· 2 min read · Features

Japan: how HR directors are coping

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HR directors in Japan have devised varying methods to maintain business continuity and duty of care to staff in the aftermath of the earthquake and during the continuing nuclear crisis facing the country.

Asia specialist executive search company Chapman Consulting Group sent questionnaires to approximately 400 HR heads of multinational companies in Japan, to ascertain their plans in dealing with the recent earthquake and nuclear risks. The respondents represent a diverse mix of company sizes, from under 100 to over 5,000. Chapman was careful to say to the Japanese HRDs that it appreciated it might not be an appropriate period for them to return a survey.

The consultancy stopped collecting feedback after 100 respondents returned their questionnaires, so the results are based on qualitative, rather than quantitative statistics.

Last night, the UK Government announced it would be flying British expatriate employees of Japanese companies home. On Tuesday, Japanese HRDs were undecided about the best course of action, with some evacuating staff to their home countries or safer countries nearby, some preferring to keep staff in Japan or temporarily evacuating staff to safer areas of Japan and others based in Tokyo claiming the risks were not severe enough to evacuate employees. Morale was an issue for some, with concern that if overseas staff were evacuated at the company's expense, it could damage employee morale for Japanese staff.

But yesterday, Japanese HRDs remained undecided as to whether the company or the individual should pay for repatriation flights.

Japanese HR directors and heads of HR were also reluctant to close their businesses, saying their customers needed them, but were investigating the opportunity for employees to work from home if it was suitable to the business - given transport and power failures. On Tuesday of this week, some Japanese employers were opting to re-open their offices, but looking at the possibility to adopting a flexible working policy.

It was a mixed bag of answers regarding planning for a nuclear emergency, with some employers having not considered what they could do, others waiting for government announcements, but some said they were already discussing the matter and looking for solutions and contingency plans.

Suggestions included booking hotel rooms to house staff, running advance payroll to pay staff should offices be forced to close and putting together crisis management teams.

When asked about providing counselling services and post-traumatic stress information to staff, some believed it was not in the culture of their businesses to offer this, but Japanese law states all employers with more than 100 staff have to provide a company doctor, so these have been dealing with the bulk of cases. Other employers have utilised online services and provided links to staff.