Transforming the Workplace
Embracing Cultural Differences In The Workplace (#4 of 6 part series)
The cafeteria at Yanmar’s headquarters in Osaka now serves a number of dishes that are prepared in accordance with Muslim practices. No pork or alcohol is used and the food is cooked with separate kitchen utensils. The new meals have also proven popular with non-Islamic members of staff. An Uzbekistani Muslim who graduated from Ritsumeikan Asian Pacific University (APU) was a key figure in the company’s decision to implement the menu in March of this year. The employee previously found it difficult to find dishes to eat in the cafeteria during lunch and would mainly just eat udon noodles. The worker put forward a number of proposals to senior employees and to those in charge of the cafeteria to ask for the menu to be modified.
Yanmar, a company that has subsidiaries in Asia, Europe and the United States, currently employees about 50 international workers in Japan. A representative from their human resources department highlighted the importance of creating an environment where people can feel secure during work. The increasing number of Muslims entering Japan has meant that Yanmar has started to cater for employees who practise Islam. But the number of companies who adopt this kind of approach appear to be in the minority. There was recently a report of a female Muslim student who gave up a part time job at a takeout chain after the company told her that she would not be able to wear a hijab at work. Despite Muslim students’ interest in entering Japanese companies, there are some individuals who are anxious about the possibility of assuming a full-time position. The Japan Halal Association (Osaka City), an organization for increasing awareness about Islamic practices, has heard cases of Muslims who have left the country due to a lack of understanding about their prayer rituals in the workplace.
Religion is not the only obstacle for international workers entering Japanese companies. International employees expressed a number of concerns about adapting to the Japanese work environment, with some even voicing concerns about whether they will be able to fully grasp the importance of laying the groundwork for business deals and adequately read the room when required.
Hotel and transportation company Iwasaki Sangyo (Kagoshima City) employs 33 people from five different countries. Managers in each department frequently check in with the international employees to make sure that they are not having any difficulties. The company provides guidance on daily life, even offering advice about mobile phone contracts. They also help organize social gatherings where international employees can talk about their troubles. The company vice president asserted that growth cannot be expected from an organization that is not creating an environment which facilitates the needs and requirements of people from overseas.
The president of Asian Marketing (Fukuoka City), a recruitment company that deals with international workers, suggested that there has been a perceptible change in the position of Japanese companies in recent years, noting that the idea of Japanese people simply managing and supervising international workers has become slightly outdated. There are now more companies assuming a flexible position that accommodates the way people from overseas think and work. The development of an international workforce and the trend of hiring talented employees from overseas will likely continue to change business practices in Japan.
New Era of Immigration in Kyushu
The number of workers from abroad, including international students and technical interns in Japan, exceeded one million for the first time last year. This group of people form an indispensable component of the workforce, irrespective of the government’s position on immigration. Read more installments from this series here.