Success stories - Innovative Hiring Solutions for Modern-day Japan
All businesses have to find and keep staff. Many informed company directors say, "Our people are our most valuable resource." So, clearly, expending effort to find the best staff makes good commercial sense.
But with many companies seeking people it takes new steps to complete the hiring process successfully.
Each situation is of course different and unique to the hiring organization. But there are similarities also - candidate selection and search amongst those with good grades of qualifications. There may be a large pool of talent available, or those not actively looking, or those freshly qualified, or those seeking new challenges or interim work. So how can a recruitment agency contend with all these demands and really offer something that works and is different to the hiring organization.
As with many sectors of life one learns with experience. Solutions, tested by time that evolve, are refined and become winning solutions. All the more surprising if few or indeed any others, are offering the same or new approaches to the recruitment demands in the marketplace.
One such provider is FocusCore. A group that has been in the recruitment and advisory sector for many years. The aim "to provide the à la carte menu to find the solution that works rapidly, is cost effective and (most important), finds that magical mix of candidate and employer where both are content at the start and into the future. So how this done, What is different? Who are the solutions designers? Why do they work?
For an answer to this, I’m lucky enough to have a Q&A session with the 3 directors of FocusCore. They have carved and formed novel solutions for their part of the recruitment business. Three recruitment process solutions for the various and variable hiring requirements that every company faces and also the varying needs of a candidate as they start or continue their career.
It is not surprising that a one fit all strategy offered by many recruitment firms no longer works.
Today we have in the interview room David Sweet, Ph.D. Managing Director, FocusCore Japan. Jivago Matsuoka, Managing Partner Advisory Services and Damon Mackey, Director FocusCore. We start by asking for an introduction from David.
Q: David, you started FocusCore in Tokyo. Tell me a bit how you got started.
David: Well, like all three of us, after such a long time in Japan and seeing how things were done, I wanted to create a better recruitment company. So many of the big firms were terribly transactional—shooting out resumes to companies without meeting candidates; some rarely meet their clients. And most of the small firms lacked the depth the truly help clients and candidates as people. I wanted us to give a retainer type of service to our clients at contingency prices, i.e., success based. Why should clients need not receive top service? But there was a real gap.
I think the 3 of us have created an interesting business model unique in the market. I picture it like a parabola: at the top Damon is bringing in professionals through seminars and summits, and then FocusCore can bring permanent and contract solutions. We’ve actually created a model that does help clients focus on their core business. And we also give our candidates the widest selection of career choices of any firm in Tokyo. It’s brilliant.
Q: How did you come into starting the advisory business with FocusCore?
Jivago: I had been working in this sector for over 10 years, notably in the non-banking sectors and filling posts on an interim basis with our hands-on advisors—qualified contract professionals who can start immediately. These contractors may be via a short term contract to fulfill roles such as finance controllers, accounting managers, senior accountants, audit specialists, internal control specialists and helping companies who are starting an ERP implementation. For example, I could provide a contractor to cover the staff member while they are on ERP training. This was a very new idea in Japan 10 years ago and I thought, “I needed to start a company that could handle it.”
When David and I met, we knew this was something that no one else was doing at a senior level to the quality I could offer. We had similar experiences and felt that we could create something new and better in the market. Of course, when we combined that with Damon’s MBA services, we knew this was special.
Q: Damon, how did you become a Director of FocusCore?
Damon : Well, I had been running Asia’s largest MBA forum in Tokyo and China for several years. I was lucky to meet David and we figured out that what I did could be a cement for the services Jivago and David offered: it was a way to help clients promote their recruitment to large groups of 100 hand-picked candidates. Most companies only look at a handful of candidates. This was a room filled with professionals. And, of course, if these candidates missed the opportunity at companies, such as Unilever, Accenture, and Uber, then FocusCore could promote them to the other clients for contract or permanent positions. An excellent synergy for everyone.
Q : This is a certainly a unique form of recruitment in Tokyo.
Damon : We like to think so!
