Steven's Blog

Eschew the Putative Best People

Your company should not have mass appeal as a great place to work, if it is exceptional people you want to attract.

An expat executive at a European firm in Japan lamented how his company is at a disadvantage in hiring the best talent. Japanese candidates already view non-Japanese firms as a black mark against them, and tend not to trust that their jobs are secure. Foreign firms tend to lay people off in hard times and fire people for insufficient performance. As such, this executive’s firm has tried to be as “Japanese” as possible, de-emphasizing the fact that its headquarters are overseas, and mimicking Japanese-style lifetime employment and seniority-based promotion systems, if not in policy, at least in practice.

Still, he said, the company has to settle for lesser talent. He complained of reactive managers with little drive to succeed, always waiting for direction from above before moving, and even then moving only lethargically. Few people speak English or any foreign language, or even have a desire to learn. Most have never been overseas, and have little to no desire to go, despite working for a global firm.

This executive is mistaken. His company has been successful in attracting some of the “best” talent that Japan has to offer. The only problem is that it is talent that would be best suited for some other company, not his own.

Seniority-based promotion lifetime employment systems are the root cause of reactivity and lethargy in any organization, anywhere in the world, not just in Japan. So why would you possibly want to mimic such systems in your business if it is dynamism and dynamic people you want? Firms with merit-based promotion systems attract Japanese people who are highly capable, confident in their abilities, and driven to succeed, just like anywhere else in the world. Who cares whether they come from a top-tier Japanese university? It’s their attitude, behaviors, and abilities that count.

If you are seeking internationally-minded people, why would you possibly wish to appear to be more “Japanese?” An unabashedly French firm attracts people who like France and may even speak the language. The same is true of American, Italian, and German firms as well as those from other countries. International firms attract internationally-minded people, many of whom have superior foreign language abilities, or at least a desire to learn, and a curiosity and openness toward the world outside of Japan.

There is no such thing as the “best” talent. There is only the best talent for your company. Click To Tweet

Exceptional people eschew what has mass appeal in favor for what appeals to them. You attract the best people for your business by having the courage to be uncompromisingly who you are, not by trying to be something you are not.

Be the exception and you will attract the exceptional. The choice is yours.

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