Bridges spoke with Jeremy Sampson, managing director of Robert Walters Japan K.K. about the company’s approach to the Japanese recruitment market.
How long has Robert Walters been active in the Japanese market and what are your competitive advantages?
Robert Walters has been a driving force in the Japanese bilingual recruitment market, providing high-quality candidates for our clients and access to the best jobs for over 20 years. We opened our first office in Tokyo in 2000 and our Osaka office in 2007 and celebrated our 20th anniversary last year in 2020.
Our core mission is “Powering people and organizations to fulfil their unique potential” and this begins by empowering our own people first. By providing the best industry training and the best work environment possible, we help our people become industry experts to introduce top talent to our clients. We’re known for our non-commission model, which means that our consultants do not receive individual sales commission. Instead, they are rewarded on a team profit-share basis.
This not only ensures that our clients and candidates come first, but it also promotes a positive working culture where teamwork and collaboration are incentivized. One of our primary strengths is headhunting, which enables us to introduce specialized candidates who are not typically found in the job market. Our consultants are specialists in the fields they recruit for, with strong personal relationships and wide industry networks. That means our candidates can trust our expertise in finding the right role for even the most niche skill sets, and in turn, our clients get the peace of mind that any candidate we put forward will have the right skills for the job.
As a leading specialist professional recruitment consultancy, what makes Japan a unique market for Robert Walters?
There’s no denying, Japan is one of the most challenging countries when it comes to sourcing talent. Low birth rates and an ageing population are among the demographic trends causing the chronic labor shortage. When we surveyed 300 companies in Japan, about 80% expressed concerns about the talent shortage within their industry. By seniority level, many companies believe the talent shortage is particularly acute at the “senior/team leader” level and “manager” level.
The top three hiring challenges in Japan according to our clients are a lack of industry experience, lack of technical qualifications and a lack of applicants. The pool of bilingual specialists is even more limited as the English language skills of the average person in Japan is not as high as one would expect.
The traditional Japanese employment system has also contributed to the shortage of specialists in Japan. Up until now, Japanese companies have practiced membership-based employment in which employees are expected to stay with the company until retirement (lifetime employment) and the company provides them with experience in various types of jobs (job rotation). While employees are more likely to have job security, they are less likely to develop specialized skills.
How has the pandemic impacted the company in Japan and what opportunities do you see to grow the business in 2022?
We’ve adapted as a business and put our people first throughout the pandemic. We have led the way by being one of the first companies to go fully remote and provide vaccinations for our employees. Although we were impacted to a degree by the pandemic, we began to see recovery from the second half of 2020 and even more significant recovery from January 2021. In fact, for several months this year, we have experienced record high revenues for our business.
As markets continue to recover, we expect to continue seeing high levels of hiring activity pretty much across the board. Japan continues to experience a chronic talent shortage and the Japanese government is pushing to attract more international talent and business into Japan. We see this is as an opportunity for our business to grow more and we’re very optimistic that the future looks bright.
What message do you have for our readers regarding the company’s commitment to offering the best candidates to clients in Japan?
At Robert Walters, we specialize in the recruitment of senior/mid-level and hands-on professionals which is the area with the most severe shortage of talent. We are always ready to help companies navigate the talent challenges that exist in Japan & provide solutions. We have one of the largest databases of Japanese and English bilingual candidates and our diverse team of consultants enables us to build strong connections with both foreign and Japanese companies and bilingual specialists.
Our market leading materials such as our salary surveys, white papers and survey results can help inform organizations on the local market. We have a history of over 20 years in Japan, and over 300 employees with extensive knowledge and experience in their industries. Ultimately, when it comes to talent, we have more access to the best out there.