Executive Search in Japan – 2021 Outlook

Japanese Work Ethic Shifts with WFH

With the recent announcement of a State of Emergency in metropolitan Tokyo and the surrounding three prefectures, the outlook for Japan in 2021 is uncertain, to say the least.

In the current fiscal year that ends in March 2021, the government cut its gross domestic product forecast to a 5.2% contraction, which would be the biggest annual slump on record. Japan is expected to grow by 4% in price-adjusted real terms in fiscal 2022  starting in April 2021.

Compared to other countries, the relative impact of COVID-19 has been tough for Japan in 2020. Going forward, recovery is expected as the Olympic Game in 2021 and the availability of vaccines to the general public are all positives.

The talent market in Japan remains mixed. Although the job-to-applicants ratio has come down from its most recent high of 1.58 to 1.04 for the whole of Japan, there is still a shortage of skilled and professional staff. The shortage is most pronounced in IT and financial services as well as sales roles throughout all industries.

New Trends in 2021 in Japan

Despite the negative impact of COVID-19, there have also been several benefits to Japan as a whole. The new trends are as follows:

1) Work from home (WFH) is now accepted as an option:  the Japan Government encourages companies to target 60% of their employees to work from home. Most companies are adapting with employees to embrace the new freedom and productivity that WFH creates. The tradition of long working hours as a work ethic is gradually being replaced by a better work-life-balance.

2) Online learning and remote training: rather than delaying internal training programs, companies are looking at how they can be creative in offering learning opportunities to their employees without holding face-to-face sessions.

3) Mental health and resilience of employees: companies are equipping their managers with the skills to recognize and deal with some of the new challenges they might be experiencing.

4) An increased focus on communication and listening: managers are learning new ways and tools to connect with their team despite WFH.

5) An increased focus on employee satisfaction: companies measure this with regular employee engagement surveys. These surveys give rise to demand for new areas of learning and development services.

In conclusion, 2021 will see companies being very selective in where they will use their training funds, and in hiring the necessary talent who can bring impact.

Contact Paula Sugawara, paula-sugawara@cornerstone-group.com and Simon Wan, simon-wan@cornerstone-group.com for additional discussions. 

Information on Cornerstone’s Executive Search Offices in Japan