Former Accenture Chairman Masakatsu Mori, shares his 30 years experience of advising many of Japan's leading corporations as well as foreign corporations doing business in Japan and beyond.
TJ: Companies in Japan are revolutionizing the meaning of globalization by making English the official language of their headquarters, even while others are remaining domestic- minded by not promoting English in the workplace. What are your thoughts on these approaches, and which approach do you think is needed for Japan? On another note, why do you think Japan has been struggling with competition from companies in China and South Korea, and what can Japan do to remain competitive?
Mori: Japanese corporations have accumulated a wealth of capital and technology, with the total in accumulated cash at US$2.5 trillion. Japanese companies hold the top five spots for highest patent values in the world. Even so, the number of business leaders able to do business in the global market lags behind other major countries. The development of executives who can harness Japan’s huge capital and technological resources for doing business in the global market is a national priority. Two young companies are leading this charge: Fast Retailing and Rakuten. They are challenging Japanese corporations by aggressively transforming into global players with sustainable growth. This is leaving its mark on traditional companies, albeit gradually. More companies are starting to consider at least minimum TOIEC scores before hiring new employees and promoting others to management positions. Being able to speak English and understand different cultures and business habits are now seen as keys for success in the global marketplace.
TJ: Has the role of female employees in Japan changed in recent years? What aspects of Japanese corporate culture should be retained and what aspects of Western business culture should be incorporated to help prepare Japan for the future?
Mori: Female employment is growing as companies fill spots left vacant as the workforce decreases in line with a decline in the population and an aging society. In addition, workforce diversification is becoming more important to cope with the fast-changing world. The number of corporations setting targets for promoting female employees to leadership positions is on the rise in Japan.
Japanese corporations should continue to make it a top priority to develop high quality workforces rather than just hiring talent from the outside. A loyal and stable workforce is a competitive advantage today and this is important for longterm business sustainability. That said, it is still true that talent for doing business globally should be sourced globally. tj
This story appeared in Issue 270 of the Tokyo Journal.
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