HRM Practices in Japan

Japan’s complex and dynamic society has undergone a colossal change in the past 25 years. It has converted itself from a feudal state into a modern industrialized nation as well as an economic superpower. According to the traditional practices, the wage system based on seniority (nenko- joretsu) ,status and seniority were on the basis of length of service rather than on the merits or the duties. In Japan the workers take the responsibility and in order to protect their superiors from loss of face the accept the blame themselves.

The ultimate decision used to come from the top even though the subordinates know that they have the potential to take decisions on their own. “They keep their decisions to themselves, rarely expressing true feelings (honne). Japanese managers humbly decline to take credit for personal achievements even when credit is due”. The employees cooperate with each other to complete the task so that there is no need for involving the boss. (Engholm,1991). In Japan “Operationally the workers belong to production teams with fluid job assignments”.

As they are being rotated through different departments they gain a broader knowledge on production. “The breakdown of the keiretsu (interfirm network) system of cross shareholding and preferential trading among members corporations of a business group (Gerlach,1992) has badly hurt the safety net of supporting the long term growth strategy of Japanese firms and their ability to protect employees from downside market risks”. (Lincoln et al. ,1996). Nowadays the aging workforce is creating burden on firms because of the policies of permanent employment and seniority system.

Earlier, these systems were apt for the employers as it resulted in permanent employment which “reduced uncertainties and costs of high staff turnover”. The transition of Japan to a service economy combined with so socio cultural and socio-economic changes had a great impact on the employment institutions in Japan. “Employment practices of sales and service firms are different from those of manufacturing. Their younger force is more mobile, less committed to work and the firm”. In the service sector the individual performance can be measured easily since the work in these types of organizations are less team based.

“Accordingly, occupational skills are valued over firm specific skills, so that broad job experience becomes the main driver of wages and performance rather than loyalty to one employer”. (Debroux,1997; Lincoln & Nakata,1997; Ornatowski,1998). The women in the traditional male dominated Japanese economy are standing up (Kenny et al,1998). Professional young women are rising to new high-tech ventures where gender does not matters much. But still there are no female directors on Japanese board of major corporations. Hiring mid-career professionals is still a problem in Japan.

The termination of employee is significantly more difficult in Japan than in Western countries. Earlier, the compensation was based on age and seniority rather than on the performance or position but now some companies are “resorting to utilizing lateral hiring for special tasks, hiring younger workers to replace older employees who have been downsized, and paying existing and new employees based on performance and experience. ” (Abdullah, Rashid; Ahmad, Zalena; Jusoff, Kamaruzaman(Nov. 2009) ‘An overview of the Changes and Practices in the Japanese Human Resource Management’ Vol. 1, No.

7. Available from URL:http://search. proquest. com) Conclusion The HRM practices in Korea can be compared with the HRM practices in Japan. Japanese management practices are known world wide in comparison with those of Korea. This is because of the economic success of Japanese companies in the past. Though there are certain cultural and structural similarities between the management practices of 2 countries “such as dominance of powerful conglomerate companies”. “The Korean management model is characterized by Chaebol, a tight collusion between government and industrial conglomerates”.

However no such societies are found in the Japanese model. (Weihrich,Heinz ; Koontz,Herald ‘Eseentials of Management-An International Perspective’(8th Edition), New Delhi, Tata McGraw Hill Education Private Limited, Chapter 3, p. 57) In Japan the concept of harmony and cohesion is expressed in the concept of wa. Similarly in Korea there is a concept known as Inhwa which also translates into harmony. But here there is less emphasis on group values as compared with Japan. The labour turnover rates in Korea are high in contrast with the low rates in Japan. This is so because the lifetime employment concept does not prevail in Korea.

“Turnover is primarily attributable to resignations rather than dismissals”. Unlike Japanese organizations, the organizations in Korea are quite hierarchial with family members occupying the key positions. And in Japan the key positions are held by the senior employees who have served in the organization for long time. This is because of the concept of lifetime employment followed here. Relating both the countries with the dimensions of Hofstede Study it can be concluded that both Korea and Japan have an inclination towards masculinity. They are ranked high on the masculinity/ feminity index.

The another dimension of Hofstede study is large power distance or small power distance. Japan and Korea both come under the jonor of large power distance. Emphasis is laid on the centralization of power, and on the ranks and titles. There is respect for authority. Like for example in Japan the subordinates take blame on themselves to protect their boss from loss of face. Secondly, though they know they are capable of taking decisions but still the decisions are taken by superior. Similarly in Korea the decision of the person in authority is seldom challenged. Then comes another dimension i. e. individualism vs. collectivism.

In Korea there is collectivism. Emphasis is laid on human relations and priority is given to group goals. Similarly in Japan the employees cooperate with each other so that there is no need to involve the superiors. At last it can be concluded that though there are various similarities between the management practices of Korea and Japan. But still Korean management is different from the Japanese management styles. The government, the policy makers and the management should keep in mind the cultural dimension of their country as well as of the other nations while introducing any new policy or reforming the old ones.

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