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GROUND Inc.

We are introducing a Japanese company that has been using the services of Fourth Valley Concierge and is proactively pursuing global recruitment. This time, we spoke to Takatsugu Kobayashi, Chief Digital Officer of the logistics technology company GROUND Inc..

GROUND-style global recruitment: Hiring overseas and developing global talent in Japan
GROUND Inc.
Chief Digital Officer
Head of Global Innovation
Takatsugu Kobayashi

What is your main job now?

I mainly develop software for AI. As a logistics technology company, we are promoting labor-saving environment and platform development using robots and AI to improve the efficiency of warehouse operations. I'm in charge of AI development in the company, but I'm originally from the management side, so I manage, handle technological stuffs, even study, and here I am.

Why did you begin hiring foreign personnel?

There are three reasons. First, our company was not well known to Japanese data scientists. When we thought about how to recruit although we’re not well known, we realized that there were options other than Japanese.
Secondly, there are no universities in Japan that specialize in logistics, so it's difficult to find people with logistics and IT skills in Japan. We wanted to focus on people with logistics expertise and look outside of Japan.
The third is that we're trying to reform our business. It's not that Japanese people can't do that, but we're trying to totally change the way, so we thought a new wind is necessary.

How do you actually recruit people from overseas?

Basically, we hire at overseas job-hunting events held by our agents or through direct referrals. We might expand our hiring methods in the future, but because our internal resources are limited, we are currently hiring through our agent, Fourth Valley!

How was the actual hiring process in overseas?

Most recently, I participated in a joint company information session and interview session in India and Vietnam. If you are in the technical field, there are still a lot of great people because of the large population. I think agents are a good choice for companies that find it difficult to hire Japanese people and companies that are actively considering hiring foreigners because they can create an recruiting environment that is easy and efficient for us.

How many foreign nationals are currently working at your company, and in what kind of positions?

Out of our current 39 employees, we have 7 foreign employees: 2 are robotics engineers and the other 5 are data scientists. The field of logistics is divided into two layers: the workers and the person in charge of logistics who directs the workers. We're building a system in which robots take care of the workers and AI takes care of the logistics supervisors. The data scientists are in charge of creating algorithms and tools to automate the AI's work instructions.

Did you notice anything or have any problems while hiring foreigners?

We didn't have a lot of problems in the field, but we were more concerned about managing, acceptance, and sales activities. We didn't have a package for hiring foreigners, so we had to think about what we should do to proceed with hiring and accepting outsourced workers and taking care of retiring foreigners. Since we were not used to creating an environment for hiring foreigners, we also had to deal with issues relating to human resources, labor relations and accounting. I supported them because I had experience working for a foreign company and an American company. If an employee did not speak Japanese, I personally accompanied them to the sales meeting and helped him or her to connect with a bilingual employee.

Are there any changes in the company?

The biggest change is the fact that a product was produced. The second one relates to the corporate culture, is that it is no longer unusual to have non-Japanese employees, so it may have become a status symbol for working in a different environment. I think there is also a change in the mindset of Japanese employees, who now believe that working with a foreigner will be beneficial to their future career. In the beginning, there were some problems, but there were also foreign employees who wanted to speak Japanese, and now I feel we are getting along well.

So you had some conflicts in the beginning, but does this mean you're on track to hire more foreign employees?

Yes, definitely!

Do you have any advice for companies that are considering of hiring foreigners?

Although we are working in Japan, we are focusing in the overseas market. For that reason, we think about hiring foreigners first, look for the best way to work, and then transfer that to other teams. If we think about the overseas market, we would be able to work together to prepare how to outsource management overseas.
The other thing to think about is evaluation. When it comes to evaluation, for Japanese people, ambiguity is to some extent okay, but for foreigners, ambiguous evaluation is not acceptable. At the same time, you need to change the evaluation criteria for Japanese people as well. Evaluation and culture building needs to be taken care of as much as possible in start-ups or small businesses. The first foreigner who joins your company will be isolated, so if you don't have a strategy for how to get the second and third person in, you may be stuck. On the other hand, if you take good care of them, your company reputation will spread by word of mouth.

So what should I look out for when hiring international talent?

People who are planning to come to Japan have some reason for wanting to come to Japan. For example, the unstable economic or political situation in their home country making them want to work in a stable country for their family. There are people who really want to go to the U.S. but find it difficult to get a visa, so they consider working in Japan as a career step. If you understand this and try to walk through the process, there's a good chance you won't have that much trouble before or after hiring.

What are your plans for overseas recruitment in the future?

We are hiring core employees in Japan and assigning those who have been trained to management positions overseas. We are also working to establish an overseas business, and I hope to make the most of this trend.

After hiring overseas, you enter a phase where you are training people in Japan and having them play an active role in the world. That's wonderful. Thank you for taking time to speak with us today.

From right, Takatsugu Kobayashi, CDO, GROUND Inc.
Ahmad, Data Scientist, GROUND Inc.
Aki Takeda, Executive Director, Fourth Valley Concierge Corporation

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