HDE's Culture Map
We recently published HDE's Culture Map. This interview started out as an internal interview, and as a company who values transparency, we decided to share it with the world.
Thank you very much for taking the busy time today. We are very excited to have you here with us. We were looking forward to talking with you and have prepared some papers here.
My pleasure too. Well, hmm just quickly looking at these, I see that you have a kind of a typical, technical, young tech environment. You are always looking different from traditional Japanese companies. But I think it's similar to the kinds of things that's seen in other young tech companies.
So, our company started in 1996 and until 2014 almost 100 % Japanese company. From 2014, we began to hire members from overseas. And the number of foreign members increased and today we have 23 members of this company,,,this is a map, of course Japanese is the most and 177, and Indonesia comes next, Thailand, Malaysia, China, U. S. A., Columbia, Swiss and Korea.
Very good. And these people, you brought them to Japan or they were already in Japan?
Some were already in Japan studying and so we initially hired them as interns or part timers. And some we actually did hired them overseas.
For my challenge, I analyzed ourselves according to your book.
Your corporate culture. OK, this is what I want to hear. "Who are you?" in my own language.
Let me show you this. These are our employees.
They look very beautiful.
We had a professional photographer come in.
First, communicating is close to Japanese and china, we are high context. And Evaluating is near here,,,the indirect end and we are here. Persuading, I guess in center, and about leading in spite of we are Japanese company but we are near egalitarian.
This is your industry. Technology tends to be toward that end.
And this is well, consensual,,,still is Japanese.So again, leading is in spite of we are Japanese company, we are here.
Because of the leadership, this is what the leadership has, this is how the leadership has modeled, this maybe the founders were trying to set up an environment that was more egalitarian.
yes, we are in culture of the open source culture, so we found the egalitarian is comfortable.
So, we have four questions. Is there any company like us, the Japan type but egalitarian with its leading style?
Well the company, uh, country comes to close to that is Sweden. Let me show you, Sweden matches you here, and matches here, So Sweden and Japan are similar always because they are more consensual. And Sweden are also,,, let me show you the disagreeing scale, so here also you can see Sweden of the western countries is the one that's furthest to the right. And there is another dimension, which is not my usual eight dimension but do you remember that one I showed this morning? The comfort of silence, do you remember that? Japan is very comfortable with silence and Sweden also more is comfortable with silence. But Sweden is more direct with negative feedback. And Sweden is about here on this scale. So, there is no,,,Japan is already a very unique culture. There is no other country in a world that has the same map as Japan does, so detect the Japan map and put the egalitarian,,, that's only you!
So, would you like to tell me before we move on to next question, would you like to tell me about any of these dimensions that are challenging to you as a company?
Well, I guess here,,, some managers' behavior is right side, and some managers are left side. The difference of managing style cause a little bit of confuse. We are moving culture left side by helping global members.
I see that's challenging because most people of your company come from countries over here,,,for people have learnt to follow a lot the authority figures,,, right.
This is well,,,high context is also difficult. Indonesian, China and other Asian members has high context, same high context but yet a bit difficult.
You are misunderstanding each other.
I have no idea if trouble might be hidden, but still there, but I'm sure the difference of context of the company, still I have no idea.
People are picking up messages differently because they are from other high context countries. Ok.
Let me go on next question. We tend to continue hire employees from abroad we are interested in welcoming staff from unknown countries. So, can you predict our company's future?
You will be very wealthy.
Something might occur? or we have to prepare for something?
Do you think when you are hiring, it will be mostly continuing to be from Asian countries or do you think it maybe also other western countries as well?
Not only from Asian countries but also from other areas, but Asian members have many chances to come.
Kazuaki Miyamoto（HDE, Inc. vice president）
OK. So, Predictions. As you moving to internationally, I think one of the biggest risks is that because the Japanese culture is so strong on this scale, and also so strong on this scale, this makes it easy to work with Thai people, or people from Myanmar, Myanmar is also way over here,,,so that's comfortable. But if you start hiring people over here, the risk is that in Japanese culture so much is unspoken. You think you are communicating a lot but other people from other cultures feel you may feel,,, you are being secretive, or you are hiding the information because they cannot pick up the implicit messages. That may lead to a lack of trust, so that's very common.That's very common people would feel like they purposely not open with me, or purposely hiding information. If you are going to hire people from Western countries, this dimension is also difficult because in Japan generally people don't give much feedback. And feedback is provided implicitly so implicitly I have to understand how you feel about my work, people from Europe or from US, even India will feel that they feel lost because they don't understand what the assessment of their work is. so those,,,that's one thing. The other thing that I think,,,this dimension is really important, the trusting scale. This is the most important of all of the dimensions, as you glow internationally, often what happens is Japanese may continue to maybe go out in the evening together or socialize together and sometimes when you get people from other countries they don't get involved in that in the same way, so the trust between Japanese are strong, but people from other countries never manage to develop the same level of trust. So, I think, would you like me to talk about the recommendation?
