top of page

Retaining foreign employees - Don't give vague instructions

The recruitment of new foreign graduates from Japan and abroad is spreading as a global human resources strategy for Japanese companies that are expanding their overseas operations.

However, there are constant reports of cases where foreign staff leave the company after a short period of time.

In this issue, we analyse the factors that cause these resignations and solutions to prevent them from happening from a 'communication' perspective.

Their values are more diverse than those of the Japanese. In many countries, different ethnic, religious and linguistic groups coexist. Furthermore, even within the same group, values differ greatly depending on the social class and human network to which they belong.

Many foreigners who work for Japanese companies have done prior research on Japanese values and work procedures, and know how to 'read the air', 'senpai/kohai' and 'hourenso'.

However, even if they understand them, they are not convinced by all of them.

As part of my global human resource development work, I interviewed a number of foreigners who had worked in Japanese companies, and the reasons for their lack of motivation became clear.

First, the instructions given are vague and the level of feedback varies from one instructor to another.

Secondly, they do not get the opportunity to contribute to the work

The team members were not given the opportunity to contribute to the work. Secondly, they are not given the opportunity to contribute to the work, and are unsure which should be prioritised - playing to their strengths or maintaining teamwork.

In some cases, employees have doubts about being given vague instructions on general day-to-day tasks and expected to behave in the same way as Japanese people.

The following three points are key to preventing this kind of loss of motivation.

(1) Daily small talk

If foreign staff cannot be assured that their behaviour will be accepted, they will repeat small miscommunications that could have been resolved between Japanese people and accumulate anxiety. It is necessary to create an environment where they can easily express their opinions and be flexible enough not to consider their opinions as ego.

(2) Clearly approve achievements on a face-to-face basis.

It is not a case of 'they are good, so they deserve it'. Communicate achievements and evaluations in sufficient terms and listen to their reactions, if any. In other countries, there is a process of detailed reporting to help others understand your actions and results. Often, they do not intend to make 'excuses'. Directing staff may also find that their instructions to people with different values are unsuccessful.

(3) Provide opportunities for foreign staff to contribute to the company.

Providing opportunities for them to present their own ideas and suggestions within the organisation is effective in satisfying their need for recognition.

These points are not different from the measures for Japanese staff.

However, non-Japanese staff make short-lived decisions about whether or not they can maintain their motivation within the company and leave abruptly without consulting others. As it is difficult to identify the signs of a decline in their motivation, it is important to keep communication in mind.

Manuals of communication tips and knowledge about different cultures with them are rarely useful in practice.

It is advisable to treat them as individuals and communicate with them, rather than comparing their values with those of Japanese people based on stereotypical images.

Experts talk about key points on acquiring, developing and utilising human resources.


bottom of page