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Career Success
MAY 9, 2017

To attract talented people, first create a fun workplace.

By Yoshito Hori

It’s spring in Japan. The sun is shining, the leaves are green and the streets are full of groups of young people in brand new suits. April is when the new crop of graduate hires take up their jobs in corporate Japan and bring a breath of fresh air into the workplace.

Good people are key to growing your company. If you can’t add good people on a regular basis, you will stop growing: that’s how crucial hiring is.

And that’s why I’ve been wrestling with the same question since founding my firm, the business school GLOBIS, in 1992: “How can I attract and retain the very best people?”

Eventually, I realized that the best way to find the answer was by asking myself another question: “If you were a job-hunting young graduate, what kind of company would you choose to work for?”

Taking this very personal, what-if perspective, really helped to focus my thinking.

My ideal employer, I decided, would offer the following 5 things:

1. The freedom to do the work I want
2. The opportunity to develop my skills
3. The chance to make friends
4. The awareness that I’m contributing to society
5. Fair performance evaluation and commensurate pay

I then built a system designed to address each of these five points.

—Work I want to do
We ask newly-hired employees what kind of work they want to do before they join and make a point of putting them in positions where they can fulfill their aspirations.

—Opportunity to develop my skills
We enable our people to develop fast by delegating complete authority for decision-making to the people on the ground (versus the normal Japanese top-down approach). We also encourage our employees to educate themselves further by providing financial support for graduate study and short courses overseas.

—Chance to make friends
A friendly, happy company is an appealing place to work. (Needless to say, an unhappy, miserable company is not!) We try to hire friendly and sociable people and we support a range of clubs for staff so that there is plenty of social interaction across departmental lines; we also organize large parties and outings.

—Feeling that “I’m contributing”
One of our management principles is to contribute to society. All GLOBIS’ businesses—whether education, publishing, conferences or venture capital—serve a need and create real value. As a private company, we are not answerable to shareholders. That means we can prioritize social contribution above shareholder value. Young people these days are more socially aware and want to feel good about their jobs. My view is that if we do the right thing, it will eventually show up in the bottom line.

—Fair evaluation and fair pay
We work hard to make our evaluation and compensation systems as transparent as possible. For example, employees can propose the salary they think they deserve; HR then uses a mixture of 360-degree evaluation and objective data to judge if they are worth it. If their proposal is not met, negotiation continues with due process until we reach a mutually satisfactory outcome.

We hire around 50 to 60 people every year, and I often get asked what kind of people is GLOBIS looking for and what constitutes the “right stuff” for us?

We are looking for 3 qualities.

1. A positive, cheerful, “forward-leaning” character. No matter how able a person is, if they can’t work with other people as part of a team, we probably don’t want to hire them.

2. Ambition and drive. The desire to do well and the energy to plug away are more important than a track record and experience when it comes to making a success of things.

3. The ability to think logically. People who can’t think logically can’t break down complicated problems or think systematically. We created a proprietary test called GMAP to measure the logical thinking abilities of everyone trying out for a job with us.

Of course, another crucial factor is hiring people who really buy into your company’s vision and mission. At GLOBIS, the vision is “creating the No. 1 business school in Asia” and the mission is to “pave the way for creative change and innovation.”

If you hire positive, driven, logical people who really want to work for you, the result will be a company-wide fun atmosphere. A fun atmosphere triggers a virtuous circle, automatically attracting more of the right people to the firm. Also, if people enjoy their jobs and like their colleagues, they are far better equipped to deal with adversity, when things go wrong.

“Enthusiasm and enjoyment” are a key element of THE GLOBIS WAY, our company constitution. And when it comes to creating a fun workplace, the people at the top should seize the initiative. I, as president, together with the rest of the management team should set an example—by having fun.

At Vorkers.com, a Japanese site for job seekers that evaluates companies based on employee feedback, GLOBIS took the No. 1 spot in the “employee morale” table in 2015. I believe that the fun atmosphere we offer was a big factor there.

Spring is in the air. Today, I am going to work hard, and set a good example to my people, by enjoying myself.

Photo by wavebreakmedia

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