Click to watch Margery Marshall - Global Mobility Strategies
Click to watch Margery Marshall - Global Mobility Strategies
global resources
Need an office somewhere in the world? Office suites, meeting rooms, virtual offices, network access

free downloads
GLOBAL: "(English language) Business Communications Skills" information brochure

GLOBAL: "(English language) Business Communications Skills" information brochure. Customized training programs designed specifically for non-native speakers of English to develop effective business communication skills.

proceed to download

back to index backGLOBALtalk August,  2006

Toyota's success is stretching its staff

Bottom-line profits of pounds 5.7 billion. A cash pile of pounds 8.57 billion.  A string of record sales stretching over seven years.

With stats like that, it's hard to imagine anything that could rile Toyota, Japan's top car maker, which could soon unseat General Motors as number one in the world.

But there is one trouble spot: not enough experienced Japanese talent to go around the globe.

Executives note that Toyota's growth spurt of the past five years has taken place almost entirely overseas, all with the support of seasoned and stretched Japanese staff - a system that is reaching its limits.

"We have 280,000 employees at the group, and less than 70,000 of those at the Japanese parent," said Mitsuo Kinoshita, executive vice president in charge of human resources.

"To sustain the growth, each region needs to be self-reliant. But that's easier said than done," he said.

With rivals such as GM and Ford fighting for their very survival, staffing woes may seem minor.

But insiders say the culture of "kaizen", or continuous improvement, and other distinct corporate traditions have formed the building blocks of the 69-year-old company, and Toyota risks diluting that essence as its workforce diversifies.

"Getting overseas staff to share our views on management and quality is very difficult. But that task is urgent," Mr Kinoshita said, adding that Toyota envisaged annual sales growing by two million units to reach ten million by 2010.

Some steps have been taken.

In 2001, Toyota spelled out what it believed to be the firm's DNA that helped it succeed, coining the now-famous term "The Toyota Way". The concept of kaizen and other values that had been understood implicitly by veteran Japanese staffers were compiled into a brochure and handed out to workers worldwide.

The following year, the auto maker set up the Toyota Institute at the foot of Japan's Mount Fuji to school foreign managers in the Toyota Way, to be passed down to local staff.

At the factory level, it created the Global Production Center in 2003 near its headquarters to train leaders of overseas plants in everything from the right way to grasp a bolt to the best posture to use when spraying paint, in order to ensure consistent quality.

Toyota last month opened a North American branch of the centre to follow the Asian one launched in Thailand last year. With a European centre now launched at its UK factory at Burnaston, all major regions will be covered.

While these measures were beginning to bear fruit, Mr Kinoshita said Toyota needed to go further.

To motivate and tap a growing pool of foreign management talent, it is looking to set up a grading system and a new salary structure for top managers overseas so they could be mobilised outside their home territory.

"Right now, the farthest a manager in France can go, for example, is to head the local factory," Mr Kinoshita said.

"But if the talent was there, this person could be the best choice to head the US region or elsewhere," he noted, adding this could also facilitate factory-level support between regions outside Japan.

At the production level, Toyota planned to start educating trainers and factory line chiefs not just in basic manufacturing skills but also in the Toyota Way, he said.

While all this could work in theory, Mr Kinoshita acknowledged that in practice, difficulties remain.

One major snag was higher staff turnover abroad than in Japan, where lifetime employment is still the rule rather than the exception. That means that even the more established overseas factories like its 21-year-old plant in California or its 18-year-old Kentucky site weren't quite ready to play the part of "mother plant" in holding the hand of a fresh factory, he said.

"A 20-year track record means a lot more for a Japanese plant than factories elsewhere," he said.

Ideally, Toyota wants experienced operations starting with the US headquarters to stand on its own feet and take charge of any new plants in their region - preferably including South America. Toyota will open its sixth North American car plant in Texas later this year and another in Canada in 2008.

But for a company that is Japanese to its bones - none of Toyota's 26 board members is foreign - trusting its overseas offshoots has proven tough.

"We're afraid of slipping, so we can't help but interfere," Mr Kinoshita said, likening the Japanese headquarters to an anxious mother.

"But we can't let this go on much longer."

Right now, the farthest a manager in France can go, for example, is to head the local factory. But if the talent was there, this person could be the best choice to head the US region or elsewhere.

Source:    TMCnetGAI

previous page

go top
search our site



Other articles from the same issue (August,  2006).

Managing, Developing, and Retaining Key Talent in China
play read on

Toyota's success is stretching its staff
play read on

New Kids on the Block: Tax Implications for Expatriates in the East European EU
play read on

Americans and Germans: “Do What It Takes” vs. “Make No Mistakes”
play read on

Vacation Deprivation Among American Workers is at an All Time High
play read on

Relocating to the United States? Get Ready to Rebuild Your Credit
play read on

Latin America: Women on the Verge
play read on

Relocating to Latin America
play read on

Beijing: Most expensive mainland city to live in
play read on

Japan: LDP Eyes Extending Foreigners' Work Visas to Five Years
play read on

India: Pension regulatory law likely by August
play read on

Background Checking Goes Global
play read on

Shanghai: Expat Influence in a World-Class City
play read on

China: Returnees To Take 25% of MNC Management Positions
play read on

Hong Kong: Spouses of Expatriates in Hong Kong now Permitted to Work Again
play read on

Moscow replaces Tokyo as world’s most expensive city
play read on

Pension portability directive “problematic”
play read on

Europe: 4 Hours a Day, 3 Days a Week
play read on

Are you Linguistically Legal for European Business?
play read on

Globalization: foreign postings on the increase
play read on

USCIS Reaches H-1B Cap
play read on

Reward Practices Becoming More Critical to Attract Workers in Tight Job Market
play read on

U.S. tech companies cry out for foreign talent
play read on

East Meets West, With An Argentine Twist: More Argentines Are Embracing Chinese Language and Culture
play read on

Business Practices in Mexico
play read on

Our Free eJournals

To visit GlobalAutoExperts Directory, click here.

©2008 | HCI Group, Ltd.
101 West Big Beaver Road, Suite 1400 | Troy, MI 48084 USA
USA Tel: +1.248.687.1060 | USA Fax: +1.248.927.0347
Fax UK: +44.(0)845.127.4765 | Fax Europe: +31.20.524.1659 | Fax Asia: +852.3015.8120