ORC Sightlines

April 2006

Helping Japanese Expats Adapt to U.S. Culture

In many companies, the responsibility for preparing managers to function comfortably and effectively in other countries lies with their home country HR function or a corporate group. Recently, however, U.S. subsidiaries of Japanese companies have seen an upsurge in Japanese employees being seconded to their offices, and they have begun to take proactive measures to help those on assignment in the U.S. adapt to American management and communication styles.

“The Japanese coming to work in their companies’ U.S. subsidiaries are often young “A players,” says senior consultant Carlton Becker, who manages ORC’s Senior HR Executives in Japanese Subsidiaries Network. “In the past, those folks might have been kept in corporate, but now American experience is considered an important step in their development.” At this month’s meeting, members of the Network discussed the techniques they are using to integrate their Japanese “inpats.”

Participants agreed that formal cross-cultural training is a valuable tool for teaching the basics of how to get along in the host culture, and, to that end, the Network members have agreed to establish a training program, with ORC’s assistance, that focuses on helping Japanese assignees to the U.S. understand American management practices and employment law.

Some companies noted that they try to increase opportunities for personal interaction between expatriates and host country employees. They try to cut down on email communications and hold more in-person meetings than they might if all team members were from one country. And the social environment has proven an effective medium for transmitting cultural norms and breaking down barriers. One company has put together an extensive calendar of social events—baseball and softball games, bowling nights, and dinners—for Japanese inpatriates and their American hosts. While in the beginning the Japanese were required to attend, the events have become very popular, and employees look forward to participating.

New Federal Regulations Complicate Internet Recruiting in U.S.

Fueled in part by somewhat self-serving warnings of doom from third-party internet job boards, consternation has been growing in the employer community about new federal regulations governing Internet recruiting. Charles James, deputy assistant secretary heading up the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), spoke with members of ORC’s Workforce Opportunity Network at their meeting in Washington, D.C., earlier this month. To help address the confusion over the new requirements, especially as regards recordkeeping, ORC is considering presenting questions from members to OFCCP officials to try and get clarification before the May 7 implementation deadline.

Law Firm Demonstrates “Critical Mass” Theory of Diversity

Ed Cooke of national law firm Mintz Levin told Workforce Opportunity Network (WON) members at their April meeting that one of the main reasons big law firms often have a hard time retaining women and minority attorneys is the lack of a critical mass of diverse colleagues. Cooke set out to change the dynamic by creating a special practice within the firm that would not only employ a multi-ethnic and -gender set of lawyers but would model the kind of team interactions and work environment that will attract, retain, and engage highly talented, diverse individuals. Selecting African-American, Hispanic, and Caucasian men and women from a variety of legal backgrounds and specialties, he put together the Corporate Diversity Risk Management group within the firm. Less than a year out, it is too soon to measure results in terms of retention and performance, but the experiment has generated an unexpected amount of interest and excitement. One reason, says WON co-leader Nita Beecher, is that law firms are under pressure from corporate clients to diversify their workforce. “It’s a strong affirmation that the push from corporations is having an impact beyond themselves and encouraging suppliers to take action,” Beecher noted.

During his presentation to WON members, Cooke also advised companies to be more vigilant in auditing management practices for possible discrimination. The reason many large companies get into legal trouble, he suggested, is because they expect that once they have put equal opportunity systems into place, they no longer need to worry. But most of the big class action law suits arise in companies that have good systems but failed over time to ensure that they continued to be properly implemented throughout the organization.

The Workforce Opportunity Network brings together equal opportunity, diversity, and inclusion managers from U.S. firms in several two-day meetings each year to discuss both the legal compliance and organizational effectiveness aspects of diversity management. For more information, contact Nita Beecher, 314-726-1740, or Liz MacGillivray, 401-847-7877.

Resources for Canadian Employers

We’ve posted two new articles by Lynne Molnar to our Reading Room. “Addressing ‘Goods and Services’ in Canadian Expatriate Packages” was published in the Winter 2006 edition of Report on Mobility and is posted with permission from the Canadian Employee Relocation Council. In the article, Ms. Molnar notes that Canadian companies are more likely than companies headquartered in other regions to base the goods and services differential on base pay only, but more often provide it as a separate allowance rather than combining it with others. Only 3 percent of Canadian companies cap the differential, compared to 23 percent of companies in other countries.

In “Addressing Expatriate Tax Issues,” reprinted from the March 13, 2006, issue of HRReporter, Ms. Molnar describes how Canadian companies deal with the tricky issue of income tax for expatriate employees and explains the most popular method, tax equalization.

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