OK, so, I recommend first of all, I think this is excellent you've done this. But I recommend you start showing your corporate culture mapped out on the scale to the company, so it doesn't have, do you remember this morning that I showed the Netflix map? in this same way I recommend you create an HDE map. And that map should show your aspiration, your hope, right. So, where you want the company culture. Your goal is that your corporate culture has this. And then human resources in the habit of talking about that frequently. So, when new employees come into the company, they get a bit of analysis as to what the corporate culture is like, what that means, so that people don't have to walk around blind. I think that's very important I also think that's very important that as you invite more people in from the country, you talk with them about ,,,some of the things ,,,over here, and over here, and over here, some of those things you may need to change later. I mean this one specifically, I know this is next question, right? but this is very challenging if you have a lot of people from other countries. As you said even if you have a lot of people from Thailand or Indonesia, those are high context cultures too but they will not understand messages in the same way. So, it can lead to a lot of miscommunication, Benefit with Thai and Indonesia are they are also very indirect, so you won't see them getting frustrated, they won't show them so you won't know. But when you start having people from other countries, the communication can really breakdown. So, you might want to think about trying to, as a leader, trying to question when you need to be more explicit, and think about,,, it's hard because you don't even know when you are used to communicating in a high context, you don't even know when the assumptions were making. But we need to get in a habit of trying to understand what things we need to make clear, what do we need to write down more, that's one thing of that's very common in a high context culture. We don't write down how it works, we just know how it works. Will you talk about what let you talk about this question?
I myself feel high context communication is a kind of pleasure, for example as a procedure of 10 steps New comer comes, I say only one step, but he or she recognize three or four or ten steps, even more steps automatically. It's very comfortable, and it's not only comfortable it's my pleasure. For Japanese or other high context culture people, kind of pleasure, we have to move on to low context, keeping high context is kind of poison sweet.
Hmmm, you just want to eat them!
I think I might change my concept of value, I have to move to low context,,,want to be ready for a change.
Are you thinking specifically of giving instructions? You gave me the example of you say one step and there seems to be two or three steps were understood...
So, I don't think,, This depends on which kind of nationality you are working with. Let's get this leading scale. If you have people coming in, Indonesia or Thailand, they are way over here on the scale. If you have Indonesians, Thai people coming in, they are very comfortable in receiving the clear instruction from the boss because they are hierarchical. They are also comfortable reading the air. But the egalitarian cultures people don't want clear instructions, they want figure it out themselves. Right, so my recommendation for this is not that you as the boss, it's not you need to start saying you have to do this and this and this. You don't have to give more direction, because actually, giving direction is more hierarchical. Telling what to do this is more hierarchical. But you have to explain the context more. You have to help people understand what's going on. So, let me give an example. So, with an employee from one of those countries, you don't need to say, tomorrow you need to call this person, email this person, you need to write this report, but it does mean you have to spend more time explaining this is what this person is like and this is why you set it up here, this is our goal here, this is our overall strategy, this is what I want you to accomplish. So, you need to get in the habit of explaining the context. And that takes a lot of time. It also means that at the end of the meetings, this is a big thing about being low context, you have to spend more time clarifying what has been decided, and who's supposed to do what. That's important. It's annoying, it takes a long time. So often I found Japanese at the end of the meeting people just know, they just know who's supposed to do what, just know. But when you have people from different countries you have to have a system, of course Japanese have great systems,,,You have to clarify what's been decided. And That's a sour pear you must eat.
Last question is from me. We do actually have bicultural or those who have extensive experience in more than one culture. You mention in your book that maybe making use of those employees trying to bridge the gap with other employees. Or using them and training them to teach other employees to learn, perhaps, to go, more low-context. How would you go about this? Could you give us some specific ways that HR can do that ?
