Japanese Business Dictionary

26.11.2018   |  Business Travel

Last summer, Japan and the European Union signed a historic free trade agreement, regarding food products, cars and long lasting development products, among other things. There is a new ambassador in Bucharest and we do no longer need a visa for the short term trips to Tokyo or Osaka. Most certainly, Japan is a country full of opportunities and I have started by sorting out the famous problem of Japanese business etiquette. Here are a few recommendations I’ve verified from several sources: 

  • Punctuality is a must not only in respect of the start time, but also the end time. Be highly ceremonial, remembering that not only handshakes, but even tapping on the shoulder or any kind of physical touching are not desirable. Jokes also. First names are used only at the express invitation of the interlocutor, in a long lasting relationship. The well-known bow should be avoided, unless well practiced in advance.
  • Business cards are strictly necessary. Order some in Japanese and here is why: they are produced and studied carefully at the beginning of the meeting and all this even bears the name of a ritual, meishi. You are supposed to also read carefully the card received.
  • “No” is not “no”, as the Japanese almost avoid to utter it. It is suggested by a whole series of euphemistic strategies, such as laterally shaking of the head, changing the topic of discussion or silence altogether. You should avoid saying “maybe” or “we will consider this”, as in the Western culture this means rather “yes”, whereas in Japan it is the opposite. 
  • Be careful with “Sayonara”. We have all heard it said in Japanese animes and we may feel tempted to use it, but it may mean “farewell”, rather than “see you soon”. At the end of a meeting regarding an ongoing negotiation, it may indicate that you are not willing to continue the talks.
  • A translator is absolutely necessary, unless you speak fluent Japanese. Even if they do speak good English, more traditional businessmen will avoid using it directly.
  • Decisions are not made in a topic specific meeting. You may be impressed by the extended participation of the Japanese party, but you shouldn’t wonder how such an extended delegation will make a decision in a meeting, because they won’t. To the Japanese, the purpose of the meeting is to gather information. The decision is made subsequently, further to an elaborated process and it will be communicated to you afterwards.

If you are lucky enough to have a less ceremonial business partner, enjoy it! Bear in mind, however, that their effort to adopt the western practices is, after all, also a proof of extreme traditional politeness. Anyhow, it is recommended that you should avoid risks, especially during first meetings.

My sources:

Octavian Pătrașcu  |   26.11.2018   |  Business Travel

Three things to test and maintain in HR: hard skills, soft skills, and motivation

25.04.2019   |  News  |  Startup
The quality and efficiency of an employee mainly depend on their professional qualifications, but the modern human resources theory refers to this only through a partial term, namely "hard skills". In terms of evaluations and professional management, these “hard skills” are supplemented by a range of different qualities defined as "soft skills", such as the motivation that an individual demonstrates or chooses to develop.

Hard Skills: Easy to identify, necessary, but not enough

The term "hard skills" applies especially to fundamental professional knowledge, skills, and abilities, but not only. For example, if a programmer has to write code in Java, he will obviously have to know the programming language. In the field of hard skills, however, complementary skills such as foreign languages ​​or driving licenses also come into play. If the job description is not IT-related, the computer skills - quasi-generalized today - are also in the same complementary category. Upon hiring, hard skills can be easily tested or proven. Basically, all the skills in this category can be certified through a diploma or a certificate of qualification. These skills are the basis for the future work of the employee, but in the vast majority of cases, they are not enough to ensure good performance at the workplace.

Soft Skills: harder to test, especially required for higher positions

These are somewhat social qualities, relating especially to people-interacting abilities. Soft skills include teamwork skills, communication skills, leadership qualities, and the ability to solve problems as they come. From simple politeness to a nonconflictual attitude, a whole range of attributes can be added here, including good time management or the desire to conform to strict professional ethics. If hard skills are easy to identify, in the case of soft skills, the stereotype enumerations present in CVs are never enough proof of their existence. They can somehow be felt when hiring, during their interview or, possibly, through psychological tests set up by human resources specialists. As they mostly focus on human interaction, soft skills are increasingly needed as the position of the employee in the hierarchy is higher, but the situation differs from one job description to another. If the programmer we had as an example earlier does not necessarily need soft skills when writing code, a sales or marketing specialist will interact with the top management and thus cannot work without them.

Motivation: differs from case to case

Motivation is a problem that concerned psychologists way before Maslow's Human Pyramid of Needs. There are many hypotheses and models that relate to this theory. I will just state that a first classification refers to financial and extra-financial motivations. The former refers to material compensation and are accepted unanimously. However, since the beginning of the 20th century, it has become clear that there is no direct link between payment and the efficiency of a person. 100 years ago, however, besides the famous $5-a-day salary, Henry Ford offered land lots, kindergartens for their children and, in the case of immigrants, English courses to help them integrate into the mass production processes. Today, large companies provide health insurance, relaxation areas, various educational classes, physical activity facilities. All of these include career plans and contract terms that offer job security and much more. Perhaps, the first thing to remember is that motivation differs greatly from one employee to another. Effective management should be as flexible as possible, in accordance with the needs and incentives of employees, beyond the standard packages.

The Employer’s Perspective

From what we described above it seems that that the employer will consider the three components as we’ve structured them. Hard skills are easy to identify and absolutely necessary to ensure performance in a particular position, so these are the first ones that will be tested. Soft skills can be identified to a certain extent in the midst of the employment process, but initial perceptions can be confirmed or denied later on. What’s more important is sustaining them at the workplace, often as a necessity for promotion on a higher hierarchy level. As final words, motivation has qualitative rather than quantitative aspects. Employers should be less concerned about the answer to the question "how motivated is an employee?", but rather show concern towards the type of motivation that employees are most responsive to. Schematically speaking, if hard skills are mainly the employee's concern, soft skills relate to a process that takes place between the employee and the company, and in the case of motivation, it should meet the needs of the employee. Only by paying attention to all the three components, the employer and the employee can have a mutually satisfactory and productive relationship.
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Japanese Business Dictionary

Last summer, Japan and the European Union signed a historic free trade agreement, regarding food products, cars and long lasting development products, among other things. There is a new ambassador in Bucharest and we do no longer need a visa for the short term trips to Tokyo or Osaka. Most certainly, Japan is a country full of opportunities and I have started by sorting out the famous problem of Japanese business etiquette. Here are a few recommendations I've verified from several sources:  (more…)
Read full article