LANGUAGE AND GLOBALIZATION: “ENGLISHNIZATION” AT RAKUTEN Rakuten – is Japan’s largest online retailer, which is rapidly growing into global markets through composing of joint ventures. Hiroshi Mikitani, the CEO of Rakuten, dreaming toward becoming the world’s Number 1 Internet services company, announces “Englishnization” program – a highly challenging task for all 7,100 Japanese employees of Rakuten.
Mikitani’s is not only seeking for the growth of the organization, but he also has a focus to break down the cultural barriers in Japanese society. After the survey on current times, only 10% of the company’s Japanese staff could work and function in English. Those who are not able achieve their target score by the deadline was in risk of being relegate. Some employees particularly for staff working exclusively in Japan did not understand the relevance of Englishnization. Fifteen months since the implementation of Englishnization, the majority is not able to reached their target English proficiency scores.
As the deadline is swiftly approaching, Mikitani must decide how to proceed to insure the victory of Englishnization, the continued global rise of his organization, as world’s No. 1 Internet services company. 1. Was “Englishnization” a good idea for Rakuten? What are the costs/benefits of such policy? Englinization has a great impact on Rakuten as with this organization is continuingly expanding and competing its competitors like Amazon.com and Alibaba, so English turned as an absolute necessity for the organization. Having ability to quickly respond in English by email, in meetings or during presentations, is the key for any company to succeed globally.
The English directive has made it possible for Mikitani to create such a powerful organization. In the engineering sector nearly half of the senior executives aren’t Japanese; even they don’t speak Japanese language. The company is still in search of the best talent from around the globe. Half of Rakuten’s Japanese employees now can adequately engage in internal communication in English, and 25% communicate in English with partners and co-workers in foreign subsidiaries on a regular basisBetter language comprehension gives employees more first-hand information, which is vital to good decision making The costs of such policy are: ? Loss of productivity; ? Many senior executives who are valuable assets to Rakuten, but who were not comfortable working in English environment, quit the company; ? Conflicted views among managers impede staff success; ? Put people under stressWhereas the benefits are: ? Internationalization of the company; ? English skills of Japanese employees have improved, at least in terms of TOEIC score; ? Smoother communication between employees from different countries 2.
What are Mikitani’s motivations for issuing the “Englishnization” policy? Globalization Company has been growing rapidly in the recent years. The only way to maintain level of growth is global expansion of the business. It is important especially in the context of a shrinking Japanese economy. Mikitani believes that unified business language is crucial in order to develop a global organization “Island Country” mentality Mikitani wants Rakuten to be a role model for other Japanese companies, with a goal to change the Japan mentality of an “island country”.
? Language vs Cultural Barriers Introducing English as an official language helped to integrate with acquired companies globally and with the employees in headquarter. Japanese language has markers to underline power relationships in conversation, while English doesn’t have these barriers in communication. English also reduces the information barriers and opens opportunities to hire new employees from all around the world. 3. Analyze the survey results in Exhibit 3.
How are employees experiencing the mandate? What differences do you see?The survey results show that employees are still experiencing some difficulties and uncomfortable feelings about the policy. The highest percentages of these workers are Native Japanese Speakers. This can be explained by several reasons, most of them connected with cultural differences. Generally, Japanese people face with difficulties to speak in English. In 2009, Japan TOEFL score were the second worse in East Asia. Also, Rakuten as Japanese company follow the code and standards are written in Japanese language. After the Englishnization policy was implemented employees productivity diminished due to time consuming to translation and demotivating to work hard.
Because Native Japanese Speakers are trying to be 100% grammatically correct, they afraid to “loss of face” and perceive speaking in English as perpetual humiliation, they feel that they could not successfully performing their duties in English. Moreover, employees knew that salary is linked to TOEIC score and no matter how hard they worked. Some Native Japanese Speakers do not need English in daily work and their immediate manager do not support and encourage them.
In the same time, Foreign nationals believe that English have to be the business language for Rakuten and consequently have the highest percentage of acceptance the policy and immediate managers support. It should be noted that simultaneously Native Japanese Speakers are more attentive and interested in this policy. Overall it shows that, with the necessary support and immediate managers’ encouragement the program will succeed.
4. What determines whether employees embrace or reject the language stipulation?The factors that determines employees embrace or reject the language stipulation are: Age factor, the older they are the less ability they have to learn. Time Constraints, managing the time to learn between their day jobs Have to pay for the English lessons themselves from their own pockets Relevance of the job task to the languageIf their direct line manager supports their English studies Previous exposure to English language Exposure to English co-relating with their day to day job role If the employee buys into the bigger picture and opportunity for English and Rakuten.
5. What are the effects of “Englishnization” on Rakuten? Should Mikitani continue with “Englishnization”? If he does continue, what improvements should Mikitani make?Englishnization had a great impact on Rakuten. Many Rakuten employees are allergic to English and are worried what to do. Near about two-third of Rakuten employees struggled with the idea of Englishnization. Whole company follow Japanese commercial codes and Japanese accounting standards and suddenly implementing all those in English is not such an easy task. Moreover the senior members of the company, mostly in their 40s, face the most difficult situation.
English ability is directly affecting the salary. Many workers who worked hard are demotivated as they seek no hope of chance of growth without English. Hiroshi Mikitani also said in an article “Of course, my decision faced plenty of criticism. One of my fellow Japanese CEOs went so far as to call the plan “stupid” – notable, in a country where executives do not generally criticize one another in the press. Clearly, I would have to fight an uphill battle for cultural acceptance” (H, 2016)According to my opinion he must continue with Englishnization because efforts and hard work always lead to a fruitful result.
As wise said by Napoleon Hill “Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle”. (N) Englishnization is a way to do that because the Japanese language is a barrier to information that comes from outside japan and to a more objective view of the world. One of the most important principle of Rakuten “Speed!! Speed!! Speed!!” came in action. As per my view there are improvements which Mikitani should make like he should give some time consistency to his employees because studying and learning with work in such a less time in burdensome task for them.
Secondly the classes of language should be provided by the company within the company hours so that employees could save their money and time.