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Leading from the Living Room with Vijay - Hosted by Dream Collective

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Posted by en world Japan

4 months ago

 

Natsumi Funabiki:

Hello, everybody, and welcome to Leading from the Living Room brought to you by The Dream Collective. What we do here in these webinars is we have live unfiltered conversations with global executives. Today, we are very excited to have Vijay from en world with us today to delve deep into key insights for Japan’s job market.

 

So, before we jump right in for anybody who may be new to The Dream Collective Community, we are a global diversity and inclusion consultancy. Our mission is to work with businesses to help them attract, retain, or advance their female talent. So, we do that through consulting, training and branding projects and speaking on, in Japan, we have just launched a book in March called “Together She Shines Brighter” bringing together 20 leading businesses sharing their leader stories.

 

So, for today, I will be your moderator. I am Natsumi. I am leading the Japan business for The Dream Collective. My passion really comes from driving that change in female advancement for Japan. From commitment and hope, but also from frustration I think there is so much more that we can do and really excited to be part of that change and here today.

 

Today, we have Vijay Deol from en world Japan. He is the President and Representative Director. He has a lot of experience in the talent recruitment industry and here to share with us some of en world’s key insights that they have gathered throughout this period and then also we will delve into discussion about the job market in Japan. So, thank you for joining us today, Vijay.

 

Vijay Deol:

Thank you for having me. I am excited to participate in this. It’s my first time to be a panelist in a virtual web-based event. I have done it before. I am not sure which one is more nervous but thank you for having me. I am actually not in my living room, I am in my bedroom, so hopefully, that’s all right. But yes, I am happy to start getting into some discussion around the job market and the labor market in this COVID situation and COVID world that we live in now

 

Natsumi Funabiki:

Thank you so much, Vijay. And, yes, living room, bedroom, everything is fine. So wonderful to have you here today. Today, we have one hour together in this webinar. We will start actually with Vijay kicking off and sharing some of en world’s key findings from their recent survey research, then go into discussion surrounding the key points, and we will be taking in questions from the audience as well. So, everybody who has joined us today – and actually we have a very global audience, people joining in from Australia, Japan, U.K., U.S., Singapore, so really excited to see what kind of questions come up. As Vijay is presenting as well, I encourage everyone to submit their questions through the Q&A box at the bottom of the screen. And Vijay, without further ado I will pass on to you.

 

Vijay Deol:

All right. So yes, I will just start with a very quick summary, just a few slides on the job market in Japan and the labor market. And this is based on a bit of macro data that we have, as well as a couple of surveys that we have done with our clients and our candidates.

 

So, just before we get into that, I do want to quickly introduce en world for those of you who aren’t so familiar with our firm. So en world, I would say, we are the leading firm in Japan focusing on global talent. Our headquarters is in Japan. We do operate throughout the region. We have offices in India, Thailand and Vietnam. We are primarily a recruitment services firm. We also have a recruitment process outsourcing division. We cover both permanent and contract-based recruitment and global talent, meaning companies in Japan that are global that need talent whether it’s foreign companies that need English-speaking staff here or Japanese companies who have global businesses and need people who can operate in a global environment. Those are the types of areas that we focus on. Our mission is enabling success. What we want to do is make people successful. We are not focused simply on helping people change jobs, but helping people, once they have changed jobs, to have long-term successful and fulfilling careers, and for the companies that hire them to be more successful because of that. All right, so that’s en world.

 

Let me get into our data here. So, first of all, this is just a little bit of macro data for the job market in Japan. Probably most people are aware, Japan has always been very, or at least for the last many years, has always been a very talent-short market. The job-to-applicant ratio, so the number of open positions (0:05:00) compared to the number of people available to fill those positions has been very heavily favoring the applicants. There are more jobs available than applicants to fill them. I think the ratio was at about close to 1.6 in 2019. As you can see from this graph that it’s dropped off quite considerably. So, COVID has obviously had quite a serious effect in Japan as it has across the world. But I think one of the encouraging things for Japan is that there still are enough positions that exceed the number of applicants. So, the job market is still healthy here despite the impact suffered via COVID. It just demonstrates I think the extreme demographics in Japan and the extreme labor shortage here. So that’s something that is going to persist while COVID is part of our lives and post-COVID as well.

 

The next slide, it says micro perspective. So, this data is actually just based on our firm’s job requisition from our clients. So, this is a little bit skewed. It doesn’t reflect the entire market. The market would be more severe than this in terms of what’s actually been experienced in terms of declining demand for hiring. But yes, as you can see, there is a significant drop off in March particularly for contract positions. I think we saw a lot of companies’ knee-jerk reaction was to simply terminate contractors or stop contract hiring anticipating a serious economic downturn. That continued in April, but I think as you can see in May and June, things are starting to warm up. And I think people are starting to realize that this is the world we live in now, life isn’t going to stop, so business has to go on. And there is still a need for resources and human resources, and as I said in the first slide, the talent market is still short in Japan.

