Igniting Workplace Enthusiasm

The Olympics' Generation


We are on the cusp of a change amongst youth in Japan. Those already entered into the workforce have memories of the Lehman Shock and the triple whammy of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear core meltdown and the impact this had on the job market. They are looking for security of employ and family life, because of the fragility of both were exposed to them in September 2008 and again in March 2011. They saw the dire straights of those who slipped into the part-time employee hell of low wages, no prospects and everything tough, tough, tough.

In 2016, only 6.9% of those in the 25-34 age group switched jobs. The September 2016 survey by the Japan Institute For Labor Policy and Training also found nearly 90% supported lifetime employment. This figure was only 65% in 2004. Of those in their 20s, 55% wanted to work for the same company right through. That same number was only 34% in 2004.
There is a generation coming behind them though who will be different again. They were born around the time of the Sydney Olympics in 2000, have little recollection of the Lehman debacle in 2008 and except for those with close links to the Tohoku region, vaguely recall the ordeal of the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear core meltdowns.
They are going to graduate after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. They are going to see the part-time jobs market filled with Asian, mainly Chinese, students working their allowed 38 hours a week (more hours than the work week in France). They are going to see driverless electric cars, Artificial Intelligence breakthroughs, the ubiquity of voice commands, bumptious robots and the Internet of Things controlling their lives. Their demographic curve is in rapid decline, their numbers are dropping every year and will be half today’s figures by 2060. They are going to be in big demand. The current unemployment rate of 2.8% will sink even further. They will be free agents looking at multiple job offers and openings available to them.
They will be the last juku or cram school generation. University entrance requirements will collapse. Except for the absolute elite institutions, a pulse and cash will be the only entry requirements. Tokyo is going to cap the numbers of students on campus, but the rest of the country will have no limits. Many universities will be hungry for fees and desperate to attract students. The Millennial’s successor generation, who some are calling Generation Z and for Japan, I am calling the "Olympics’ Generation", will have an entirely different perspective on education. "Exam hell" will mainly disappear as a cultural construct for the 90%-95% who don’t aim for the elite universities.
Mid-career hires are still an anathema for many local Japanese firms, but that is going to have to change. They simply will not be able to find staff. What to do with women is confusing for them, as their structures are built on the old post-war model of husband works and the wife raises the kids. That will have to disappear quite soon.
This whole concept will have to change and they are going to have to learn to be more flexible about hours worked and leave. When the kids get sick, the husband is still unlikely to be dropping tools and heading off to the school to pick up junior. The working wife will need to do that and woe be tide to any firm who doesn’t cooperate, because others will and she will move on.
Today, some domestic firms still look askance at employees having a profile on LinkedIn. This site started as a pseudo-job board, but it has become another source of useful information available for free. This will all add up to assisting greater job mobility.
Recruiters will be poaching people right, left and center to satisfy firms desperate to find young workers. The wooing to move will be constant. We have seen an aberration of Economics 101 where labour supply shortages have not yet resulted in wages growth. That cannot last much longer. Certainly this Olympics’ Generation will enjoy the financial benefits of powerful labour demand.
The key word for this Olympics’ Generation will be "mendokusai" (めんどくさい)or "bothersome" and anything duly defined will be resisted. Companies are going to struggle with leading this generation. The current Millennials may become their immediate bosses, but the cultural divide between them will be vast.
Middle managers in Japan will be faced with the greatest challenges of any generation of Japanese leaders. Unless they are properly trained for this onslaught, it is going to be a nightmare. Their situation will simply outstrip the leadership answers usually tapped from OJT (On The Job Training). There is no roadmap for this eventuality, because this is all a brave new world of leadership.
Is anyone in Japan thinking about this? I would say based on my discussions so far, the answer is "no".
You heard it hear first folks: "Winter is coming".
Engaged employees are self-motivated. The self-motivated are inspired. Inspired staff grow your business but are you inspiring them? We teach leaders and organisations how to inspire their people. Want to know how we do that? Contact me at greg.story@dalecarnegie.com
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About The Author
Dr. Greg Story: President, Dale Carnegie Training Japan
In the course of his career Dr. Greg Story has moved from the academic world, to consulting, investments, trade representation, international diplomacy, retail banking and people development. Growing up in Brisbane, Australia he never imagined he would have a Ph.D. in Japanese decision-making and become a 30 year veteran of Japan.
A committed lifelong learner, through his published articles in the American, British and European Chamber journals, his videos and podcasts "THE Leadership Japan Series", "THE Sales Japan series", THE Presentations Japan Series", he is a thought leader in the four critical areas for business people: leadership, communication, sales and presentations. Dr. Story is a popular keynote speaker, executive coach and trainer.
Since 1971, he has been a disciple of traditional Shitoryu Karate and is currently a 6th Dan. Bunbu Ryodo (文武両道-both pen & sword) is his mantra and he applies martial art philosophies and strategies to business.





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