Thursday, December 20, 2012

Agility in Japan Relocation


The second attribute; AGILITY!! 

In Japan relocation, we are continually trying to be agile in the market in these different ways.



Here are Some Agile Traits

 1.     Respond quickly to threats and opportunities

  • Respond quickly to over-capacity and to changes in market demand
  • Respond quickly to the threat of large companies
  • Respond quickly to innovation

2.     Don’t get too big- with smaller size comes greater flexibility

  • Be the best not the biggest
  • Operate under the radar of large firms
  • Be flexible

3.     Grow your business in accord with your customers changing needs

  • Work closely with customers on product design and delivery
  • Collaborate closely with customers on special projects
  • Develop intimacy with customers through joint ventures and long-term contracts
  • Grow your business with innovative products
  •  Grow with customized products and services
  • Grow via alliances
  • Grow by means of integration with your customers infrastructure

4.     Move toward new and promising markets where customers have specialized needs that only you can meet

  • Move to new industries
  • Move to new concepts
  • Move to alternative markets and suppliers
  • Move to underserved niches
  • Move to creative people

5.     Be an aggressive acquirer, taking advantages of the opportunities to broaden and enhance your product offerings

  • Purchase competitors
  • Broaden geographic scope
  • Purchase for talent and efficiencies

6.     Be sufficiently diversified so that you can compensate for a decline in one segment with strengths in another.

  • Diversify into new markets
  • Diversify into varied products
  • Diversify into new technology
  • Diversify into small niches
  • Diversify into multiple platforms
  • Diversity into related products

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Great Attributes To Have in Japan Relocation

I have recently been reading a book called "Big Winners and Big Losers", as naturally I wish to be the former and avoid the latter in Japan Relocation! This is a summary of what I have learnt.

I am going to do this across several posts, today being the first.

Great relocation companies have the following attributes;

1.     They have a “Sweet Spot”
2.     They have “Agility”
3.     They have “Discipline”
4.     They have “Focus”

Great companies are also said best to have either one of the 4 following strategies (or may be a combination);

Focused Cost Leadership (ie. low cost orientated); a narrow view and one type of customer
Cost Leadership (ie. low cost orientated); a broad view and many kinds of customers
Focused Differentiation (ie. not cost lead); a narrow view and one type of customer
Differentiation (ie. not cost lead); a broad view and many types of customer

I believe that if you are going to be best relocation company in Japan or any location in the world, you have to put your energy into "Focussed Differentiation".

The four secrets of long term business success are therefore to articulate one of the above approaches, with the 4 attributes as follows;

1.     Position yourself in a sweet spot; be in uncontested space
2.     Move with agility; get out of contested space and into uncontested space
3.     Be "hard-to-imitate" and disciplined; protect your uncontested space
4.     Concentrate and focus; exploit your uncontested space


“Sweet spots” can be attained by;
-       Co-designing products with your customers
-       Embedding yourselves in your customer’s infra-structure
-       Being brokers between your customer’s needs and the satisfaction of those needs

Are you just servicing your relocation clients, or are you strategically considering what puts you in a sweet spot as you are servicing your clients? It makes a difference!

Tune in again soon to learn about the 2nd, 3rd and 4th attributes!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Labor Laws in Japan Relocation

Today's post comes to you courtesy of "Kido Conseil";

For any labor & employment law issues, I would highly recommend contacting Ms. Emi KIDO on Thank you Emi-san for this great information.

Increase of the Kosei Nenkin (Employees’ Pension) Insurance Rate
The premium rate of the Kosei Nenkin Insurance increased from 16.412% to 16.766% (equally shared between employer and employee: 8.383%) on September 1, 2012.

Minimum hourly wage will be changed as follows from October 1, 2012
Tokyo: 850 JPY
Kanagawa: 849 JPY
Saitama: 771 JPY
Chiba: 756 JPY

Re-employment system after the retirement age
All the employees who request to continue working after their retirement age should be re-employed up to 65 years of age as from April 1, 2013 due to a rise in pension eligibility age. 
The exception can be made for those who are deemed to become incapable of pursuing their duties because of physical or mental injury, etc. The guidelines will state the details.
The transitional measures can be provided in case where the re-employment agreement has been already concluded.
Transitional measures:
April 1, 2013 – March 31, 2016
61 years of age
April 1, 2016 – March 31, 2019
April 1, 2019 – March 31, 2022
April 1, 2022 – March 31, 2025
April 1, 2025 and thereafter

Exemption of Health and Employees’ Pension Insurance premiums during Maternity Leave
The employer and the employee are exempt from paying the Health and Employees’ Pension Insurance premiums during the Maternity Leave, as well as during the Childcare Leave. This will be effective within 2 years from August 22, 2012.

