Contact Mailing List
Japan Intercultural Consulting

About JIC
News & Articles
English Skills
Contact Us

Japanese Business Culture Blog

A blog about communications between Japan and other cultures, particularly in business.

JIC Blogs by Author

To read blogs by specific members select from the list below:


The comment function for this blog is being hosted in our Japan Intercultural Consulting group on LinkedIn. Please join our group and participate in the discussion.

JIC Blogs by Category

To read blogs by specific categories select from the list below:

Book reviews
Business travel to Japan
Foreign firms in Japan
Gaijin in Japan
Human resource management
Japanese business
Japanese companies
Japanese culture
Japanese etiquette
Japanese firms in Africa
Japanese firms in Asia Pacific
Japanese firms in China
Japanese firms in Europe
Japanese firms in India
Japanese firms in Latin America
Japanese firms in N. America
Japanese firms in the Mideast
Japanese management
Japanese manufacturing
Japanese society
Japanese startups
Learning Japanese
Teambuilding with Japanese
Websites of interest
Working with Japanese

Why 80% of Japanese returning to Japan HQ quit
Pernille Rudlin
Mar 16, 2013 10:14 AM
I attended the “rebel” 15th anniversary reunion of my business school class recently. It was a rebel reunion because as veterans of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the 2001 dotcom bust and the 2008 Lehman shock, we are quite a frugal, prudent bunch (although there was talk of one or two modest millionaires being in our midst) and didn’t fancy forking out the thousands of dollars in travel, accommodation and class donations being requested to attend the official reunion on campus. Instead, a few of our class arranged an alternative, cheaper party in a club in London.

Of the 90 or so alumni that came to the rebel reunion, I estimate less than ten percent are with their original employer of fifteen years’ ago. Many were, like me, sponsored by their company, with some conditions attached, such as staying for two or more years after graduation. My classmates have set up their own companies, gone to work for competitors or even changed profession entirely.

There were very few who, like me, were sponsored by a Japanese company. And I’m afraid I joined the vast majority of those at business schools who were sponsored by a Japanese company, in becoming frustrated with my employer’s lack of understanding of how best to make use of me when I returned, and quitting.

I have heard similar frustrations recently from young Japanese people, around the same age as an MBA candidate, who have been sent to work abroad by their Japanese employer. They learn and experience a huge amount, enjoy some autonomy and responsibility, but on returning, are plunked back down in the same domestic oriented, junior level jobs they were doing before they left, with very little interest shown in the insights and skills they gained abroad. One company told me around 80% of young returnees quit within a few years of coming back to Japan headquarters.

Japanese companies cannot view this as sanguinely as Western companies. In the West we think it is partly the dues you pay to your industry, to invest in training up future senior managers for the industry to benefit from. Some MBA grads may stay, some may join client companies and be a useful contact, others may return at a more senior level after gaining experience elsewhere.

Most of the Japanese returnees, however, are leaving their Japanese employer for a foreign company based in Japan, so in effect the very reason that they were sent overseas - to help Japanese companies globalize - has been undermined.

Maybe Japanese employers need to view those employees departing for foreign companies as “alumni”; by keeping in touch and keeping the door open should they wish to return a few years later, with experience of another corporate culture. Only then can Japanese companies become truly diverse and global. When there are more people with diverse experience at senior management level, it becomes easier to attract and retain other high fliers whose genders, nationalities and career backgrounds may differ from the traditional mainstream – including those juniors who are sent overseas.

This article by Pernille Rudlin originally appeared in the 26th November 2013 edition of the Nikkei Weekly

Bookmark and Share


Privacy Policy