 

One other thing, and I think I will comment on this in the next slide as well, is we did see probably a more drastic reaction from foreign companies than from Japanese companies. So, initially, we saw about 40% of our foreign clients go on an immediate hiring freeze and that was a larger percentage than we saw from Japanese companies. Again, that’s starting to warm up I think, and then, hopefully, that trend continues. But it was a pretty severe reaction in the first part of this year and particularly Japanese fiscal year from April onwards.

 

This is a trend by industry in terms of job openings. So again, as you can see, there is most Industries suffering a negative impact from COVID, healthcare and life sciences as you might expect relatively resilient, but across the board there has been an impact. And those companies that have had more exposure to – business model more exposed to COVID have been more severely affected. What we did see was, for example – I think this is actually not a reflective of the overall market – but consumer goods initially having a really severe impact with stores being closed and things like that, but actually that being balanced by companies capitalizing on e-Commerce sales. What we also saw were firms that maybe fall into consumer or, for example, IT and telecommunications, big firms that you guys might know of better, focused on delivering things to people through online platforms really doing well and hiring aggressively because of that because there is maybe less competition in the market right now. So, they can snap up good talent with less competition.

 

This next slide it’s titled Measures for Avoiding Infection. Now, that’s not kind of comprehensive in terms of what people are doing or what companies are doing to social distance or to disinfect their offices or things like that. This is more about companies’ recruiting practices. And what we see is that companies are still actively recruiting. Obviously, there has been an impact and there is slowdown in recruitment activities at least initially. But one interesting thing that we have scene is that those companies that are continuing to hire are much more likely to use video interviews and this is something pre-COVID we really almost never saw companies willing to make a hiring decision based on a video interview. So, that's an interesting development and it's something that I think will – more flexible recruitment market in the long term, so it's quite interesting.

 

The other thing, and I think this is the last slide that I will go through before we get into the Q&A, is people's attitudes towards changing jobs. And I think, COVID, what it's done is there are people who have become more nervous about their job security and, therefore, have been more proactive. I think 70% (0:10:00) of the people said they changed their attitude towards future career and job change, those are people who already were looking for jobs or open to new career opportunities, have become more aggressive and more open; and people who weren't, have started. So, we have seen a lot of people affected by the COVID situation. And I think it's based on a lot of uncertainty around job security, but also a lot of desire to work in an environment that's going to be more accommodating to this type of economic environment that we are in. So, I am sure we will get into some of that in the Q&A as well. So, I hope that's quick-enough summary and kind of highlights key points from the surveys that we had done. Maybe I will stop there and back over to Natsumi.

 

Natsumi Funabiki:

Thank you, Vijay. And thank you for sharing those insights and the graphs, really insightful. And I think one thing that I particularly find surprising is that there is actually so many people out there who are still really actively and you said aggressively looking to change jobs during this period. So, Vijay, I am actually really curious to see if there is anything that you found personally surprising or unexpected from this survey research?

 

Vijay Deol:

Yes, I think the two things that I mentioned to you previously that I thought were quite surprising, one is that the job market in Japan was so resilient that the talent shortage is so extreme that, even in this situation, which is probably the worst economic downturn that we have seen in our lives, even probably worse than the Lehman situation, it’s still a 1.25 job-to-applicant ratio. So, there is still – despite the decline in hiring, still not enough people to fill the jobs. So, I thought that was one thing that was quite surprising to me.

 

The other thing is in the candidate’s attitude, the job seeker’s attitudes. So,

I was working in recruitment in 008 when the Lehman shock happened. For those of you who are from other countries, that’s the 2008 financial crisis, so I think we call it in the west. But the Lehman shock as we call it in Japan, we did see at least for, I think, initial period after September-October 2008 that candidates were quite hesitant to change jobs. I think we would have had – if we had done this survey at that time, it would have been the opposite or certainly different kind of response. But I think now it seems that people are more open minded about changing jobs and maybe more proactive to respond to a situation that’s negative and want to take their future into their own hands rather than feel secure in hanging on to a position that they might have.

 

Natsumi Funabiki:

And I think when you touched upon comparing it with that financial crisis in 2008, it’s so different in the fact that COVID-19, nobody expected. This is a very unprecedented time and still continues. And I think the shift before was, okay, what will we do when it’s finished. But now, it’s really living with it, how do we cope with it, continuing on in our lives for the next couple of years. So, it’s really interesting to see that difference in there.

 

So, Vijay, I have actually got a couple of questions prepared for you today. But also, everybody in the audience, we will be picking up live questions through the Q&A box as well. So, everybody who is tuning in, make sure you submit them and we will make sure that we address them throughout as well. So, firstly, I think a core message throughout some of the data that you presented was the shifts in attitudes and the numbers. and with a lot of these changes happening in terms of career pivots and directions of what people are looking for, what do you think the key implications are for businesses actually for retaining and attracting talent?

 

Vijay Deol:

I think it’s probably no surprise or no secret that the COVID situation has really driven a trend towards flexible working arrangements. So, for companies who want to attract and retain the best talent, they are going to have to have an environment where people can work from home or people can have flexible working hours and take care of their families. And some companies were doing a really good job of this before the COVID situation. Japan was probably lagging behind a lot of the western world in that respect. And this situation is really going to force Japan to catch up and it’s going to really separate those companies that are able to create a good working environment, a good flexible working environment, good flexible working policies from those who aren’t, and the ones who do will win the best talent. I am pretty sure of that.

