How Japanese Companies Can Develop a More Diverse and Inclusive Workforce

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  • September 29, 2016
Diverse and Inclusive Workforce
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Diverse and Inclusive Workforce

Japanese companies that are based in the United States or have offices outside of Japan have a unique challenge when it comes to diversity and inclusion. In fact, the concept of “diversity” in and of itself is very broad and can mean different things to different people in different countries and regions.

Declaring, “We want more diversity!” can mean grossly different things depending on the listener.

The obvious and most-talked about forms of diversity are gender diversity, ethnic diversity and religious diversity. But crafting a diverse and rich work environment within a corporation can run much deeper than ethnicity, gender and religion.

Diversity can also refer to sexual orientation, age, lifestyle preferences, work style (working in the office or working remotely), work format (part time employment versus full time versus project-based versus freelance/consultant) and values. And truly, this list is still only the tip of the iceberg. This was a big a-ha moment for attendees of the Executive Roundtable I held this year. (Check out the presentation HERE.)

Clarify what Diversity Means to Your Organization

Because of the huge potential discrepancies in what “diversity” could actually look like, it’s important to clearly understand what your organization decides is diverse.


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The unique challenge for companies that have offices outside of their home country is that whatever policies are in place at headquarters may not necessarily make sense for an office in a different location. Because of this, each office really must find their own diversity strategy, and be allowed the freedom to craft a strategy that fits their position – even if that means it doesn’t look exactly like the strategy headquarter devised.

Of course, I don’t want to generalize this situation at all – because there are layers of complexity at work in this arena – but one of the challenges I see for Japanese companies in the Americas is that the headquarters in Japan don’t fully understand the local environment.

Headquarters expects the local office to follow the Japanese way. Now, that might work excellently in Japan… but not so well in Mexico or the United States where the definition and challenges around “diversity” changes and dramatically due to the understandably different environment.

The Solution is to Create Specific Diversity Goals

The first step toward putting together a diverse work environment is to understand exactly what it would look like in an ideal scenario. What does a thriving diverse workplace look like for your company? The second step is to define what it means in a quantifiable sense.

At this point, it’s already well-known that diversity has a positive financial impact; read the McKinsey Report HERE. In fact, when companies have more ethnic and gender diversity in leadership roles, they are 35% more likely to outperform their competition.

There’s no question that diversity is beneficial. The challenge is in setting down specific, measurable goals for diversity (“We want our executive board to be 50% women ”) and attaching a timeline for those goals (“We want to achieve this by 2018”).


As with most goals, a clear definition, a clear measuring stick and a clear timeline are imperative for success. If you’re in a leadership position in your organization and you want support in creating a clear outline for your diversity and inclusion goals, I would love to talk to you. Click HERE to set up a time to speak with me directly about how you can develop a diverse and inclusive organization.

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