really enjoyed the discussion and networking with TA Leaders of global companies. I especially felt that the candidate experience is the most important part of branding and I could learn several best practices there. Today’s information will be helpful for our future.”Yuka Suzuki, Coca-Cola

“I enjoyed the employee branding session gathering, a good grounding discussion with HR professionals from varied industries about current and ongoing challenges as well as best practices in Japan.”Consuela Haralambie, Ralph Lauren

“These events are a wonderful chance to share best practices, and The Chapman Consulting Group is the only entity in town organising these for global HR and recruiting professionals in Tokyo.”Michael Case,


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Key Contributors:

Matthew Chapman
Matthew Chapman


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Matthew Chapman
Global Management

Matthew Chapman


Matthew (Matt) Chapman is the Founder of ChapmanCG.

He has also created the Thrive HR Exchange, a global community platform for people leaders and HR professionals to find and exchange inspiration, ideas and insights. Discover some of his interviews with HR leaders here.

Matt has a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting and Business Law from the University of New South Wales, Australia. He is a Singapore Citizen and divides his time between Asia Pacific, the Americas and EMEA.

Matt is a wellness, self-improvement and fitness addict. He has completed six desert, 250km ultra-marathons in Chile, China, Egypt, Antarctica, Namibia and Madagascar.

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