 

The other thing I think it’s highlighted is employees’ focus on health and safety and wellbeing. So, I think, during the COVID cases, in the peaks of the infection rates, people are worried about their own health and they are worried about whether they have to go to the office, if they do have to go to the office is it being disinfected properly, (0:15:00) is there proper social distancing. And that's going to continue I think for the duration of this until there is a vaccine or until we are in a post-COVID world. But I do think even in a post-COVID world people are going to be more aware of companies’ understanding of their employees’ health and wellbeing and that extends I think to their families as well because, right now, people don't want to go home if they have, especially in Japan, parents or grandparents to take care of, and put them at risk. And their company's understanding and accommodation of that is going to be really important for talent attraction and retention.

 

Natsumi Funabiki:

Definitely. I think when I was reading through your research data, you mentioned that the top priorities now for people who are looking to change their careers is now the ability to be able to work remotely which was something that never seemed to be a priority for people who are looking for jobs in Japan. So, kind of going back there, why do you think that was the reason and why was remote work not seen as a priority pre-COVID?

 

Vijay Deol:

I mean, I am sensitive I am not Japanese, so I am going to be commenting on my perception of Japanese culture and things that exist in Japanese business practice. But I have been living here for nearly 20 years and working in recruitment here for over 15, so I hopefully have some relevant insight. I think in Japan and Japanese business culture, it is important to – the ___ or the outward kind of appearance that people portray in their work persona is really important. And so, showing up to the office, demonstrating in front of everybody that you are working hard is really important. And that was something that I think held back people moving to more flexible working environments, being working from home where it’s not as visible.

 

The other thing is trust and personal communication and relationships are so important in Japan. And that’s harder to establish and harder to maintain when you are not physically together. So, I think that’s another reason that Japan has been slow to change. And I think there is also a lot of positive that come from being in an office together. There is a sense of community, a sense of team work that I think is harder to achieve if everybody is watching each other through video screens or working in their own home. So, I think there is cultural reasons that go very, very deep that, well, why maybe Japan has been slow to change, and I think Japan is also a country that is relatively conservative when it comes to change in general. So, moving to a very, very different working environment that’s going to be very uncertain in terms of achieving all of the positive things about Japanese business culture that happened by being in the office and being a team and working hard together I think are some of the reasons that it’s held Japan back in moving towards more flexible working arrangements in general. But I definitely think COVID is forcing corporate Japan to catch up.

 

Natsumi Funabiki:

Yes. And I think a lot of us are really excited for the progression that’s happening right now and moving for more of a paperless society. I know that there were some news that international people were shocked that when they saw that Japanese people were going into their offices to stamp documents. I had some friends reach out to say is that really true? Do people have to do that? But with being that progress and government as well they are looking to go completely paperless in the new future, so that’s very exciting. I actually just got in our first question from the audience. Someone has asked which sector are you seeing the biggest hiring demand?

 

Vijay Deol:

The biggest hiring demand? I would say in sub-sectors of life sciences we are seeing big hiring demand. So, those are any companies that are developing treatments or drugs or products that are related to treatment of COVID or prevention of COVID, definitely lots of hiring going on there. I think the other key area that we are seeing a lot of hiring is any technology or tech-based companies that focus on flexible working. So, Zoom, for example, are catering to people being at home more. So, obviously, companies that like Amazons and Rakutens those are the types of companies that probably are going to benefit from this and anyone in those types of spaces are going to be hiring aggressively I think.

 

Natsumi Funabiki:

Definitely, thank you for that. And I think going through what are the hiring processes and what’s happening in Japan, a lot of people especially now that we have an international audience have actually looked at Japan and said, actually, Japan has maintained a relatively low unemployment rate throughout this crisis. So, it’s currently sitting at around 2.6% I believe, why do you think that this could be the case?

 

Vijay Deol:

Yes. I think Japan has kind of gotten a bad rap for a long time in terms of its economic opportunity, and lot of it comes down to a slower or non-existent GDP growth for probably 30 or more years. But I think people see this kind of macro news about Japan's GDP and Japan having been past its prime when it was booming in the '60s and '70s and maybe early '80s. But I think it's not really accurate to take that view because Japan has had really actually good performance in terms of GDP per capita relative to other G7 countries, for example. A lot of that is, of course, driven by the declining population.

 

But Japan is still a wealthy country. The middle class here is relatively large and relatively wealthy. So, companies want to do business in Japan. We work with mostly foreign companies, and I would say all of them want to have a successful business in Japan because there is still a big market opportunity. Even if it's not growing dramatically, those companies that are not here and don't have a foothold here yet, it's a huge market that is untapped for them. So, I think it's a bit of a skewed perception because of the media and the macroeconomic situation and countries like China or India may be growing faster that Japan gets this pessimistic picture of it painted, and that I think is amplified when you have a situation like COVID.