Rima Hosoyamada（HDE, Inc. HR Division）
People will not become cultural bridges without instruction and assistance. Just having people from other countries doesn't do it. Because of course, first of all people don't understand this. So, because I'm just from another country doesn't mean I understand this. So, I come in and I feel lost. And even if I did understand that I don't feel comfortable study to tell everybody you do that because you are Japanese. But I think there are simple systems you can put in place to make this happen. So, one thing I would recommend and I've seen many companies do, you could start for example a book club with the culture map. Maybe you invite, start with 15 people from different countries, 5 Japanese who have some international experience, and you start by every month you read the chapter of the book. And you come together as a group and talk about,,, "did it make sense to you?" or !did you notice differences here or in other countries", and you begin to build up, it takes you 8 months. Or you could do it once a week if you want to, and it can take only 8 weeks. Over that period, you have an hour discussion about each dimension after they've read the chapter. And at the end of that time you ask those people to consider themselves responsible for helping the company to better understand these things. And you probably should also announce it. You should say "you are studying cultural diversity mentor program" and you've chosen some people from other countries to help everybody better understand. And you know it on and on going basis, you come together, ask have you been talking about this? Have you noticed this case, etc. I don't think that people will start doing this without using those systems. Someone like yourself, who is multicultural or bi-cultural, when you hire people like that, you should be very clear with them saying "we are hiring you partially because you can help us to better understand multi- culture, you can help us to be more international". You can also do one on one with people when you hire them. You have eight of people went through this and "you are first person from Germany, or you are the first person we hired from Saudi Arabia" and you can say so I'd like to meet with you for your eight weeks and I'd like to you to read the first chapter of on context. And tell me what you've noticed in the office how it is in Saudi Arabia different from Japan. And you can get people ready to start articulate it, talking about it. I think you also them should slowly choose groups of Japanese people to kind of sponsor to bring into these discussions. People who just would like to raise the awareness with. If you do that, and you know I gave these links to the tools this morning, you can also have people map themselves out on this eight dimensions. You can also have the corporate culture map, I just think talking is so important. If you have a discussion going all the time about these things, then it makes things so much easier. Most often people don't talk, they don't talk because they don't know the language to explain what they are going through, because they don't feel it's appropriate, because they speak up sounds like being judgmental, and therefore everyone stays quiet. It's a very simple recommendation, but my recommendation is talk, talk, talk!
Thank you. Have you heard that other Japanese companies asked the same sort of questions?
Well, this question about high and low context is very common for Japanese. Because of course you are so used to not explaining anything, you are just so used to everyone just understanding. Japan is such a homogeneous population it's a really unusual country for me, because it's 97% Japanese, so I do think as you said that sweet poison, you are used to just things being understood in a way that is so on. So that's a very common question. At Last question you asked me, I haven't so much Japanese companies asked that questions, but everybody asks that question. I had a book club meeting over skype with Google last week, and they are going through this process, they have a google book club and they are working on the map and did same questions, we have people from different countries, we are trying to figure out how to get the discussion started. That's common. But I do think, if you map out the corporate culture, and then you think about that notice something is fixed, something you will continue to evolve, because you might find that this year you are here and that maybe in 2002 when you had a lot more people from other countries you might find it more over here. It doesn't mean you have to become more low context, but it means that you have to spend a lot more time repeating things, putting them in wiring, what did you understand? what did you understand? what did you understand? what is everybody going to do, it requires much bigger time investment. Because multicultural interaction does work.
Does it equal to make our own culture? depending on nations culture we have to take time to make our own culture?
I think you should be having that discussions about that. I think you should map out where you think the culture is today. And I think you should map out what your hope is, and how the culture will change in the future, and you should, you two, the two of you, human resources and leadership, you should be very clear about how you are hoping to change the company, and you should be very expressive about that So, for example, you put this up here, and you said "but some of the managers are over here" so maybe this is your style, maybe your style is here but you have so many hierarchical countries the way people are behaving maybe it's more like here. Human Resources I think the goal internationally is to recognize you have your value systems, then you have to identify what that means behaviorally, so if you actually have a goal trying to encourage managers over here to be more egalitarian. That also means you have to encourage the workforce to feel comfortable challenging their bosses and that's not so easy. But you can say, this is an example, our hope is everyone is comfortable telling their boss when they disagree with him. And you as a leader at the end of the meeting, you say what do you think? and really encourage people, reward people when they don't agree with you. Did you send me more specific questions on another list?
Well, this is just a small but, some global member share their salary. With Japanese feeling salary is a highly secretive matter. That's a fact I was surprised.
Japanese or Southeast Asia?
I think that happens, I was surprised when I saw the question because I don't think any part of the world that's common. I don't think any country that's common for people to share salary in a workplace. But when you have a situation, where you have a few people from foreign countries who are working together in another culture they have a feeling of being united. They have a feeling of being united in a foreign environment. That may lead them to share the information that they would not share at home. I don't think in Thailand you would have that with Thai people in Thai company. But here they feel so close, the problem is that I don't think you can tell people not to do that. Because When you say it don't do that it makes it sound you are trying to hide something, and I also believe younger generations are expecting transparency about everything. So, what I'd say is that, you, when you hire people you can say to them, of course we consider that private information so please keep it to yourself, you can say that just in case, it's obvious, you could say that to everybody, I think probably already that will help but once it's happened I guess you could explain that that causes jealousy ask people not to talk about it. You might even have, if you have three Japanese people working in a Switzerland, those three Japanese might come together and share information. So, what else do we have.
