Daijob HR Club – Part One: Background
When we first founded Daijob as a business in 1998, the Japanese economy was in a deep funk and many foreign firms were laying people off. It was indeed a challenge to be launching a recruiting business in this market! As we started to go out and do sales, we discovered two realities. Firstly, that although the market was downsizing, HR managers were still hiring people; however, rather than recruiting hordes of directionless salarypersons, they were looking to hire a few talented individuals to sustain and rebuild their businesses. This suggested to us that in foreign firms at least, HR managers were advancing beyond an administrative role and making strategic talent acquisition decisions; a trend that has continued over the succeeding 7 years.
Secondly, we found that in attempting to satisfy the demands of a Head Office to control manpower and hire/fire people more flexibly HR managers were often coming in direct conflict with local culture and regulatory practice. We observed that HR managers were becoming the meat in the sandwich and the pressure was taking its toll. After sales and engineering staff, HR manager positions were the most common opening on Daijob!
Indeed, the system functioned such that it was almost impossible for HR managers of foreign firms to not to fail. On the one hand they were expected to behave as global professionals, and yet they were equipped with little more than their own (limited) HR experience from previous Japanese employers – where HR management meant simply recruiting new grads from university and vocational colleges, and otherwise performing administrative duties. Coming into a global organization for the first time is often a serious culture shock, even though the HR professional may be bilingual and bicultural. Global companies expect best practice from their employees, and this imposes the need for much more information and background study than is normally available in Japanese companies.
And even though much of HR’s activities could be considered “commonsense,” professionals need help to establish a benchmark and understanding of what is normal practice in a global organization One way to achieve this is by interaction with other professionals in other companies – and that is what the Daijob HR Club was set up to achieve. We wanted HR managers to be able to talk to their peers, as well as listen to professionals – lawyers, trainers, and HR best practice specialists to find the baselines that other companies are operating on and how successful HR departments are coping with the challenges of changing labor market conditions; changing regulations, etc.
Back in 1998 there was in fact an HR managers club comprised of foreigners and fluent English speakers, but, because this organization was inaccessible to many managers fresh out of Japanese companies, membership never grew beyond 50 or so. Given that there are at least 5,000 foreign-capital companies registered in Japan, this meant that HR representatives of just 0.1% of the foreign companies (versus regular Japanese companies – where such resources exist but with a strong Japanese viewpoint) had foundaccess to an appropriate professional organization.
Thus the Daijob HR Club was born. It was first established as a loose knit group of managers meeting occasionally for seminars and peer discussion, and graduated to a fully formed organization and secretariat in June, 2001. The club’s mission is to provide HR professionals with a forum at which they can exchange information, solve everyday HR problems, and network with other more experienced people who can provide advice and mentoring.
Next week I talk about the HR Club benefits and how to join. However, if you can’t wait that long, contact the secretariat at firstname.lastname@example.org. It is free to join, although some events may incur fees.