 

The other thing I think is that, like I said before, I think Japanese people and Japanese culture is quite conservative in general. So, I think they would tend not to be super optimistic when you have a super negative influence from an external macroeconomic factor. So, I think that tends to be a more conservative and that leads to becoming more pessimistic view taken in general.

 

Natsumi Funabiki:

Yes, that’s definitely some of the key points why it could lead to that. And I think I want to lead it on to a question that we have gotten from Ning in the audience. Going from that Japan level to – I am talking about en world and how en world how was impacted by the current situation. So, Ning is saying that, as a recruitment company, I am guessing that en world has been impacted by the drop of position numbers. So, how have you been managing the cost to survive and are there many other recruiting companies that are letting people go, cutting salary, and is there any action that you have been taking for this and making sure that the communication goes well internally?

 

Vijay Deol:

I guess what I can – I probably can't go into specific financial details. But obviously, we have been impacted. Our sales year on year are down compared to 2019, but I think we reacted very quickly. First of all, any kind of non-essential expenses, business travel, company parties, those types of things we have cut out of the budget for this year. Our senior management did take a pay cut that is in effect for a certain period of time until mid this year, potentially longer, depending on how things develop. And we did make use of the government subsidy program to put a certain number of people on paid leave of absence. So, they are still employed by us, but they are not working and the government will subsidize part of that. Those will be the major actions that we have taken, and I think it has allowed us to stay profitable, and we have been robust so far. So, if the situation continues to improve as I think we have seen on the data I showed from May to June, then I think we can relax some of those measures going forward. But yes, I think it's – we have been able to stay (0:25:00) above breakeven levels. We have not had to cut staff salaries across the board, we have not had to cut personnel. So, I think am pretty pleased with how we have done that and prioritized people's employment and people's livelihoods throughout so far.

 

Natsumi Funabiki:

That's really good to know. And I think comparing to what is happening and how you are managing, it's definitely a difficult time for any business and any industry. But kind of going back to one of the comments that you made earlier on comparing the COVID-19 crisis to the financial crisis, I think one of the key differentiations that has been in discussion as well is the fact that COVID-19 has actually hit women harder on a global scale because of the industries that have been hit and because of the frontline workers in those industries being majority female. This is on a global scale, and I would love to know what your thoughts are on the effect in Japan for females throughout this crisis.

 

Vijay Deol:

We had a bit of an exchange about this beforehand and I looked into some data. I am sure that this is much more dramatic in other countries, but Japan has been quite resilient in terms of its unemployment. It went from 2.4% in 2019 to 2.6% now, depending on which reports you read. That amounts to about 160,000 people I think. And I have read news where they have claimed that over 700,000 non-regular female employees have become unemployed in Japan. So, whether it's somewhere between 100,000 and 700,000 women affected by this in Japan because they are non-regular employees, I think that it is true that they are feeling that more than the male workforce because they do makeup more of a percentage of the non-regular workforce or the contract workforce. But I think this really goes – this is not a COVID issue. This is an issue that is going back a long time and is very deep seated in Japan and then other countries is simply the fact that higher-value permanent positions are predominantly occupied by men, and although there has been an initiative in Japan with Abenomics and Womenomics to get more women in the workforce, and on the surface it appears to have been working, a lot of it is because women are taking these non-traditional non-permanent and contract type of work arrangements. So, I think COVID or no COVID, the root cause of that is not more women being in the high-value type of corporate positions in Japan.

 

Natsumi Funabiki:

Yes, I think you have hit the nail on the head there in terms of what the Japanese government and what the cultural context of Japan is. And I am sure that many of you in the audience as well have read the news that the Japanese government had that 30% female leadership target for 2020. They have actually now pushed that back to be hit by 2030. So, you can see the slow progress there and the fact that there is just simply not enough female leaders in Japan still. And I think not just a COVID issue, but it's still continuing on and it's almost been amplified by the fact that these changes have happened in these – happen to impact some women.

 

I am wondering for you, Vijay, what do you think are the key players that can support these people – so say, the government employers and recruitment firms like en world, what do you think you can do to support these women in vulnerable positions?

 

Vijay Deol:

No, I don't think there is any kind of quick action. I don't think the government can say, well we are going to give another 100,000 yen to one very specific selection of a population. That's probably not practical. And like I said, I think the unemployment rate is still very low. So, I think, if anything needs to be done by the government or by corporate Japan or recruitment companies it is addressing the root causes of why there is not more women in the workforce, proportionately represented in all parts of the workforce. But again, I think it goes down to government policy, it goes down to also just general attitudes and very, again, deep cultural behaviors in Japan both from women and from men where even women – I was in an event held by the French Chamber of Commerce a few weeks ago and there was a Tokyo University professor who was sharing his research on attitudes of men and women in Japan, and actually, women are more satisfied and more happy with their lives in Japan than men are. And this is his, I guess, proposition was that the average salary man's lifestyle (0:30:00) is maybe not particularly attractive to women to get into that type of career lifestyle. So, I think there needs to be a lot of changes from the overall structure of Japanese corporate lifestyle where men can also have more flexible lifestyles, where the demands as a salary man are different on their time. And I do think this COVID situation with more flexible working arrangements and companies like Fujitsu announcing that they are going to allow flexible working arrangements long term will change the way corporate Japan uses its human resources, and you could see a salary man having more of a lifestyle where he can spend time with his family as well as work, and women then will see that as an attractive opportunity to pursue. So, I think it needs to be from all parts of the population to understand that there is different ways of doing things in 2020 and COVID world and post-COVID world. Those are going to be more necessary. So, I think going forward that's what has to happen across all levels of the country.