Change of the minimum period of Japanese pension coverage
The requirements for a minimum period of Japanese pension coverage will be reduced to 10 years  in lieu of 25 years.  This will be effective as from October 2015. 
Attention is required for filing an application of lump-sum withdrawal payments.  Once the lump-sum withdrawal payments are received, the total coverage periods will no longer be valid to apply for other Japanese benefits.  
Those who meet the requirements of Social Security Agreement between the contracted countries and Japan may be entitled to totalize the coverage periods and receive the benefits. 
The countries totalizing the Japanese coverage periods:
Germany, U.S.A., Belgium, France, Canada, Australia, Netherlands, Czech, Spain, Ireland, Brazil and Switzerland (as of August 31, 2012)
Countries under negotiation: Hungry, Luxembourg, India, Sweden and China. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Japan Relocation in Your Sleep!

Our industry is a very busy one, and many of us have those days when we are sleep deprived. However, sleep deprivation has been shown to damage brain cells.

The below is an excerpt from “Terry Small” who is known in this world as the “Brain Guy”. Thanks for your insights Terry!

Here are seven habits that can steal your sleep:

1.     No caffeine after lunch. Caffeine can stay with you for up to 12 hours leaving you wide awake at bedtime.
General rule: if you need an energy jolt try going for a brisk walk outside.

2.     Unplug. Cozying up to your laptop in bed could disrupt your sleep. The content stimulates your brain. And the emitted blue light mimics daylight. It can stop the production of melatonin - the sleep hormone.
General rule: turn off all gadgets an hour before bedtime.

3.     Exercise early in the day. Exercise is great for reducing stress and this helps sleep. But it also increases your body's core temperature, making it harder to fall asleep.
General rule: exercise at least 2 hours before bedtime. Earlier would be even better.

4.     Downsize dinner. Large meals take a long time to digest, delaying the onset of sleepiness.
General rule: try and make lunch your big meal of the day...or at least eat a bit more for lunch and little bit less in the evening.

5.     Skip the "nightcap". Period.

6.     Don't work in bed. Especially on your computer.
General rule: stop working at least an hour before bedtime.

7.     Sleeping pills? Very sparingly. Better not at all. A recent study reported in the BMJ Open journal found regular sleeping pill users were 4.6 times likelier to die prematurely.
General rule: don't.

8.     Make your bed. The National Sleep Foundation found that 44% of people who make their beds tend to sleep more soundly than those who don't.
General rule: don't leave your bed in a heap.

9.     Sleeping in on the weekend. Wide variations in your sleep-wake cycle can cause insomnia.
General rule: if you are dying for a sleep-in, try and keep it to just an hour more than your normal "get up time".

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

New Immigration System in Japan -Video Explanation

On July 9th 2012 Japan's new Immigration System will go live, and people need to be aware of what that means to them.  Here is an in depth interview I gave on June 20th where I sum up the important points.  Please have a look and contact me if you have any questions. 

For your convenience, I have copied in the text of my previous blog post on this subject, which includes a brief description, links to official Japanese government source materials (mostly in English), and answer some frequently asked questions.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Japan Relocation and Global Trends

Japan Relocation Amongst The Brookfield 2012 Global Relocation Trends Survey

The bullet points below are highlights that have been copied directly from Brookfield's website; their summary bullet points of their survey. The narration is added to give a Japan perspective.
  • 54% of international assignees were relocated to or from the headquarters country, the lowest percentage in the history of this report.
This above shows how third country relocations are on the rise. The Indian IT engineer working for a US company is moved from Tokyo to London....... In Japan, we are seeing a rise in non-traditional relocations of many assignees from Asian decent, working for western companies. Non-traditional relocation programs need to be innovated!
  • China, Brazil and India were the most challenging locations for international assignees, not Russia as reported in the past four years. China, Brazil, India and Russia were the most challenging for program managers.
This can be said for Japanese companies too. The H&R Group represents "Lead-S" in China and "Formula Group" in India. We increasingly see more opportunities to help Japanese companies into these locations.
  • 54% of company revenues were generated outside the headquarters country, a record high for the past two years, compared to a historical average of 46%.
This is the trend for Japanese companies too. The strong yen is driving business out of Japan, and forcing Japanese to become more global.
  • For 85% of the respondents, relocation assignment policy decisions were made globally at headquarters; 8% regionally; and 7% by business division.
This is something that is completely the reverse in Japan. Apart from domestic relocation giant "Relocation International" (part of the Relo Holdings Group) there are few global management options available to Japanese companies, and most companies choose to do things locally "in location".
  • At companies where cross-cultural training was offered, it was mandatory at 24% of companies. 85% of respondents rated cross-cultural training as having good or great value.
This is something very much missing in Japanese relocations. There is a strong tendency for Japanese companies and people to continue to run operations like "Japanese" even when they are in Vietnam......I really would like to see a little more "When in Rome do as the Romans do" from our Japanese counterparts.
  • 10% of responding companies assist international assignees with elderly family members. Of these companies 64% relocate elderly family members to the assignment location and 55% support international assignee visits to the home country.
This is a big issue for Japan. It is rare for companies to support employees who have elderly family on assignment, and indeed for expats coming to Japan on assignment, there is no dependent visa for elderly family to allow you to have them come with you.
  • Respondents indicated that 6% of assignments fail. Top causes for failure are the employee leaves to work for another company; spouse/partner dissatisfaction; other family concerns; and the job does not meet expectations.
This is a statistic that I don't know much about for Japanese assignees. Based on the hierarchical society that Japan is, one would imagine that assignment failure would be less than this 6%. Furthermore for expats in Japan, there is very little "hardship" here, so my gut feeling is that failed assignments are much lower for assignees to Japan. 

