By James Santagata
Principal Consultant, SiliconEdge
In response to Richard Solomon's (Beacon Reports) very thoughtful piece first questioning and then analyzing the ability of Japanese firms to complete globally (see: Can Japanese Firms Compete In Global Markets?), I had written an article entitled "Can Japan Compete Globally? You Betcha And Here's Why".
The purpose of my article was not only to surface and then to debunk what I see as a plethora of Myths and Memes that continually surface in the media and in our daily conversations regarding Japan but also to help us all question the other Myths and Memes that govern our lives.
Of the many comments I've received, I'm mostly interested in the comments that disagree with my article or point of view because these help test the soundness of the arguments I've forwarded.
Here is an example of a common but very thoughtful response which is in disagreement with my arguments:
I say "not yet" (Japan can't compete) - because of the inner structure of Japanese companies. Everything takes just too long. They are usually too late, so foreign competitors, for instance Indians have already landed deals while Japanese still circle around decisions."
Here's my reply to such comments.
I. Speed of Decision Making: What Is The Real Value?
No one with any amount of first hand Japan business experience will doubt or question the generally molasses-like decision making process found within Japanese companies and organizations.
However, the speed of decision making is just but one important aspect of a country's competitiveness although, to be sure, there are first mover / early mover advantages to be had as well as disadvantages to consider and avoid. There is also the timing of a decision for economic or other reasons to consider.
But beyond the speed of decision making, it would be wise to consider both the quality of decision and decision making process as well as the ability to execute effectively.
II. The Empirics Trump The Myth & Meme
For for all its warts, blemishes and shortcomings, Japan is still the number three economy in the world.
Japan's GDP stands at 5,87 billion USD.
India's GDP stands at 1.89 billion USD.
Japan's GDP is 3.1 times larger than India's. Or conversely India's GDP is just 32% of Japan. Put in yet another way, India's GDP is less than one-third the size of Japan's.
Can it be any clearer than this?
(notes: recently we have seen large fluctuations in exchange rates,especially with regard to the devaluation of the rupee; see BBC News - Indian rupee falls to new low against US dollar, August 28, 2013; these GDP figures come from 2011; ).
Now let's consider the case of India further.
III. Analyzing The Indian Case
If Indian decision makers or the Indian decision making process is so fast, why is their economy (in terms of GDP) still in only 10th place?
Remember, India's GDP is still just 32% of Japan's. This means the Japanese can effectively stop working for 68% of the year or 8 months and still enjoy an economy that is just barely larger, but still larger, than India's.
This then begs the question, "What deals are the Indian's getting that the Japanese aren't and how come these deals aren't moving India to the point of producing a GDP which is greater than Japan's?"
Moreover, we must but this into perspective that India, like China, is a very huge country. India has over 1.2 billion people and many natural resources. Japan by comparison has only 127 million people, so the Indian population is 10 times larger than Japan's yet the Indian economy is only 32% as large of Japan's.
I understand that over twenty years of myths and memes can condition us to believe things to be or to seem different than they really are. But Japan is still the number three economy in the world and for good reason -- Japan and the Japanese know how to compete.
IV. Abenomics & The Near Future
In a future article, entitled "Can Japan Compete Globally? You Betcha And Here's How", I will detail exactly how Japan can retool and restructure to compete even better.
Lastly. and again for the record, I'm highly critical of Abenomics and I think his approach as well as the actual implementation of it, especially the huge devaluation of the yen, was a massive error and with that error, a perfect opportunity was missed for Japan to prime the catapult and launch itself beyond China to again retake the number two position in world economic rankings.
By James Santagata
Principal Consultant, SiliconEdge
Richard Solomon of Beacon Reports recently wrote a very thoughtful piece first questioning and then analyzing the ability of Japanese firms to complete globally (see: Can Japanese Firms Compete In Global Markets?)
