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7 Attributes of local employees that Japanese companies are looking for

During my last career as a consultant to the Japanese companies in Indonesia, I met many local directors and managers.   I saw some local staff promoted to the directors throughout their career.

Of course if you can speak Japanese, it is a definitely advantage to work at Japanese companies.  But none of these directors speak Japanese, but they still made the directors.  Then what are the attributes that these local directors have in common?

The followings are the attributes of the local directors that I observed.

  1. Honesty

If you do not understand or you do not think that you can do what you are asked to do,  please tell them so.  I saw many cases where the local employees could not say “no”.   Then they ended up in difficult position as they could not deliver the results as expected.  If they could tell that they could not do or did not know how to do at first place, the problems did not become bigger.

2. Diligence

Diligence will take you much further in Japanese companies rather than only with your original knowledge and expertise.   Hard working is well received in Japanese companies.

3.  Willing to learn

Open minded to learn some Japanese way and their company culture and adjust some of your working style will help you to work in Japanese companies.

4.  Politeness

As the Japanese put emphasis on seniority and customer service, if you  behave politely to the senior and customers especially, you will be more accepted at Japanese companies. 

5.  Reporting regularly to the boss

Reporting is important in Japanese business culture.  Stand alone play and not reporting regularly to the boss will not be appreciated. 

6.  Quick response

Often Japanese are expecting to receive replies to their emails quickly.  It is not important to reply in full, but you can write to them to tell that you have received emails and you will reply to their query as soon as you can,  and this is sufficient.  

I was once surprised that my colleague came to look for me during the meeting as my client asked him to look for me as I did not reply to his email for 1 hour.    But then I was already in the meeting when he sent me an email 1 hour ago and also the email was not even urgent in nature.  

I was also told by my clients very often that my colleagues did not reply to their emails for some time.   Therefore, this attribute was one of the points I have always told my clients when they do business with the Japanese companies.

7.  Loyalty

Japanese have the Company culture that believes in-house training for personal growth of their employees. Typically they hire the staff as fresh graduates and train them throughout their career.   They cherish the long term employees who are loyal to the Company so that they can be trained.  This is the reason that many Japanese companies send their promising local staff to the HQ in Japan as executive trainees to learn their company culture and policies.

The Japanese are known as loyal, although it takes time for them to trust you.  But when they trust you, you will be given more responsibility. The Japanese directors normally stay in the subsidiaries only from 3 to 5 years.  So if you are proven to be loyal and trusted by the Japanese management,  you could be the key person in the operation who has more knowledge of the operation than the Japanese management.

It takes time to climb up the Company ladder.  I saw many local employees could not wait to be promoted, but chose to move to another Japanese company which offered them a higher position.   Of course, this approach also gives you the advantages to be promoted from staff to manager in shorter period, but then you can be promoted again to higher position in the new company.  But please remember that it takes time to earn trust of Japanese management and to be promoted further.

The above 7 attributes are not exhaustive but this might give you some guidance for what the Japanese companies are expecting from the local employees.

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