Changes are unavoidable in our life. Some of us love them – and I think to some extend I fill into that group – and some of us don’t. Japanese definitely belong to one of the most stable societies in the world. Here change is not very welcome. And it can be observed in many aspects of life. If something works well, it doesn’t need to be changed (improved). No surprise that in Japan many companies still have in place „Life time employment” policy under which when you enter your company in April at age of ca 22 as a new graduate, you will stay with your employer till the day you will need to retire.
HR polices in Japan are still the most difficult areas for me to comprehend.
Most of Japanese organisations have few employment groups for their employees and depending on which group you belong to (and your salary also differs depending on the group), a different future will wait for you. And said that as an employee you can either have right (or chances – depends who you gonna look at this) to be relocated or not. This relocation can also have a few flavors. Again, depending on the group, when the time comes, you can be relocated within your organisation, however within the same city or around the country or even abroad for global organisations. And what is important to know, is that those changes are coming more or less every 4-5 years.
So for someone who doesn’t understand Japanese working environment, from outside, it might look exciting but also a little bit strange. And I think most of people – especially the one who experienced an economic crises few years back in EU and US – will see the „Life Time Employment” as a bless.
And here comes an insight. Japanese working environment is not as stable as it seems like to outside world. People rotate. This is also one of the very typical Japanese working style. Every 4-5 years people will be moved between various departments or even organisations. This means, that yesterday you work with someone who was in marketing department, however tomorrow (s)he will be moved to for example to software development department and in next 4-5 years to intentional sales. In such way, by the time employee will become senior enough to take top management role, (s)he will learn most of operation throughout the organisation. It is done by so called „On Job Training”. In Japan it looks like everyone can do everything. I will not comment if this is good or bad, as I live in Asia long enough to know that you observe and accept things.
Though there is one thing that I strongly disagree with. However about it in the second.
So why June is one of the most stressful months in Japan?
Back in Europe the biggest organisational changes happen by the end of fiscal year or latest at the beginning of it. However not in Japan.
Most of Japanese organisations follow fiscal year starting April 1st and ending March 30th . Also, most of the public organisations must publish their results by the 1st quarter. This means, that of course none of the organisations want to crate a storm before publishing the effects of hard work from the previous year. Therefore, they wait and after going publish, the big changes come! The rule is that as an employee you will not know what will happen to you until the last week of June. This means, that ONLY one week before you will be informed that you are going to be transferred to another division another unit or even another organisation. If you choose the “international path” you are a little bit more luck (or in my opinion not) because you will be informed up to 3 to 4 weeks in advance that from July you will be moved to… France, Oman, Canada or Uruguay or whatever country your organisation wants to send you to.
So now imagine a situation that you are co-working with a Japanese organisation and a key person from your project one week before, informs you that (s)he is being transferred (because the time came) and a new person will come also within a week. While it might be difficult for you to deal with such situation I always feel sorry for the person, because (s)he usually cannot do anything about it. Its like a lottery. Once you decide you want to have in future a chance to be transferred, you never can expect what is coming to you.
Also, from a business point of view, in Q1 not much will happen as everyone is waiting to see what June will bring.
This is why many Japanese fear the end of June (not admitting it publicly of course) as big and unpredictable changes are coming. So if you are doing business with Japanese, you need to remember that changes for them, means also changes for you.
What is your experience? Have you observed any big changes on your Japanese counterpart side by the end of June?