I. Myths & Memes
As so often happens with this and many other topics, ranging from war to innovation to relationships and dating, the question itself is beset if not hobbled with a series of Myths and Memes which we'll explore and unravel together in a series of future articles. However, in case you're curious or just can't wait, here are just a few of the Myths and Memes we'll be considering:
1. The Myth of a Failing Japan
2. The Myth of Japan's Lost Decade
3. The Myth of Japan's Deflationary Economy
4. The Myth of a Non-innovative & Non-creative Japan
5. China Hype
6. The Myth that Falling Populations are Disastrous for Countries
7. The Myth of the Uncontested Benefits of Immigration
8. The Myth of the Uncontested Benefits of Diversity (what is diversity, actually?)
9. The Myth of the Monolithic VC
10. The Myth of the Monolithic Japanese
11.The Myth of Japan, Inc.
12. The Myth of Innovation as a panacea for a lack of business acumen or the inability to operationally execute
...and many, many others...
II. Are Japanese Baseball Players Good Enough For Major League Baseball?
My first thought upon reading this article was simply how it parallels this modern reality: Are Japanese baseball players good enough for major league baseball?
Think about it.
We used to ask this very same question about Japanese baseball players. Could Japanese baseball players really make it in the major leagues? Sure, we all knew that the Japanese players were solid players, they were good no one disputed that, but we wanted to know could the Japanese baseball players really make it in the major leagues? (see: The New Age Of Japanese Baseball-Player Media Coverage Sam Robinson May 9, 2008)
Well, I think both the number and performance of Japanese players in the major leagues over the last 10 years has finally put that "question" to bed once and for all. In fact, there has been such an exodus of talented Japanese baseball players headed for the major leagues in recent years that many Japanese who, on the one hand, are proud of the accomplishments of their fellow countrymen in this regard, are on the other hand, bemoaning the loss of such players and worrying about how it may not only negatively impact the domestic (Japanese) baseball league but actually kill it. (see: MLB's Effect on Japan: Is the MLB destroying Japan's national pastime? by Robert Whiting, April 11, 2007)
From my vantage point there are two answers to the "Can Japan compete globally?" question and these answers address that question from both an historical and present day perspective.
III. Can Japan Compete Globally On A Military Basis?
From historical records we know that the Japanese can compete globally, industrially, culturally and, yes, even militarily. So let's start with the military perspective. Militarily, the fierce fighting tactics and spirits of Japanese soldiers during WWII lead to horrific allied battle casualties, both physical and psychological (see: Thousand Yard Stare), that in many cases easily outstripped what was encountered in the European theater (although there are obviously some exceptions). And, of course, some of the fiercest battles of WWII were held in the Pacific theater: Tarawa. Saipan. Midway. Coral Sea. Marshall Islands, Eniwetok. Guadalcanal. Iwo Jima, and, of course, Okinawa all come to mind along with the horrific casualties and often senseless loss of life among both soldier and civilian.
IV. Can Japan Compete Globally Today On A Business Basis?
Okay, so we've talked about sports, big deal.
And we've talked about the military aspect, which is a done deal.
But what about the business front? Can Japan compete globally today? In fact, we may even be questioning if Japan has ever been able to compete globally.
Well, to answer this, historically Japanese companies have fiercely competed on a global basis for over 45 years, which is one of the primary reasons why Detroit is now bankrupt, why the US automotive industry was ravaged beyond recognition, why the US steel industry was decimated and why the US found the need to enact both the Trade Act of 1974 / Section 301 and later Super 301 (see: Super 301: A Trade 'Monster' It Isn't by Reginald Dale, April 9, 1993 and Super 301: The Yugo of U.S. Trade Policy by Bryan Riley, Heartland Institute).
The Japanese were also extremely competitive and disruptive (think game changers) in audio systems (Sony Walkman, anyone?), televisions (Sony Trinitron tubes, anyone?), video cassette records (Sony, JVC and others), fax machines and video games (think the Magnavox Odyssey which predated Atari's Pong by almost three years and Nintendo after the implosion of Atari and Mattel's Intellivision when pundits declared video games as dead and "just a passing fad")..
More shockingly to many Americans, and especially to the technologists in Silicon Valley, was that this Japanese competitiveness also extended deep into the heart of the vaunted US high-tech industry including the design of semiconductors as well as the development and sales of capital equipment used to fabricate them.
Few outside of Silicon Valley (or the semiconductor industry) may remember, but firms like Intel (which was deeply invested in the DRAM business at the time) were under heavy Japanese price competition and were along with semiconductor processing-equipment industry leader Applied Materials perilously close to bankruptcy.
