Leaders April 2016

New logic

On HR, business and disability

As cherry blossoms bathe Tokyo in pink, new starts await us: that of the school year, financial year and, for new graduates, job year.

Traditionally, employers across the country have sought to hire staff in April, directly after high school or university graduation. This has left young people, who wish to become a salaried employee, with limited options for volunteering, long-term travel, and studying or working abroad.

As demand for talent continues to outstrip supply, firms are adopting a more flexible approach to hiring, resulting in greater chances for people who did not join a firm directly on graduation. We explore this trend.

For many candidates—particularly those in the early stages of their career and women—ikubosu (employers who offer a parent-friendly workplace) are proving attractive. Since research shows that work commitments restrict men’s ability to care for their children, the Japanese government, firms and organisations are supporting a number of ikubosu-related initiatives to improve work–life balance and encourage women to return to work.

Meanwhile, at an International Women’s Day event, attendees considered the use of quotas to recruit more women for senior roles.


As we approach the deadline for registration to vote in the UK referendum on European Union membership, BCCJ ACUMEN asked major Japanese firms how the result might affect their relationship with the UK. While none said they would withdraw investments from the UK were it to leave the EU, it does seem that retaining the status quo would be preferable.


This month, Ikea celebrates 10 years in Japan. Find out the secrets to the firm’s success from Peter List, its British chief executive, and what businesses can learn.

Following an eight-year ordeal that included demotion and isolation, few individuals would remain cheerful. And yet, Olympus Corporation whistleblower Masaharu Hamada did just that—even before the Tokyo District Court found in his favour, ordering the firm to reinstate, compensate and stop harassing him. His forward-looking attitude shone through as he shared his experience.

In March, I had the privilege of hearing the opinions of three Paralympic athletes at an event hosted by the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan on the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Each pointed out that people with physical impairments are like anyone else: Paralympians are not an inspiration because of their physical condition. Very true.

I couldn’t help but be inspired—by their love of, and dedication to, their sport, refreshing candour, positivity, desire to make a difference, and leadership. Their perspectives on disability offer a welcome addition to the wider discussion on the potential of Tokyo 2020 to leave a lasting legacy for Japan.

Happy reading.