Categories: Global Talent Management

Building a Successful Team (BCCJ Acumen)

(Originally Published in BCCJ Acumen Magazine September 2014 Edition)

Building A Successful Team

by Anna Pinsky, BCCJ Vice President

As part of our plans to increase the accessibility and transparency of the work of the BCCJ executive committee (excom), you will see more articles over the coming months from different members of our 2014–15 excom. In this issue I am taking the opportunity to share some insights from my own 15 years of experience working and living in Japan.

I am an organisational development specialist. My first experience of Japan was at the age of 17, when I worked as a volunteer in two Leonard Cheshire Disability’s homes for the handicapped, located in the Kansai region.

A scholarship from Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology provided an opportunity for me to return to complete a Masters degree.

I have spent most of my professional career working with British organisations, often during their start-up stage in Japan. This has given me the opportunity to observe some of the common pitfalls experienced by new market entrants.

It is well known that Japan is one of the most difficult countries in which to recruit the necessary quality of talent. In fact, ManpowerGroup’s 2014 Talent Shortage Survey of over 37,000 employers in 42 countries cited Japan as the most challenging market for filling job vacancies.

Securing quality bilingual staff is usually one of the first priorities in setting up an office in Japan, but the limited availability of experienced bilingual talent means that finding the right candidate can be fraught with difficulties.

The eigoya problem
Part of this challenge relates to eigoya, a term used in the local HR community to describe candidates possessing excellent English skills but lacking basic business knowledge.

An eigoya-type candidate could be an individual who has spent most of his or her career focusing on developing close-to-perfect English language skills to the detriment of gaining business knowledge and expertise.

He/she may come across as eloquent and persuasive in an interview context but, once hired, struggles to build rapport with others and fails to develop the working relationships necessary to carry out the role.

The accidental hiring of an eigoya candidate is not uncommon. This type of poor hiring decision usually is made when the interviewer does not speak Japanese and is lulled into a false sense of security by the candidate’s high level of English, forgetting to thoroughly check their experience and track record.

Richard Boggis-Rolfe, chairman of recruitment firm Odgers Berndtson, emphasised the danger of hiring based on one’s gut feeling, at one of our BCCJ events earlier this year. He mentioned the importance of preparing a clear and prioritised list of requirements for the role and using this list in a disciplined way.

This helps ensure that candidates are compared and selected based on objective criteria, and that the final hiring decision is not overly influenced by other subjective or emotional factors.

For particularly crucial positions, one way to better grasp candidates’ people skills is to arrange for them to take part in a simulated work project.

This could entail a short role play, in which the candidate has to address an issue relating to a subordinate’s poor performance, and would offer a more precise indication of the candidate’s communication skills and ability to develop rapport.

Look for potential
Another way that some firms have overcome the hiring challenge is expanding the list of acceptable candidates to include individuals who have 80–90% of the English language skills required for the role.

I have seen some firms successfully build a strong team by identifying individuals who may not have the necessary standard of English at the time of the interview, but who have the right attitude and level of motivation to improve their fluency in a comparatively short time upon entering the organisation.

There is no one right solution to finding and developing the best talent for your business in Japan, but I hope these hints and tips will help your business avoid one of the common difficulties.



Networking as a part of Employee Development (BCCJ Acumen Article)

by Anna
Published on: February 1, 2014
Comments: No Comments

Benefits of Networking as part of Employee Development – on behalf of the Executive Committee of the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan

(Originally Published in BCCJ Acumen Magazine January 2014 Edition)

Making the Most of Membership

by Anna Pinsky

• Alternative form of staff development
• Free seats available at most functions
• Chance to apply skills with diverse crowds

As a member of the BCCJ Executive Committee with a focus on organisational efficiency and development, I believe many of our member companies and individuals may not be reaping the full benefits of their membership in the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan.

Many BCCJ partners may already know that free seats are available at BCCJ events for Entrepreneur, Corporate, Corporate Plus and Platinum members. Are you and your company taking advantage of this?

I would like to take this opportunity to discuss the additional advantages of this membership benefit. In particular, having staff attend chamber events is a great way to offer and promote employee development.

Exposure to many cultures
Global talent development, or gurobaru jinzai, continues to be a hot topic in Japan. The concept has been recognised by government, business and higher education leaders as one of the key challenges facing Japanese businesses, whether it applies to plans for expanding abroad or for building international partnerships on a domestic level.

The announcement of Tokyo’s selection as the host of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games has also put the issue in focus. There is now a great deal of pressure on firms to speed up workforce development to enable staff to work more effectively in multicultural situations.

With this increased need for staff who can effectively function in multicultural teams, it is more important than ever to expose staff to situations in which they can mix with people of different nationalities and backgrounds.

Participation in multicultural networking events, such as those provided by the BCCJ, is one way to provide this type of exposure opportunity.

Often overlooked training tool
Talent development is not just about teaching new skills or imparting knowledge. It’s about developing a workforce that is better able to adapt to a future that promises increasingly rapid and unpredictable changes.

Classroom training has traditionally been seen as the standard for developing staff. However, more firms are now expanding their menu of growth opportunities to include coaching, mentoring, on-the-job-training, action learning and online learning, among other methods.

Among the training tools employed, peer networking or networking with other organisations are often overlooked.

Providing opportunities for staff to network and meet other individuals in either the same or different industries can expose them to new perspectives and ideas, which they can take back to the workplace to approach problem-solving in a more innovative manner.

A break from the normal working environment can also enable people to view business issues with fresh eyes and explore ways to address issues that might not have been apparent before.

Perhaps most importantly, networking is worthwhile because it allows staff to interact with, and learn from, a diverse group of individuals.

Such interaction helps people develop the skills to more readily adapt to an unpredictable future, thereby better positioning your business for long-term growth and success.

Applying skills in real time
The field of personnel development used to rely heavily on teaching new technical knowledge or soft skills.

However, personnel development goes beyond such traditional measures; it is also about providing opportunities for real-world practice of newly acquired skills or knowledge.

In addition, a core function of individual development relates to increasing self-awareness, or insight into one’s own strengths and weaknesses.

A healthy level of self-awareness enables people to take control of their own development and be more proactive about finding new learning avenues, rather than simply waiting for direction from their bosses or human resources.

Networking is valuable in that it allows staff to apply new competencies, such as communication strategies, with different types of people. It also is an opportunity to refine self-awareness, because individuals can observe how people from a wide variety of backgrounds respond to their personal communication style.

Last but not least, networking can lead to higher motivation among staff who attend events such as those organised by the BCCJ, as attendees feel more valued when their company provides opportunities for new experiences above and beyond the daily tasks at the office.

Next steps
BCCJ members receive regular updates on upcoming events through various communication mediums, including our Weekly Round Up (WRU) sent via e-mail and notices on social media channels.

Try forwarding the WRU to your human resources or training and development department, and encourage them to consider BCCJ free seats as a new type of development opportunity that can complement the current training offerings for high-potential staff.



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