This fact was the driving force for the subsequent establishment of SEMATECH (Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology) which began operating in 1988 as a partnership between the United States government and 14 U.S.-based semiconductor manufacturers.
And it should be duly noted that this was in direct response to the power and impact of the Japanese semiconductor industry's massive success in the early and mid-1980's. Japanese competitiveness in this arena was soon seen as a threat to US national security which lead the U.S. Department of Defense's DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) to kick in approximately $500 million USD (see: Lessons from Sematech by Robert D. Hof, July 25, 2011).
At the same time, under President Ronald Reagan, the Japanese automotive industry which running circles around the likes of General Motors, AMC, Ford and Chrysler was "persuaded" (read: threatened at knife point) to agree to and to accept "voluntary export restraints" or VER for short which initially limited the Japanese automakers to exporting 1.68 million cars to the U.S. annually (see 1981 Automobile VER) .
This "voluntary agreement" was pushed for by the decidedly non-competitive US automotive industry which effectively told consumers, "we're getting our butts whipped here, in our own marketplace and w can't compete, so we're going to force you to buy a product you don't want to buy (our domestic automobiles) or likewise if you won't buy our domestic cars we'll make sure you pay much more and far above the market price for any product that we don't want you to have!"
Predictably, the loser in all of this was the US auto consumer. According to Daniel K. Benjamin (see: Voluntary Export Restraints On Automobiles, PERC Report: Volume 17, No.3, Fall 1999):
The big losers were American car buyers, particularly those who (like me) opted to purchase Japanese vehicles even in the face of their higher prices. Overall, American consumers suffered a loss of some $13 billion, measured in 1983 dollars. After accounting for the higher profits of American automakers, the U.S. economy as a whole thus suffered welfare losses totaling some $3 billion due to the restraints on Japanese car exports.
Meanwhile, the Japanese automotive industry responded like clockwork as any economist worth their salt had predicted. They switched their lower priced, value-based automotive offerings to a higher price point and began to offer a premium priced product mix which ultimately kicked off the luxury lines we know today as Toyota's Lexus, Honda's Acura and Nissan's Infiniti. At the time, there was much talk, most of it negative if not derisive, about the seemingly disastrous decision of the Japanese automakers to try and "make up" the losses incurred by the "voluntary export restraint" by moving up market with a higher price point for the limited quantity of cars that the US government allowed the Japanese to sell into the US market. The Japanese success in this move upward to the premium market segment is now legendary (see: A Short History of Japanese Luxury Cars, by Michelle Krebs, May 22, 2006 Business Week).
Beyond this, Japanese automakers began to set up assembly facilities in the US (the so-called auto transplants) but to the frustration and consternation of both the US automotive labor unions and the US domestic automakers themselves, the Japanese automakers wisely sidestepped Detroit and other bastions of high-cost, low-quality labor production and instead set up shop in business friendly states that offered an eager and ready-to-work non-union labor workforce along with often mouth-watering tax incentives to setup shop (see: These are America's 15 busiest auto plants by Chris Tutor, July 6, 2012; 70% of Japanese Cars Sold in U.S. Now Built in North American Plants by Paul A. Eisenstein, January 2, 2012; Japanese car makers in America: Twenty years down the road by The Economist, September 12, 2002).
V. Yeah But Today Is Different And Japanese Firms Can't Complete Globally Because They Lack Innovation And Creativity
Okay, I can hear what you're thinking -- "Sure we all know that Japan used to be competitive globally, but that was then, this is now."
Well, hold on a moment.
Have you considered that for decades Japan has been the second largest economy in the world, while residing on a tiny island, devoid of almost any natural resources save for the skills of her people and further possessing only half the population of the US?
You probably haven't considered that as the US press, if not the world press, has been obsessed with their China Hype stories. The fact is, the US press has been carrying the water for the Chinese "economic miracle" for the last 25 years.
This Japanese success story becomes even more amazing when you consider that were it not for the intervention of the US government using their full power along with some heavy implied threats, the Japanese steel and automakers would have completely crushed the US auto industry in its entirety and not through chicanery or deception mind you but simply through their efforts to provide a better product offering that consumers would willingly and more than gladly cast their dollar votes for -- pure economic democracy in action.