But corporate Japan I do think there is an opportunity even pre-COVID, now and going forward, to really capitalize though on high-potential female talent which I don't think happens. There is definitely not a tendency to encourage women to pursue careers especially if they have families, and I think that's just wrong. We have had lots of really talented women working in en world, and I have seen lots of really talented women work in corporate Japan. And the companies that don't capitalize on that, they are really making a bad mistake, and the ones that do I think can really set an example and set a trend to be the leaders in enabling that.

 

Natsumi Funabiki:

And I think that’s all we talk about at The Dream Collective as well is that diversity and inclusion, female representation isn’t just a nice to have, and we have to do it for the sake of just hitting those numbers. It's really a strategic imperative. It's something that really pushes the businesses forward to innovation, to that progress, and hitting your targets and everything. So that's really interesting to see. And going back a little bit to the research and the numbers that you showed, there was a bit of discussion on some of the trends on what skills job seekers are improving on, some of them being upskilling themselves, learning English especially in Japan, things like that. But do these trends, do you think, they reflect on what employers are looking for in this climate as well?

 

Vijay Deol:

Yes, I was asking some of our senior sales managers in preparation for this event how they felt about that because they are the ones talking to clients on a day-to-day basis. And I think there is an overlap in what companies are looking for and what job seekers are trying to proactively improve in their own skillsets. So, you see things like – I think came high up in our survey were things like programming and coding and data analysis. And these are things that have always been important, but I think are becoming more important because of the COVID situation and companies that do well in that are thriving. So, I think there is an overlap there in terms of what people are trying to do to better themselves and what companies are looking for.

 

The other things that came up high in the survey I think were English language study. In Japan, that's always been a really, really hard thing to improve. And while there is a talent shortage in general, bilingual talent shortage is orders of magnitude bigger than that. So, that will continue to be in high demand and companies definitely still value that because things are getting more global all the time. And not only just English language skills, but communication skills, and ability to manage change, ability to communicate in times of uncertainty. These types of things are becoming more and more important as well. So, we saw some of the skillsets that people were focusing on, or not may be specific skillsets, but types of courses like MBA courses or psychology or coaching type of courses again I think really relate to that. So, I do think there is an overlap and there is an understanding between the job seekers and what hiring managers and companies are looking for.

 

Natsumi Funabiki:

And I think, on the topic of language, we have gotten a question from the audience asking how important is knowledge of the Japanese language for jobs in Japan. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

 

Vijay Deol:

Well, obviously, it's Japan, so it's extremely important. I think though when I think about my own career and recruitment 15 years ago, if I got a CV come across my desk from a foreigner, I probably wouldn't look at it. I wouldn't consider it for any position that I was working on. But that's not the case anymore. Especially I think COVID will impact this, (0:35:00) but pre-COVID, say 2019, we were seeing far more non-Japanese being able to come to work in Japan even if their Japanese language skills weren't very strong depending on the company they worked in and depending on the skillset that they had. So, for example, certain technology sectors or IT system integrators, for example, would bring over a lot of people from China, from India, people with really high-level technical skills, but not necessarily high-level language skills. And they would organize their company or their business model so that those people could do their jobs without necessarily needing to speak or read Japanese. But still, of the percentage of candidates that we place, I would say, and I am getting here off the top of my head, but probably around 90% still are Japanese. And of those 10% that aren't Japanese, they would have varying levels of Japanese fluency. So, while it's not a majority yet of people who can work in Japan without Japanese language skills, Japanese language skills are still very much the norm that it's absolutely necessary. It has been changing gradually over the last several years.

 

Natsumi Funabiki:

And I think we have gotten another question kind of on that from the audience from Ivy. You mentioned a bit about the diversity of the work culture currently in Japan in terms of the ratio or percentage, but I am also wondering how can Japanese businesses attract more foreign talents?

 

Vijay Deol:

Well, I mean, if they can accommodate non-Japanese speakers, that's one thing, right. So, if they have English-speaking Japanese there, that would be part of it. But I do think there is a bit of an apprehension amongst foreigners to work in a very domestic Japanese business culture because it can be seen as very rigid, it can be seen as very exclusive, excluding foreigners, and difficult to operate in. So, I think those companies that can become more flexible, have more flexible working arrangements, and that doesn't just mean a lot of people who work from home, but also in terms of how people do their jobs and their mobility within the company, can they get promoted based on merits, can their salaries increase based on their performance rather than their age, those types of things I think are the things that foreigners will be more open to if they are considering a Japanese company, if a Japanese company has those types of systems.

