Developing Leaders in Japan: the Japan Talent Director's Perspective

Hosted by: Bayer

In February, The Chapman Consulting Group co-hosted a networking group of twenty Talent Management leaders in Japan at the Tokyo office of Bayer. It represented our most senior group of TM professionals to date, with participants from the local, regional and global levels. Participants came from a wide selection of industries, including Talent leaders from AIG, American Express, Bloomberg, BNY Mellon, Cisco, Citi, Coca-Cola, Gap, General Electric, Goldman Sachs, Hitachi, IBM, MetLife, Mondelez and Nikko Asset Management.


Attracting and Engaging a New Generation of Future Leaders in Japan

Initially the conversation focused on the selection criteria for high potential talent in Japan, with most participants agreeing that their companies were facing the risks associated with an ageing workforce, and needed to bring in a new generation of employees. Most companies represented at the meeting had some kind of specific graduate development programme in place in Japan, but the challenge of attracting the right kind of talent into the organisations remained. Finding great team players with high ethical standards is much easier in Japan than in other markets, but finding ambitious, proactive and globally-oriented employees continues to be a challenge. Despite the strength of multinational corporate brands in other markets, their brands in Japan are never quite as strong, and they don’t enjoy the same ‘employer of choice’ status there.

For this reason, Talent Management professionals in Japan often need to team up with Talent Acquisition to help create a stronger value proposition. In one case study, a company built an internship programme, which invited students to spend a week’s work experience in multiple site locations. This programme successfully attracted ambitious students, and at the same time engaged their interest at an early stage in the graduate recruitment process. In another case, the Talent Management Leader needed to convince a number of senior Directors in the company to take a more active role in the process. By getting the leadership off their chairs and into the crowd of future talent, the company was able to inject a greater ‘buzz’ of excitement around attracting more talent into the programme.

The short conclusion is that there’s no point spending money on an excellent leadership development programme in Japan, if you don’t have the right level of talent and passion coming into your organisation from the start.

New Developments in Leadership Development: Scenario Training

Once you have strong potentials in your organisation in Japan, the challenge becomes exposing this group to as many experiences and development opportunities as possible, in order to equip them as solid future leaders within the context of a multinational business environment. The group discussed an array of conventional methods of training, developing, coaching and rotating top talent, but one case study offered an interesting and relatively new method in Japan: Scenario Training.

In this case study, the Talent Director hired actors to come into the company to run a series of simulation-based scenarios, putting company managers and high potentials into a series of situations and testing them on how they would behave and react. The Talent Management team and the business leaders worked together for many months with these actors beforehand, so that they knew their positions in each scenario, as well as how to act and feel accordingly. The experiment was a success, largely because the course had buy-in from the top within the business, and because the content of the session had been very well planned. The programme is still in an early experimental phase, but we look forward to following this case study and reporting back on results in the future.

Japan Talent Managers: Keep Experimenting!

In conclusion, the group agreed that there needs to be continued innovation in how Japan Talent Managers approach the key issues in developing existing and future leaders in their multinational organisations. For too long there has been a complacency that Japan Talent Management professionals are there to simply implement solutions that have been created at the Global HQ level, so it was great to have a discussion about some of the innovative ideas coming from Tokyo. We’re already looking forward to hosting the next session later in the year.

Here’s What People are Saying:

“The participants in the group were very talented and I got many insights from them. I am looking forward to attending the next session and seeing them again!” Fumiko Takahashi, Cisco

“I was impressed by the diversity of industries represented at the roundtable. It was a great opportunity to learn and benchmark your HR practices with external companies” Miho Tanimoto, General Electric

The mix of both Japanese and foreign firms from a wide range of industries was the perfect forum for a rich discussion on Talent Management in Japan.” Rob Piazza, Gap

It was a valuable experience to meet other Talent Development leaders and exchanges challenges and solutions, and to have a meaningful discussion around it. That kind of opportunity always stimulates my own thinking, which I find refreshing.” Sherry Greenfield, Goldman Sachs

“It was truly refreshing to meet with people who were willing to share their practices and challenges. It was a great sesion with active participation by Talent leads and HR professionals from different industries. Thanks so much for organising such a refreshing event.” Akemi Nakagawa, MetLife

“It was my first time to join the meeting and a great opportunity to expand my HR network.” Hajime Kawamura, Hitachi


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