But this economic democracy wasn't good enough for US industry or the US trade unions -- the folks wanted a "recount".
By the same token, the semiconductor industry would most likely have suffered even deeper damage than it did had not SEMATECH and the US DOD along with DARPA stepped into the breech.
Against this Japan success story, let's now consider China for if Japan is the western media's favorite whipping boy, China is its golden boy. And yet for all the spilled ink, for all of the western media's hype, blatant cheer leading and water even carrying for Team China, China has, in fact, just recently and only barely eclipsed Japan as the world's second biggest economy.
That's right. Japan is now the world's third largest economy and China is number two.
To put this in perspective, we need to understand that China is a huge nation which occupies a land mass larger than the US and it has ten times the population of Japan. On top of that, I would be remiss not to mention that China also claims to be one of the oldest cultures in the history of the world and the center of civilization (I'll address that myth and its true meaning and implications in a future article).
It is true, however, that Japanese firms currently have some very heavy sticking points and difficult if not dire issues to contend with, but it would be a fatal mistake for any company or country to assume that the Japanese are "down and out" just as it for fatal for both the French and the US military to assume that the Viet Cong were really a bunch of down and out uneducated peasants (and we'll explore this, the lessons learned from Vietnam, the metrics used as well as the Cu Chi tunnel network in future articles).
Japanese workers are smart, diligent and contrary to popular Western opinion, they are extremely creative and innovative. Now, to our Western sensitivities and according to our own cultural biases along with our myths and memes which we project onto Japan and the Japanese, my statement may sound ridiculous if not blasphemous.
However it's true and I've addressed this mythical lack of innovation and creativity on the part of the Japanese in detail before and its supposed deleterious affect on the Japanese economy (see: Japan's Problem: Severe Lack Of Leadership Not A Lack Of Innovation Or Creativity, Stuart Braun, July 11, 2013 The Globe & Mail ).
But wait, if Japanese doesn't lack innovation or creativity what does it lack?
What Japan lacks is leadership, pure and simple.
This lack of leadership isn't new for Japan. We've seen this many times in the past, including militarily during the Battle of Midway where Japanese military leadership agonized indecisively over the arming of carrier planes with bombs or torpedoes.
At the same time as Japan has been labelled as "failing" (imagine how laughable that is, that the world's third largest economy can somehow be labelled with a straight face as "failing" and more importantly what does that say about the rest of the world's economies?), countries like China, are given a free ride as something "special and unique" when they have competed primarily only as a low wage producer.
(continued below the recent video showing the dangerous levels of Chinese air pollution)
Recent example of Chinese air pollution (10/22/2013)
Worse, China's lower wage has been primarily enabled through the generation of massive negative economic externalities including the polluting and poisoning of the Chinese air, land and waterways to the point that Chinese children can't play safely outside (see: Air pollution takes toll on China's tourism by Louise Watt, August 13, 2013), there are worries of environmental poisoning including cadmium, and food is increasingly being imported by the Chinese to avoid the chance of being poisoned by domestic foodstuffs.
This poisonous air, by the way, has even greatly affected Japan's air quality (see: Scientist Says Pollution From China Is Killing a Japanese Island’s Trees by Martin Fackler, April 24, 2013) and its even been detected as causing some smog in Los Angeles! (see: Smog in the Western U.S.: Blame China? by Margot Roosevelt, January 20, 2010)
Now what about Japan's supposed lack of innovation? Japan has often been derided for its supposed lack of innovation and creativity, but where exactly, pray tell, is China's innovation and creativity? Is it found in the sweatshop-like conditions of mega-manual assembly cities run by firms like Foxconn -- and let's be honest, Foxconn is a Taiwanese firm not Chinese anyway.
Or is this Chinese innovation found in China's riding Russia's coattails to "leap" into outerspace, under the guidance of Russian scientists and technicians as well as using the Russian cosmonaut training protocols and facilities?
Yes, Japan can compete. In fact, it's restructuring and it's retooling itself now to not just compete but to up its game.
The real question to me then and, in fact, the biggest question in all of this is simply why are Westerners, on the whole, not able to clearly see this?