 

Natsumi Funabiki:

And I think in Japan there is still a long way to go in terms of really diversifying their international talent, but it is definitely one step at a time. Going through kind of what the key shifts are within the current climate, you mentioned that, obviously, being able to remotely, and now going through interviews and everything, doing them virtually, even this webinar is the norm now, and it's kind of the new normal. So, Yvonne is asking that what does it actually mean to be able to work remotely and what are the implicit skills that people need and employers are looking for in terms of effective remote work?

 

Vijay Deol:

Well, I think working remotely means not having to be in a company's office. I think there is going to be some jobs that require people to be on site and can't do their job from home. Somebody working in a factory operating some type of machinery, they obviously oftentimes can't do that at home. But for most white-collar types of positions in Tokyo or in corporate Japan, you don't necessarily need to physically be in an office. Obviously, it's nice to be able to sit across from somebody when you have a meeting with them, and talk to them in person, but it’s 2020. We are doing this online and you can do that now. So, I think having a flexible working arrangement or being able to work remotely means being able to do things like this. And having tech infrastructure and IT infrastructure where people can do their jobs from home or from a café, whatever the job may be, that's what needs to be in place. And I think there is definitely technologies to facilitate that now as long as companies can implement those and take advantage of them that allows remote working.

 

I think in terms of what employers want from employees to be able to work effectively in that type of style, well obviously, they need maturity. They need to be able to have independence and self-motivation. And they need to also have I think a savviness in their communication ability because it is harder to communicate on a Zoom meeting or Teams meeting than it is in person. And you also need to be smart about how you are using your time, when you need to send an email, and when you need to book a meeting, and when you need to maybe demand that things happen in person. So, I think those are the types of mindsets that probably are going to be more important and that companies are going to value more.

 

Natsumi Funabiki:

(0:40:00) Thank you for that, Vijay. And then, we are actually getting a lot of questions from the audience, some really actually focused on en world. A lot of people want to know about what’s going on in your company. So, one from the audience is asking how is en world supporting the engagement of your employees working remotely? And also, one question from me is what are the changes in innovation that you have made to adapt and thrive in this new environment?

 

Vijay Deol:

I think recruitment is a business where I have often said anybody with an Excel sheet, and a mobile phone can do the job. You don't necessarily need to be in a physical office. Obviously, if you have a large company like en world that has an infrastructure and has a budget for marketing and can support kind of the acquisition, and has a large client a portfolio, those things all make it a lot easier to be successful as a recruiter. But actually, physically sitting at a desk with your team I don't think has ever been a mandatory requirement of being successful in recruitment. And also, sitting in a meeting room or in a café with a candidate or in a client's office has also never been an absolutely mandatory requirement. You can have those conversations on the phone, you always could, and now we are just having them do a video conference rather than on the phone. Of course, there is benefit. I think, when we have a COVID vaccine or whatever happens, people don't have to worry so much about infection. I think we will go back to having more face-to-face interaction, but it will be in a more flexible type of arrangement.

 

So en world, we have implemented Microsoft Teams. That's been really useful for us, and we have given everybody, at least all of our sales force I think so far, laptops and mobile phones. So, they should be 100% able to access whatever information they needed to communicate with whoever they need to communicate with from wherever they are. I think that's probably the biggest one that we have done. We have also implemented DocuSign, so we don't need to physically sign or ___ contracts or things like that anymore. So, making things virtual or digital as much as possible so people can do their jobs, but I think that's one part of it, that hardware or that resource that people have we have tried to accommodate.

 

The other part of it is how do we engage with our employees, so how does the manager talk to his team. And I think what we have encouraged most of our team managers to do is to at least have a morning and an afternoon catch up with all of their staff members so that they know what's going on, they can set up plans for the day, and they can feel engaged. And that's on a team-by-team and more day-to-day kind of tactical level. From the senior management level, we have made sure that we have not stopped any kind of our normal company-wide communication. So, we were going to have an annual kickoff meeting in April that was meant to be at I think The Prince hotel in big banquet room, we shifted that to an online annual kickoff. We have had monthly company-wide meetings as we have previously in person; we have done that online. We have actually increased the amount of communication. So, now we give a weekly update from myself to the entire business. Anybody can tune in to Teams and hear what is going on in the company, and make sure that they are up to date on how our business results are going, if there is any further austerity measures, or if we are going to relax our austerity measures, hear some success stories from people who have been able to be very successful despite the environment. So, a lot of these different types of efforts, and I think actually making bigger efforts to engage and communicate because we are not all in the same room has been really, really important.

 

Natsumi Funabiki:

And it seems like en world has had the infrastructure there, but even more so with this environment, you stepped up and had those lots of communication steps in place. And that’s really the key I think when we are in a remote workspace to have that communication, turning your camera on, having those daily stand ups with your team. It really does make a big difference. And that's something that Japan as a whole didn't accept as much before. And as we have said continuously throughout this webinar, Japan has always struggled with implementing change, but also making quick changes, and speeding up that change as well. And COVID-19 has kind of really forced us to have to make a change, it's not a choice anymore. So, I think it's a great opportunity in a sense for that. And what else do you think we can do as individuals but also as companies to really make the most of this and accelerate and elevate this change?