I think it is a unique ability the 3 of us have to answer the ever-increasing difficulty to hire strong, bilingual talent in Tokyo. We realize that the cost of hiring in Japan is more expensive than elsewhere in the world. The competition for MBAs, bilinguals, top-talent, fierce.
Jivago : I agree. Most recruitment companies are only offering one-size fits all solutions. We offer a variety of services that we tailor to each client’s needs.
Q : So what’s the difference?
David: So you see we have evolved into a solution rich recruitment agency. Seminars, contract and permanent placements, high-end executive. We also have an official partnership with HirePlanner.com to offer an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) for clients so they can save money and time for recruitment processes. It’s all about making it easier, cheaper, better for the client.
It remains a surprise to me that we deliver processes that are not seen from our competitors.
Q: Jivago, the contract solution you offer seems an unusual set up in Japan, though I have heard of such recruitment in North America and Europe.
Jivago: Yes, I agree. To have senior management ready at a moment’s notice is a strange concept in Japan—especially when it is short-term, versus a lifetime employment proposition. And then the service we give is so much over and above what clients expect, it surprise them. We actually go in to meet the company seeking a contractor to describe what the contractor can do, how the company managers should inform their staff about the contract hire (and a lot more) and also make sure all the necessary processes are ready (handover, business continuity, day one effective start planning) so the entire process is smooth and cost effective. Don't forget we have people able to start tomorrow and be effective.
David: One of our clients once said, “These candidates are too good to be temporary.” That’s the difference in Japan. Understanding that these candidates are advisors that go in and help companies through challenging times.
Q: What about the candidates?
Damon: What also helps and makes FocusCore so great is that our candidate pool is from the top echelon business schools - already proven performers, highly sought after. There are those that are at the start of their career, but some MBAs have a few years of business experience and are starting to seek top management positions .
Jivago: Damon’s hit the nail on the head. So many candidates are looking and asking themselves,
“Which company do I start my career?” Vital - seems an understatement. But, with Damon giving these candidates the chance to be among an audience of 100 top candidates (pre-selected, so already really good candidates), or in a smaller group and visit the company site for a presentation by the CEO, who may well open the door to show some new developments being planned in the organization...well that is a bonus few could even imagine could happen when they are literally fresh out of college.
David: This is where also our attendance in all interviews is so important as a candidate develops in his or her career. We really know the hiring company and its people and also the candidate. We spend 1-on-1 time with both. Yes that is time consuming for us, but it actually is the best solution and investment in our time. In this way we really know we have found the best match between company and candidate, a placement that will last.
Q: With such hands on service, how much time does it take to have a candidate into a job?
Jivago: This can of course take time and cannot sometimes be fast tracked - I can offer, ready to start from tomorrow, someone who can take up the duties in a client company while the hiring process is ongoing—this may be a temporary solution while we find the right permanent candidate. Often, the company may like the contractor we introduced and hire them after a few months.
David: Jivago makes a really good point here, which I think is a major difference. While the consultant is on-site at a client, I can start a search. Because the client has someone in place, they make better hiring decisions, again cutting costs. It frees us to search the entire market place and really dig deep to find a treasure of a talented person that is really a superb fit.
Q: Damon, from your point of view, what is the challenge of hiring in Japan compared to the rest of Asia?
Damon: With talented people, who have studied long and hard, they have choices of where to work. And in Japan, candidates are extremely particular. That’s what makes our MBA Seminars and our Summits attractive solutions. These are exciting events where the CEO will speak to a hundred professionals. If we have more than one company, we can attract even a greater pool of candidates and cross-sell between the companies. And that gives the finicky job seeker choices.
And of course, when you meet and listen to amazing CEOs sharing data and success stories, candidates are genuinely excited by the company. That makes it easier for companies to capture that hard to find talent in Japan.
Gentleman, it’s been a delight to speak with you this afternoon. I’ve learned a great deal about the recruitment industry in Japan and am impressed on how you’ve created a different solution. I’d summarize by saying you really do live up to your name and allowing companies to focus on their core business. The seminars and summits attract top-talent, and then you’re able to go in and provide a short or long-term solution with such candidates that are unavailable to your competitors. Again, thank you for your time.