And more importantly why is Japan almost always categorized as occupying one of two extremes, either the monolithic, robotic, heartless and lobotimized "Japan, Inc." (a modernized if not somewhat sanitized version of the Yellow Peril meme) or as a perennial basket case, the so-called Sick Man of Asia?
In the early 1880's the US Navy sent Admiral Matthew C. Perry and his Black Ships to Japan to force Japan to open up to international trade against her will. And on March 31, 1854, the US Navy brought enough firepower that the Convention of Kanagawa was "successfully" concluded.
By 1983, and almost exactly 150 years to the day that Admiral Perry forcibly opened Japan, Japan was seen to have fully rebuilt itself from the ashes and wanton wholesale destruction of WWII into a veritable economic powerhouse and Japan was all too happy to play the international trade game.
How ironic, then to see that the very progeny of the men who forced open the gates of economic trade with Japan, were not beneath hiding behind their skirts while crying out loud like little school girls in a B-rated horror flick that the US government should immediately slam shut the trade door with Japan because these business "men" realized that they just couldn't compete.
A Comparison Between Japanese & Danish Work Environments & Its Influence On Work Life Balance (Part 3) (Kim Pedersen / Roukan.com)
A Comparison Between Japanese & Danish Work Environments & Its Influence On Work Life Balance, Part 3
By Kim Pedersen (Guest Blogger)
Originally, roukan.com was created in an effort to contribute to the improvement of the Japanese working environment. The reason for this is that having worked for both Japanese and Danish companies in a number of different roles I had been privy to seeing two completely different working environments and most importantly how these work environments affect a company, the workers' productivity and the workers' quality of life. I will try to describe some of the key differences between the two countries below. Please bear mind that this description obviously will include some generalizations so it will not necessarily fit nor describe all companies. That said, it does describe and compare the most common differences and I hope you find it useful.
In Denmark, there are many workers who are very happy and satisfied with their job. They are professionals and they want to make a difference for their company. Further, they are actively engaged in the company’s activities and they contribute any way they can. This also means that they may well find it necessary sometimes to express an opinion which goes against their boss's opinion if their professional knowledge tells them that it is in the interest of the company to do so. This is not only considered completely legitimate behavior, it is expected behavior in the Danish work place. This is the ethos of the Danish work environment: As a worker, you are paid to contribute to the company with all of your knowledge and you, therefore, must speak up when you have critical knowledge or information. When you do so, you will typically be respected by your co-workers and even management for sharing your honest opinions and knowledge. In general, there is a good atmosphere in the Danish work place where the interaction between employees and superiors is sound and healthy. A healthy interaction, in turn, makes it possible for the company to find critical issues in time and to develop lucrative alternatives that nobody in the management layer of the company may have thought of or previously considered. There many advantages to be gained by respecting your workers and giving them the opportunity and right to speak up as well as giving them credit for and acknowledging their contributions.
Compared to this Danish working environment, however, a lot of Japanese people tend to think that work not fun, but a necessity, a burden or duty we all bear and that we have do our best at. Of course it depends on the person you ask, but as time goes by, many Japanese tend to get settled in their present situation and think that that's just the way things are. They are very proud of their jobs, but as Westerner, sometimes you wonder, what about it is about their job that they are so proud of. Japanese companies, by and large, are known for creating “Yes-men”, meaning whatever the superior officer orders, the worker must obey and follow. The worker's professional opinion is often secondary or even totally ignored no matter the situation or the effectiveness of his opinion. This really reality can really damage a person’s pride and directly and negatively impact his degree of satisfaction with life. This dissatisfaction most often comes out on display after working hours, when Japanese workers go to an “Izakaya” (Japanese-style pub) together, and engage in shop talk and bitch sessions about their bosses. And so it goes day in and day out, month in and month out, year after year. It's a never ending story for many Japanese workers. Yet, Japanese workers seem to have accepted that this is how things work as most of them just don’t know any other way nor see any other alternatives to their present situation.
This way of working, however, does not create a healthy environment for the company as professional opinions are often suppressed in favor of the pride of "face" of the manager. Globally speaking, this is bad business but it actually still works domestically Japan, as all of the other companies are working the same way and similarly hamstrung. So in the Japanese domestic situation this kind of working environment simply lowers the workers' quality of life, lowers competitiveness and productivity across the board while it creates and maintains a continually tense atmosphere which leads to high stress levels among the employees. Unsurprisingly, such a tense atmosphere is often noticed by the firm's customers, giving the company a bad reputation as well from the customer perspective.