 

Vijay Deol:

I think, well, one thing about my opinion of Japan is that Japan is actually really good at executing change once the decision has been made. It takes a long time to get that decision made, but once everybody is on board with it, they will execute it better than any other culture that I know of. I think Japan being forced to change more quickly because of COVID, there will be some real positives that will come out of it. And I think Japan – (0:45:00) we could see Japan come out as a leader when it comes to flexible working arrangements and things like that because they are forced to accept it now; now they are going to do the best possible job they can with it. So, I do think there is a big opportunity there.

 

So, from a corporate perspective, those companies that just realized this is what the world is like now, there is no going back, so do the best possible job you can do with it, those are the ones that are going to be most successful for sure. On an individual basis, I really think people should understand there needs to be a level of maturity. And I am pleased to say that I believe en world, at least our employees have reacted in a mature way. I think we have got a lot of positive feedback. We have got a lot of good questions come up, good ideas come up. But people need to understand that, in this type of environment, and again, it's not going to really go away, they need to be more responsible for their own success and their own activities, their own performance. If your manager is not sitting next to you, breathing down your neck and looking over your shoulder, you still need to get your work done, and the more people can understand that, and accept that, and take a mature approach to it, the better.

 

Natsumi Funabiki:

Yes, and on that topic of what en world is doing, we have got another question about en world and what you are doing. So much interest from the audience. An attendee is saying that what is en world doing to enhance its female leadership in terms of fast-tracking leadership programs, training programs and such?

 

Vijay Deol:

It’s really a difficult problem to solve. When I came back to en world in 2017, we had that time maybe 30-35 sales managers; only two of which I think were female. And now, I think we have four. I hope I am not mistaken about that number. So, we have doubled it, but it's not like we now have 50% female leadership in our sales organization. So, it's a hard thing to improve. I think it's a long-term challenge to meet. So, I don't think anybody, if they have 100% male leadership right now, to go to 50% next year is unrealistic. So, I think, first of all, we just need to take a realistic approach, understand that it's going to take a long time, and it's going to also mean not just promoting women for the sake of promoting women, but really understanding our hiring practices, making sure that we don't have unconscious biases in terms of who we hire, and that we make sure we hire the best people. If we are genuinely hiring the best, people probably we are going to get about half and half men and women as new hires. And then, once we look at our junior staff and our high potentially young staff, how do we enable them, how do we develop them, and make sure that we don't have barriers for the women and enabling them. We need to make sure that we are enabling everybody in the same way, and again, the most talented, the highest performing people should rise to the top. And then, we would naturally see an even distribution I think. So that's kind of the big picture way that I am looking at it.

 

In terms of actual specific actions, we have taken, well, we did have an engagement with The Dream Collective, and we went for a project with you guys over about 18 months I think ending last year which was really helpful. So, we make a pitch for The Dream Collective right now that they did a good job with us. And the outcomes of that were I think we categorized a number of different areas where we could improve, and this came around how we promote people, how we train people, our flexible working environment and compensation.

 

So, there was a few different categories that we saw, things we could take specific action on, and some of them we have already taken action on, some of them our HR department or some of our other departments have already made progress on, and some of them we are still not sure how we can execute.

 

So, we have created what's called our ambassador group and this is a group of about I think 20 people in the junior to senior staff level, not management, I think pretty evenly mix of men and women, to be kind of the voice for the entire organization, and the channel through which we can communicate better with senior management. So, we really understand what's the junior members’ challenges and expectations, and how we can enable them. And that's not just for our female staff, but for all of our staff. So, I would say hopefully, in the long term, that allows us to have a more equal opportunity organization and gradually we will see a better mix of gender and nationality, and whatever – other category in our management team.

 

Natsumi Funabiki:

And thank you for giving a shout out to The Dream Collective Consulting. We really enjoyed working with you and seeing that progress within the en world organization. One thing I think in the diversity and inclusion conversation (0:50:00) and you know a new word that's been popped in right now as well is equity. So, really, as you mentioned, understanding those barriers and understanding that not everybody is at the same stage, some people might have you know two steps in front of them already just because of their background, their gender, many other factors, so really keeping that in mind, taking that into account and making decisions around hiring evaluation and all that. We have gotten actually another question for you, Vijay, talking about female advancement and how you are making those initiatives and steps in en world. What advice would you give to someone perhaps to a female colleague or candidate that's going into a leadership position for the very first time?

 

Vijay Deol:

Advice to a female who is going into leadership for the very first time.

 

Natsumi Funabiki:

Very first time.

 

Vijay Deol:

I think I don't know if I have ever thought about that question in the context of specifically for a female because I have never been in that position myself obviously. But I do think about people, anybody, whether they are men or women going into leadership position for the first time, and I think I would probably give them a similar advice. Some of the things that I would say would be, first of all, you have to own your own performance, your own ambitions. Don't wait for somebody to tell you what to do or to give you the next step. You need to be vocal about it, you need to raise your hand, and you need to ask for what you want. So, you need to be proactive, and you need to take ownership of your own destiny, I guess.

