Japanese urge staff to show loyalty – to company products
Employees at electronics company Toshiba are being encouraged to show loyalty to the company’s products. The plea came as the company warned that it expected to suffer a Y280bn ($2.8bn) loss. And Toshiba is not alone in requesting employees to think of their company when shopping.
Japan has for a long time been the place were employees are prepared to go the extra mile for their employer. Traditionally, that loyalty has historically been repaid with jobs for life. With a job at a big company in Japan comes extremely high status that used to work asefficiently as an Amex black card. Stories of business cards being as useful to get credit in a restaurant as a cheque book were not exaggerated.
But then Japan had its credit crunch and seven year long recession, and jobs for life became a thing of the past for many. The country is now desperate to avoid another plunge into the dark and the people of Japan will no doubt be equally keen to do all they can to help.
For loyal employees – who always buy from their employer anyway – it creates a dilemma:What do you buy when you have already shown your loyalty by purchasing the company goods especially when in typical Japanese style, there are targets being set for your loyalty purchases?
At Panasonic, the electronics company, one executive, who has been asked to purchase Y200,000 worth of goods, said he would buy a plasma television set for his mother-in-law, “because I have one already”. “Unfortunately I bought a new TV and electric toilet before the announcement,” said another Panasonic manager, who has been asked to buy Y100,000 worth of goods. “This time maybe it will be an electric range or some lighting.” Depending on what the company makes, such in-house consumption drives can impose serious costs on employees. Discounts are usually relatively small, and many workers avoid using them in any case: self-sacrifice, after all, is the guiding spirit of the enterprise.
It is not just electronics companies who are requesting employee purchasing. Yoshiyuki Shimomura, a senior engineer at Toyota, bought a Crown full-size saloon in January as part of a campaign organised by the bucho no kai, a semi-formal fraternity of non-executive Toyota managers. The model normally sells for between Y4m and Y5m. The bucho no kai had exhorted all of its 2,200 members to buy a new vehicle before the end of the financial year in March – a dismal year for Toyota during which it lost an estimated Y350bn. Although the plan was technically voluntary and most managers already own at least one vehicle made by the company, Mr Shimomura said most members complied with the request.
Asked if he actually needed a new vehicle, he smiled and said simply: “I bought the car as a result of the programme.” Hitoshi Otsuki, head of Panasonic’s overseas operations insists there is no pressure on employees to buy. “The company never asks you to produce the proof of what you bought and it doesn’t penalise you,” he said. “It politely asks you to buy something so people will see that everybody is united to survive.”