There are other huge differences between Japanese and Danish working environments. One of them is working hours. In Japan, it is common to have non-paid overtime, or “service overtime” (service = free in Japanese) as it is called. This is the part of your overtime work that you don’t get payment for. This would never happen in Denmark, unless you were hired for a leading position with a fairly high salary. In Japan, it is illegal to force your workers to do “service overtime”, but nevertheless it seems like everybody is doing it. Of the responses we have gotten so far at roukan.com, there are many Japanese claiming that they have more than 100 hours of non-paid or “service overtime” each month! That averages out to more than 3 hours a day and that assumes you worked Saturday and Sunday, too. And please keep in mind, this is for the ordinary workers and staff not for executives holding high ranking positions. When we look for the reasons why they work so much overtime every day, we usually find that it is not because they are unproductive but that they cannot go home before their superior officer goes home or, for instance, because they are ordered to do much more work than can be done within the time frame of their normal working hours. Such a long , grueling working day makes you tired the next day, too, before you even arrive at your work place. It further decreases the workplace productivity (and often quality) creating even more overtime which turns into a vicious cycle. When you then consider that the overtime work is couple with long commuting times, often an hour or more (each way) on an overcrowded train where most are forced to stand, then you understand that for many Japanese, life can be pretty tough.
As a comparison, in Denmark nobody really works overtime without getting properly paid as Danish unions see to that. Moreover, working frequent overtime means that you receive a higher payment at the end of the month. And if you work on Saturdays and Sundays your payment can be doubled as compensation for having less quality time with your family. So if you work one Saturday, you might in return be able to take two days off later. No wonder then that the life satisfaction degree is extremely high in Denmark while it is very low in Japan. In fact, comparing the two countries work-life balance and life satisfaction indices says it all.
In Denmark, workers are usually expected to do their job within their working hours. This means that they are usually more focused on getting the job done in time, so that they can go home at 5 o’clock or whenever they normally return home. After work, Danes go home and spend time with family and friends where as Japanese typically stay at the office late, work a bit and talk to colleagues and then go to an izakaya, coming home very late and having very little time to spend with their families. It is not uncommon for many Japanese to miss most of their children’s upbringing. What a difference!
It's actually easy for Japan to change this practice, but they are often stuck in the way they have always done things and can’t get out of it. It is a vicious cycle built on and bound by tradition.
Japan, by the way, is one of few countries in reporting separate statistics of karoshi (過労死), which literally means death-by-overwork (ka = over, rou = work, shi = death).
I think it is fair to state that the employer has a humane obligation to choose a way of leading the company which is not directly responsible for creating unhappy employees or maybe even causing death or disablement. This raises a question about ethics and morale. However, if it's obvious that improving the working environment does not necessarily cost the company a fortune, and that an improved working environment also leads to higher productivity and thus higher profits, then there would seem to be no reasons for not improving the working environment.
The interesting thing is that if you compare Japanese and Danish workers, Danish workers are far more efficient and productive than Japanese workers. Japanese workers have the worst possible working environment while also being far less productive than the Danish workers who in turn have one of the best working environments in the world. And this is the whole purpose related to working environment -- to find the right balance between working environment, cost and profit and the workers' satisfaction with both work and life.
In my next article, I will go deeper into which areas in a company that can easily be improved without costing the company anything and yet have the potential of considerably improving productivity.
Working Environment Comparisons Between Two Different Countries (Part 2) (Kim Pedersen / Roukan.com)
Working Environment Comparisons Between Two Different Countries, Part 2
By Kim Pedersen (Guest Blogger)
In my first article, I explained the overall reasons as to why a healthy working environment (WE) is so important. In this article, I will try to explain how it is possible to get an overall picture of how employees perceive their working environment, and how it is fairly easily to pinpoint the most critical WE problems which exist in the company. The ability to pinpoint the problem makes it easy for a company to take action which in turn can save a lot of money for the company (this will be explained in the next article).
