What do non-Japanese employees expect from human resources staff? - 人事資格認定機構-HRAI-


What do non-Japanese employees expect from human resources staff?



An American woman who worked as a human resource manager at a Japanese bank’s branch in the U.S. told me that one day her boss, a Japanese expatriate, called her over to give her some negative feedback. “All day long, I see people coming to your desk to talk to you. You need to tell them to stop doing that, so that you can concentrate on your job.” Stunned, she replied “But talking to employees is my job! I’m the human resources manager. I need to answer employees’ questions, and address any concerns that they have with the workplace. I need to find out about any emerging issues, so that I can nip them in the bud. In order to do those things, I need to talk with employees. I’m proud that employees come to talk to me so often, it means that they are comfortable with me and they trust me.”


This incident demonstrates the significant difference in thinking about the human resource management function that I often observe between Japanese and people from other countries. In Japan, human resources tends to be a largely administrative function, with a focus on creating and enforcing rules, and handling the data reporting required by the government. In contrast, outside of Japan a crucial component of human resources is employee relations, a term for which I have yet to find an adequate Japanese equivalent. As far as I can tell, the concept doesn’t exist in Japan.


According to BambooHRs online glossary of human resources terms, employee relations is “an organization’s efforts to create and maintain a positive relationship with its employees.” There are two key aspects to employee relations: preventing and resolving problems or disputes between employees and management, and creating and enforcing policies that are fair and consistent for everyone in the workplace.


Key to the concept of employee relations is that the organization prioritizes employees feeling satisfied with their work and working environment, and that the human resources function and the people in it are responsible for ensuring that that happens. This requires a lot of interaction with employees to ensure that they are satisfied, and addressing as quickly as possible any causes of dissatisfaction.


Non-Japanese who work in Japanese organizations are often surprised when listening to and addressing employee concerns does not seem to be a key concern of Japanese human resource department staff. I remind them of this difference in thinking about the role of human resources as an explanation. I’ve also observed that most Japanese organizations have sufficient number of human resource staff to conduct administrative activities, but not enough to also spend significant amounts of time speaking with employee. So at some level it’s a staffing issue too. Also many human resource people in Japan lack training on how to manage human resource issues from an employee-centric perspective.


Different labor market structures


An important factor behind different approaches to human resource management in Japan as compared with other countries is the state of the labor market. Traditionally in Japan, employees joined companies immediately after leaving school, and stayed with the same firm until retirement. Because companies did not hire people other than fresh graduates, the external labor market was under-developed, giving little opportunity to change companies. While this situation meant that employees enjoyed job security, it also meant that if they were dissatisfied with their company, they had no way to extricate themselves with the situation. As a result, companies felt that they didn’t need to worry too much about whether employees were happy, because whether they were or not, they would stay with the company. In other words, turnover was not available as a warning signal of problems.


Recently in Japan more companies have begun to hire people mid-career, and more individuals have become comfortable with the idea of switching jobs. As the job market begins to become more fluid, employers will increasingly need to move toward “job-based employment,” and recently this has become something of a buzzword in Japan.


“Job-based employment” in the context of a fluid labor market is the norm in the United States, and the human resource management practices there have emerged as something of a global standard. By learning more about how talent management, compensation, training and development and performance management are handled in the United States, Japanese human resource managers can prepare themselves both for managing non-Japanese team members today, and for the changes that are happening in the Japanese environment.


Non-Japanese team members, whether it’s overseas or within Japan, will typically expect that Japanese human resource people understand their perspective in terms of how human resource management matters should be handled. By learning what’s typical outside Japan, Japanese human resource managers can understand where non-Japanese employees are coming from, and respond to them effectively.


HRAI’s Essentials of Human Resource Management is an efficient and effective way to quickly get up to speed on how human resources are managed in the United States. And by taking the English or bilingual version, you’ll learn both the concepts and the associated English vocabulary. More info on upcoming sessions is available here.







この出来事は、日本人と外国人の間によく見られる、人事管理機能に対する考え方の大きな違いを示しています。日本では、人事というと、規則を作ってそれを実行したり、政府から要求されるデータの報告を行うなど、管理的な機能が中心です。一方、日本以外の国では、人事の重要な機能に「Employee Relations」があります。ちなみに、私はこれに相当する適切な日本語をまだ見たことがなく、私の知る限り、日本にはこの概念は存在しないようです。


BambooHRのオンライン人事用語集によると、「Employee Relations」とは、「従業員と良好な関係を作り、維持するための組織の努力」とあります。従業員関係には2つの重要な側面があります。それは、従業員と経営陣の間の問題や紛争を防止・解決すること、そして、職場の誰にとっても公平で一貫性のあるポリシーを作成・実施することです。


Employee Relations」の概念の鍵となるのは、組織は従業員がそれぞれの仕事や職場環境に満足していると感じることを優先し、人事部門とそこに所属する人々がそれを確実に実現する責任を負うということです。そのためには、従業員が満足しているかどうかを確認するために、従業員と多くの対話を行い、不満の原因があれば可能な限り迅速に対処する必要があります。














HRAIの「Essentials of Human Resource Management」コースを受講することは、米国での人事管理の方法を迅速に理解するための効率的かつ効果的な方法です。また、英語版またはバイリンガル版を受講することで、コンセプトと関連する英単語の両方を学ぶことができます。今後のセッションの詳細については、こちらをご覧ください。