Some overseas younger members hope to have a company trip. But in Japan country trip has a bad image related to power harassment and sexual harassment. So, Japanese people don't like company trip. So, we fee a gap.
I'd like to look at this trusting scale here again, just like to point out that Japan is the most task oriented of Asian countries. Thailand and Indonesia are way to the right to japan, and in Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, all of those countries as well as Colombia, they are very very strong relationship oriented countries, meaning that people are really focused on developing personal connections. In a work environment, very common for people to share a lot long meals together, talk a lot about their families one another really get to know each other very well. I thinking in Japan people usually more task oriented during the day, and in the evening, you would go out...Do you guys do that?
No, we don't do that.
Ok, you are,,,you don't do that. You guys are shifting over here, you are following the tech industry, right? That's generation gap in Japan. Thailand and Indonesia are way over here all of those Asian populations are way over here, it's very common in China also to have this kind of work trip, to have lots of outside of socializing, I personally think it's very important that you establish these very strong relationships when you have people from other countries. Because if you have the strong emotional bonds and then when there is misunderstanding people forgive each other. But if we don't have, if you are operating in a more task oriented way, if you don't know your family, about you as a person and we didn't laugh together, cry together, drink together I don't feel that bond with you,,,and I did feel when you didn't share information in a meeting, and then I really take it personally. So you don't need to have a work trips, but when people asking you for work trips they are asking you for is to develop a culture where people know each other better. And I actually recommend you do that. I recommend you try to find other ways, you try to encourage the environment where you have an hour long lunch every day or people just sit down and spend time together. Maybe you try to do something more traditional Japanese and go out and have this meals people like drinking together. I think that will help all of countries over here to feel more trust with you. Actually, I think it's most important thing.
Last question. Englishnization. Two years ago, our common language changed to Japanese to English, still improving, Englishnization bring shifting of culture?? How do you think?
I don't recommend you try to force Japanese people speak English with Japanese people. I think that leads more mis-communication, and you know it's difficult to operate in a language that's not your own. So I don't think you want to push that. Of course, when people are speaking a language that's not their own, we have more misunderstanding. That happens all the time, of course we do. Because we don't have the same subtlety of tool to express ourselves. So as you move to meetings, to have more meetings in English, conversations are in English, just goes back to the points, you also need more low context processes, you need what did you understand? what did you understand? more let me write down who's supposed to do what so that everybody understands what's going on and what the decision is... I don't really have any other recommendations with that, I think what you're doing is good, the way you have, you were showing me the some of the areas you were in meetings in English, that some have them in Japanese,,, I don't think you could do any better than that.
One more question. This is just my question. The Salary system in Japan, bonus system is major, kind of basic as a common basic salary Japanese company put bonus, I have this feeling it's not major??
In Japan do people always get bonus?
If you are permanent, yes.
Yes, that's definitely cultural, some cultures have almost no bonuses other culture bonuses are very common, bonuses are guaranteed mostly in other countries only 10% of people get bonuses, so challenge is,,, if in Japan, it's also not based on performance. So that's the problem. In most countries, bonuses are really like you might get it or you might not get it. And because people have that assumption, they are not comfortable having the major part of the way they receive the money. They want to know it's guaranteed. Now if you are comfortable being explicit about that, and saying It's a bonus you can get it. You can count on it. Then people can go along with that system. That's very specific. I want to say one another thing with these different questions which is that I think,,,Along with talk talk talk, these of the kind of the things you guys should be talking about in the company. Asking people these things all the time, how does the bonus system work in your country? what about the company trip in your country? So people are really talking about these things a lot. Because you must have this knowledge here, although I know many of your employees come in are young. All of those things are complicated. But that's why you can do more relationship building. Because that's when people will start being more open, when feel they have a close relationship with you. I just want to make one more comment. Japan traditionally is quite relationship oriented, but the last generation is moving over here. So where is these countries they build relationship over lunch time all through the day and in the evening, Japanese always work, work, work in a day time and build relationships at night. And now a Japanese are getting laid of the night time events, which means shifting over here, that means they are not providing this type of personal connections that Asians in general other Asian countries expect to have in work environment. So, you need to start acting like your grandparents.
You know Japanese company very well!
Thank you!Good luck with all of this, best of luck it's a very exciting process you are going through I predict your future. I predict you will be very successful! Thank you.