HR Practices from Asia That U.S. Companies Could Learn

Despite globalization, when it comes to work culture, differences between the East and West still persist. The more collectivistic and traditionalist cultures of Asia exhibit qualities that manifest themselves in their businesses too. Since many of the world’s most successful companies come from that area of the world, we might do well to learn from some of their best human resources practices.

1. Take your parents to work (India)

Yes, you read that right. Some companies in India have an orientation week that includes not just young new recruits, but their parents as well — it’s sort of like what happens on college campuses. And if you think about it, it’s not a bad idea. People who start their first jobs straight out of college are practically still kids.

2. Treat union officials as employees (Japan)

In Japan, trade union officials are actually considered employees of the company and often enjoy the same benefits as the rest of the employees. They can even advance to managerial positions, and this is seen as something beneficial for the company. This is vastly different to how trade unions are viewed in many places in the West.

3. Emphasize harmony in conflict resolution (Asia)

Conflicts in many Asia-based companies are often handled by emphasizing compromise. People prefer to preserve harmony. In contrast, the more individualistic societies of the West, where competition is encouraged, struggle to avert conflict.

4. Conservative layoffs (Asia)

Lean management is a concept that’s emulated in the managerial style of Toyota, but can be seen in many other companies in the region. It includes an approach towards layoffs that differs from the Western tradition. When financial times are rough, companies prefer to make as few layoffs as possible (or none at all). That way, when the situation improves, the employees will be more loyal than ever.

5. Offer company loans to employees (India)

Companies in India frequently provide loans to their employees when they need to make big purchases such as a house or a car, or if there is an emergency and need cash. Offering money is based on the belief that companies are part of an employee’s extended family.

6. Responsibility is a collective matter (Japan)

Unlike in Western companies, where one manager frequently receives credit or blame, successes and failures in Japan are almost always considered a collective responsibility. This makes sense given the fact that important decisions often involve large numbers of employees, rather than senior managers alone. It is also a natural result of Japan’s collectivist culture.

7. Create a sense of purpose to retain employees (China)

The phrase “war for talent” has been tossed around for years now, but you might be surprised to find that the situation is even worse in China. As a result, HR executives from the region employ a very wise approach to attracting and retaining employees; they try to highlight the aspects of a job that provide a sense of purpose and goes beyond the employee.


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