There is no denying that our industry is changing in some very challenging ways. Our organization is focussed on positive innovation to meet the changes. We won't get it all right, but we need to innovate on many levels.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Japan Relocation and Highly Skilled Foreign Professionals

The Japanese immigration bureau announced the start of a new “points-based” visa system for “highly skilled foreign professionals” on May 7th 2012.

To qualify for a visa under the “Designated Activities” category of Japan’s 27 visa categories through this new system you need 70 points. The system is available to 3 kinds of foreign professionals;

1.     Foreign professionals conducting “Academic Research” activities

2.     Foreign professionals conducting  “Advanced Specialized / Technical” activities

3.     Foreign professionals conducting “management” activities

Each of the above 3 “activities” have a clearly defined “points calculation table” based on academic background, research or business experience, promised annual salary, Japanese language proficiency, earning a degree at a higher education institution in Japan and a few other “bonus point” opportunities unique to each of the categories.

For academic research and advanced specialized / technical activities, age is also a factor; the younger you are, the more points you can obtain (this is not applicable to business management).

Through this system, I think it is obvious for all to see that the Japanese Government is looking to target young professionals in academia and technical fields, while try to attract experienced businessmen into management positions in Japan.

Using this system, if you score 70 points or more, you receive not only visa status, but also some preferential treatment compared to other medium to long-term visa holders in Japan. This includes;
-       Permission to conduct multiple purposes of activities during your stay
(under other visa categories, your activities are limited to the activities of the stipulated visa category)
-       Relaxation of requirements to obtain “Permanent Residence” in Japan. A minimum of 4.5 years to obtain such status (under the current system, a stay of 10 years is generally required, unless you have a Japanese spouse)
-       The ability to have your spouse work full-time (under the current system, with permission, the maximum you can work is 28 hours per week as a dependent spouse)
-       Permission to have your parents live with you in Japan up to 3-years (there is currently no dependent visa that covers “parents” to allow for them to live with you)
-       Permission to have a domestic servant

There is one large disadvantage and some inconveniences to this new system.
-       The biggest disadvantage is that as this system is administered through the “Designated Activities” visa category that exists as one of the 27 visa categories in Japan, if you do have a working visa through this system and you leave your job to take another position with another company in Japan, you will need to re-apply for the visa with your new organization from scratch. This is not true for the other 26 categories, whereby if you change jobs and stay within the activities stipulated for your visa status, you only need to report the change, but do not lose your visa status.
-       The second disadvantage is that there is quite a lot of paperwork involved in the application. For example, if you have 10-years of experience in the industry, you need to prove that experience by providing 10 years’ worth of “employment certificates” from each of your employers during the 10-year period (or at least enough evidence that adds up to 10 years). How many of you are able to receive an employment certificate from a workplace 10 years ago!
-       Another disadvantage is that you are not guaranteed to be successful with this kind of “Designated Activities” visa, so you a required to make an application for this visa with one of the other “regular 26 visa categories. ie. You need to make an application for two visas at the same time, and if you are successful you will receive this special visa.

I must say that I am impressed with the Immigration Bureau and their willingness to implement new systems such as this. Since 2010 we have seen the “Fast Track System” for large companies in Japan, which enables large companies to push through visa applications much quicker than before, May 7th 2012 saw this “Highly Skilled Foreign Professionals” system implemented, and then on July 7th 2012 we will see the implement of the new resident card, which amongst other things will see the maximum period of visas extended from 3 to 5 years.

If you play by the rules in Japan, things are becoming significantly more convenient on the whole.

In closing, in my conversations with the immigration bureau recently two things have become apparent. One is that the DPJ is having a hard time passing any laws, and therefore any radical change in the Immigration System is not going to happen or be recommended. It is for this reason that the new “Highly Skilled Foreign Professionals” point-system has been placed under the “Designated Activities Visa” category. Creating a new visa category would have required laws to be passed, and that is something the DPJ can’t do with any speed right now.
The second item leads on from the first, but it is very evident that the Immigration Bureau recognizes that change in Immigration policy is needed. They are trapped within the political environment, but are doing what they can to move immigration policy forward. Amongst their next plans are goals to reduce visa processing time to a maximum of 10 working days for any visa category, and for immigration policy that will allow for the relaxation of the entry of health care workers from Asia and the rest of the world.

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