A pioneering initiative to support the growing number of tourists coming to Tokyo — and an increasingly international population — one of the city’s biggest taxi firms, Hinomaru Kotsu, partnered with GPlusMedia to hire foreign drivers for its service.
We met with Kazumi Otsu, the global recruitment manager for Hinomaru Kotsu — one of Japan’s largest taxi companies — to find out about the company’s experience working with GPlusMedia to hire non-Japanese staff as drivers and the results of this unique new hiring method. We ask his thoughts on GPlusMedia’s recruitment efforts and if he has any tips or advice for other Japanese companies thinking about including foreigners in their recruitment strategies.
GPlusMedia services used:
- CareerEngine, Japan Today, GaijinPot
- Advertorials, banner ads, job postings, sponsored articles
Please tell us about Hinomaru Kotsu’s business.
Kazumi Otsu: In 1992, taxi business operator Hinomaru Kotsu became independent from Hinomaru Jidosha, which was founded in 1950.
Like most taxicab operators, Hinomaru Kotsu’s services include typical transport of customers between locations of their choice, as well our kosodate (taxis for parents with children) and nadeshiko (taxis in which women can feel safe riding) services. However, we are now putting effort into our tourism business. Part of this goal involves recruiting foreign drivers.
While we are providing our Japanese drivers English training, we feel that hiring foreign employees would offer even more benefits. They could share the best parts of Japan from their perspectives as foreigners, and by hiring employees from many different national backgrounds, we could handle a variety of languages. We hope that we can expand the services we offer our customers through such recruitment.
Of our roughly 1,500 employees, we currently employ 48 foreigners. They are a diverse group, originating from 22 countries.
Would you tell us the reasons behind your decision to hire foreigners?
KO: We began to focus on recruiting foreigners in the spring of 2017. We already had Chinese, Korean, and Japanese-Brazilian employees, and they all had outstanding track records on the job. Until 2017, we had been working on hiring women to improve our diversity, but more of us thought we should try to hire foreigners, so we made an English recruitment page and started posting jobs through recruitment media.
At first, we had several concerns. We didn’t know how to handle religious issues or how much the company should offer support, including helping employees find housing. Nevertheless, we received applicants who loved Japan, and we learned that they would adjust to fit into Japanese culture to some degree. As a result, we got by with almost no significant problems.
The majority of those who applied had permanent residency or Japanese spouses, so we felt that many of them would work well with us as we connected with them as we do with other Japanese.
What did you think about using GaijinPot Jobs?
KO: I was surprised at the size of the response. Even during slow months, we had 30 applications — with up to 70 applicants in good months. I have the impression that there is a favorable balance among the type of people who apply and they include those who are familiar with Japan, and even those who are proficient in Japanese.
When we had a booth at the GaijinPot Job Fair in November 2019, many attendees were foreigners who were very interested in and optimistic about finding work in Japan. As I spoke with them, I often felt their excitement about discussing work. I’d like to do it again if another opportunity arises.
What are the deciding factors in hiring someone?
KO: In the taxi industry, employees need a work visa, Japanese language skills and a driver’s license, so those are the first three factors we consider.
Our Japanese language requirement is that recruits should have passed the N3 level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), but we also have an alternative internal test we use for applicants who have never taken the JLPT but can hold a conversation.
After that, we’ll have no problems with anyone who likes driving and talking.
We had recruits who were not able to speak much Japanese when they applied, but they improved through our training programs before they got behind the wheel of a taxi, so I’d love to see more people apply if they’re interested in the job.
Have you made any efforts to make work easier for foreigners or to improve retention?
KO: We plan to hold a Christmas party to get more input from our employees. I’ve heard that some of our foreign employees will attend with their families, so I think it’d be great if our employees had a chance to connect with each other.
Some of our employees’ spouses have said they want to work for us because of our reputation as an excellent place to work, so I feel like we’re creating strong ties with our drivers.
An issue in the future is that, as many employees are facing problems in getting work visas, I’d like to see the industry work together to try and improve the system.
Would you tell us your company’s plan for hiring foreigners going forward?
KO: Our company publicly announced that it will hire 100 foreigners in preparation for the Olympics, but we aren’t attached to that number. However, I think that if Japan does not get help from foreigners, its economy will only shrink. The percentage of foreigners we employ could naturally reach around 50% of our workforce as we conduct business. I think that ignoring nationality is the true meaning of “diversity.”
Do you have any advice or a message for companies looking to hire foreigners for the first time?
KO: You just have to take that first step. If you reset your definition of “normal” and operate with a broader perspective, you should find that the way becomes clear. If you move forward without focusing on your existing stereotypes, you should see positive results. There are a lot of good people who are not Japanese.
Read an interview with one of Hinomaru Kotsu’s foreign employees.