Please take a moment to become familiar with the charts below. They should be easy to understand for everybody so take a few minutes to think what kind of WE these two different charts might represent:
How to read the charts:
(Please note the elements in the chart)
The chart is divided into three main categories:
Workers taking the survey are asked to rate their company with a rating from “0” to “10” where “0” is the worst rating (or an expression of the worker being very un-satisfied) while“10” is the highest rating (or an expression of the worker being most satisfied). An average is then calculated for each element in the survey, and the average is shown as this chart. Thus, the larger the orange area is the more satisfied the worker also is. Conversely, the smaller the orange area, the less satisfied the work is.
It's all very simple.
The two charts above then show two completely different perceptions of the WE seen from the workers' side. Chart 1, has a very large orange area, and as you can see, there are not many areas where there are a big difference at all. It is a picture of a very healthy and sound working environment. Only one area, namely “skill-up and education” are rated very low and may need attention. As this chart is an average, it means that most employees are really unsatisfied with the company’s policy on skill-up opportunities and employee education. This might be the area that need some immediate attention. It might be found that offering employees the opportunity to skill-ups can keep them from seeking jobs elsewhere, thus, increasing employee retention and saving your company the trouble and cost of finding and hiring new employees as well as onboarding and training them.
The second chart is completely different from the first one. First of all, the orange area is very small, telling the story of employees who are very unsatisfied with the WE in many areas. In fact, only on a very few factors, like smoking policy, discrimination, air quality, and working hours are the ratings high. The average rating of all other factors is quite low. As this is an average, it tells a story about most employees being unsatisfied with most WE factors on the working place. It's the picture, a literal picture, of a company having huge difficulties with regards to many issues. This company probably losses a lot of money because of unsatisfied employees who are not able to properly and fully engage in their work. In such cases it can be very difficult for such a company to find out where to start improving the WE. On the other hand, all areas are considered relevant by employees and just small improvements can be perceived by the workers as very positive and actually have a huge impact on the company's productivity and satisfaction. In future articles, I will address and explore what these improvements might be and what might be the most effective.
The Good News: You Don’t Need 100% Employee Satisfaction:
Some might want to look for a company with a 100% rating or as close as you can get to 100% but remember how you would rate a company if you were an employee there? Clearing the magic 50% hurdle is the key issue. 50% means that you are neither satisfied nor unsatisfied which also means that the worker does not really have any WE issues that they find critical. So, 50% is NOT a bad rating at all. No worker will ever rate a company with 100% in all categories. If he did, it wouldn’t be considered a serious rating. Of course 60% or 70% is much better than 50%, but the point of this can be boiled down to three things:
What does this actually express?
The chart is an expression of the workers' degree of satisfaction, and can not necessarily be a comparison between two actual working conditions. You cannot take this chart and, for instance, compare Japan and the US, and say,
“Oh, the US actually has a better WE than Japan”
Why is that? It's because what we measure here is each employee’s degree of satisfaction working at the company. Japanese workers might be satisfied with a lower standard of WE than US workers would or vice versa. So what we must compare is the level of the workers satisfaction.
It is also important to understand that while the chart might give you an idea of where the WE problem in your company lies, the actual qualitative comments from the employees specifies these details of these problem areas making it possible for roukan.com to advise the company on where to focus and being their improvements. The chart makes it easy to understand where the problems are while the detailed workers' comments specify what the actual problem is or problems are. You need both the quantitative and qualitative measures and details the if you are to optimize your company's WE.
Note regarding the two sample charts above:
1. First chart – a European workers WE in 5 different companies during her last 20 years of employment
2. Average of Japanese ratings we have received to date (“Human relation” and “predictability” was later added to the survey which is why on the Japanese chart these two figures are shown as a “0” rate)
Three Ingredients For Japan & Asia Business Success: Communication, Talent Acquisition and i18n / L10N Software Development (Video Interview)
Asia Biz Blog's Howard Lim interviews SiliconEdge's James Santagata on three main ingredients for business success in Japan and Asia.
2. Talent acquisition
3. i18n and L10N in the software development process
SiliconEdge™ helps catalyze and drive the Productivity, Performance, Profitability, and Peace of Mind (4P's) of organizations, talent, and teams through our innovative, results-driven Talent Acceleration, Optimization, and Transformation programs.
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