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Japan Talent Heads Meet to Discuss Leadership in the Japanese Context

Hosted by: Bloomberg

The Chapman Consulting Group co-hosted its inaugural roundtable for Japan Talent Leaders earlier in June at Bloomberg LP’s office in Tokyo. Amongst the Learning & Development experts in attendance were participants from the Retail, Professional Services, Media, Industrial, Life Sciences, Consumer and Financial Services sectors. The discussion flowed freely, but was focused on how Talent Heads in Japan can reconcile global definitions of ‘Leadership’ into the Japan context.

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The two-hour discussion over lunch brought out a great variety of viewpoints and experiences on this topic. As with many facets of the Human Resources field, the crux of the issue came down to communication techniques. Most talent professionals have access to the same kinds of tools, and similar methods of evaluating and developing talent. The differentiating factor was in how well a company can convey to the business the value of the talent management proposition.

In some examples, the Talent Head was relatively lucky, because their company had been imbued with a culture of nurturing talent from top-down within the business. So there was never any issue with the Talent Head in trying to earn the credibility of business decision-makers. On the other hand, the danger in these situations was that this credibility of the Talent Head was ‘theirs to lose’. Loftier definitions of the talent function can sometimes form unreasonable expectations. In the case of most participants around the table, Japanese business executives had a relatively open opinion about what the concept talent development meant in their organisation, but it came down to the strength of personality of the Talent Director in any situation that can often decide the success or failure of a talent initiative.

The Test of the True Talent Professional in Japan: Asking Questions

The group agreed that what’s still missing from many talent professionals in Japan is the ability to ask questions. By asking questions, this doesn’t mean the ability to present the business with a ‘menu’ of training programmes to choose from. It means the ability to use constructive confrontation techniques to look beyond the surface level and to get to where a business leader really feels their pain points.

This ability must be taught to more talent management professionals in Japan. More than ever before, in-house talent leaders are coming from consulting backgrounds, so these professionals often have more chance of possessing these appropriate consultative techniques, and the right long-term approach to relationship building. However, consultative training and coaching techniques can also be nurtured in-house, so long as the right leader is there to show the way. Talent Techniques with Limited Budgets: Being Visible Naturally, talent development is one of those parts of HR that can be severely hampered when there is a lack of budget. So one of the true skills of the talent practitioner is in the ability to ‘do more with less’. Most participants at the lunch agreed that their companies tried to give their top employees 70% on-the-job training, 20% coaching, and 10% classroom learning. However when budgets went down and coaching and classroom learning modules were cut, the talent professional needs to be creative in ensuring that the top talent in the organisation can remain engaged. The group shared their ideas and techniques in this regard, bringing forth a number of useful examples and case studies. One of the best ways that was discussed that allowed talent professionals to remain relevant and effective, even when budgets were down, was in simply being visible to business managers. Talent professionals should find time to simply show their face around the office, be sure to understand the business as it changes, and even try to make constructive observations from time to time about team dynamics.

These kinds of simple engagement techniques will ensure that you are not that L&D professional who needs to approach the business with their ‘menu’ of training tricks. You will be the Talent professional who the business leaders seek out when they want to engage in their team’s development.

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