 

The other thing I think when it comes to leadership is people need to think about all layers of the organization, all directions. So, they need to think about how they are working with their senior management, and if those senior management need to endorse them, and sponsor them to have a more successful career, and to take bigger steps in their career. But they also need to understand that the people they are managing need to be bought into them, and they need to engage with them, and that's really important as well. If that's not happening, then you are not going to get anywhere in your career either. So, taking a holistic view of how their relationships work within the organization and how their performance is viewed, how the expectations of their staff or of their senior management work, those are things that they need to be constantly aware of. And then, they need to be fair, they need to set an example, they need to lead from the front, they need to be able to perform. And I think anybody who does those things will naturally come out as a leader, and have people follow them, and have people respect them.

 

Natsumi Funabiki:

Yes, and I think it's coming from the fact that, in Japan, a lot of the time – and this is an assumption I am making for the question – but why the question was on a female candidate going into leadership position for the first time. I think a lot of companies tend to say that females don't put their hands up for management roles, and that's not necessarily because they are not motivated. It's because they are not really sure where to go. The lack of role models I think is one big thing that we need to change in Japan, and we need to, as you said as well, have that environment to support people, and for other women to lead those emerging female talent as well. That's pretty good.

 

Vijay Deol:

One thing maybe just on that, I guess you did point out that having role models is important. And I think you know it's a tough situation for a new female leader if they are in an organization where there is not people within the organization who are female who are leaders who have more experience that they can look to as a mentor. So, maybe one other bit of advice for female leaders who are in that type of situation is look outside the organization. Look to your customers, look to your vendors, look to firms like The Dream Collective because there are female leaders out there, they just might not be working at your company. But I do think there is a lot of openness, and a lot of willingness to support people who want to better themselves, and better their careers whether they work for you or with you or not.

 

Natsumi Funabiki:

And I think you did kind of touch upon it, but we just got a new question from the audience, Yukiko, really focusing on not just female leaders, but for leaders in this new generation coming up, the emerging leaders. What do you think are the key qualities that these leaders need to have or learn to really thrive in the new environment?

 

Vijay Deol:

Well, I hope ___ don’t mind about this, but time will tell. I think, right now, what I am really feeling is that empathy is really important, and also having empathy, and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. So, I do think people still want leaders who are strong, leaders who are decisive, and can take a clear action, and clear vision of where they want to take an organization, but I think it's more than that. People don't just want someone to (0:55:00) stand up and give really loud speeches. They want people who can understand what's going on with a staff level person in the organization, and can sympathize with them, and take the time, and be open minded about understanding what their challenges are, and what their difficulties are, and then getting that engagement that all levels in the organization can feel confident that leadership has their best interests in mind, and wants them to be successful as well. I think that's really important. And I think that's maybe not something that I often would hear in leadership books or in traditional kind of leadership courses, and things like that.

 

Natsumi Funabiki:

Thank you so much for sharing that, Vijay. And there is actually a lot of questions still, and I might share this with you later after the webinar because we only have a few minutes left. I want to finish with this last question on, so you have shared the insights about the data about the changing sentiment around job pivots and career changes. So what advice would you give to those looking for a career change right now?

 

Vijay Deol:

Career change is – first of all, I think it’s always about timing whether it’s COVID world or not. The right job might come up tomorrow, and it might not come up for you know another 12 months. So, I think just being conscious of what the market is like, being proactive, forming the right relationships whether it be with mentors in the organization or in other organizations that you have an acquaintance with, whether it be with the right recruiters that you trust, but making sure that you are aware of what’s going on in the market, and what opportunities there are, and when they come up, and then being proactive about it because it might come up when it’s a COVID situation, and it might come up when the market is booming and everything is really happy and relaxed. But you have no idea when that’s going to happen. So, I would say just be proactive and be aware, and take control, and take ownership of your career.

 

Natsumi Funabiki:

Thanks, Vijay. That’s a great way to wrap up the entire webinar. And I am really confident that everybody tuning in today is walking away from learnings from this session. Before we just wrap up, I would quickly like to share my screen again. On the topic of looking for jobs, and as we touched on in the webinar, COVID-19 has really seen a tremendous impact on job losses globally and especially for women. So, what we have done at The Dream Collective, and we partnered with en world on this as well as a career partner, so we have built a free online capability building program for those who have been impacted by COVID-19 to really help them reskill, upskill and be ready to go grab that next opportunity and put themselves up there. We have created this content online. You can access it through our website or by Googling She Pivots, so I will leave the links here, and also en world’s social media channel is here as well. What we have also done not just with the program, but upon completion, you can actually access our career partners. So, companies and organizations that have open job opportunities will be listed there, en world being one of them, and you will be able to apply directly through there as a She Pivots alumni. So, please check it out on our website, pass it on to anybody who might need this training opportunity right now. And Vijay, thank you so much for sharing your insights today. It was a great session.

 

Vijay Deol:

Thank you, my pleasure.

 

Natsumi Funabiki:

Thank you so much. Thank you, everybody, for tuning in. Thank you for your questions and have a lovely afternoon.