Corporate Topics「Back to Basics Project」

Corporate Topics
New Challenges for
Rakuten's Human Resources Department
「Back to Basics Project」
Representative Director,
Group Executive Vice President
Kentaro Hyakuno

Corporate Topics
Rakuten Group Human Resources Management Department’s Challenge
"Back to Basics Project"

A large-scale project aimed at returning to and realizing the goal of "building winning talent and winning teams."
Rakuten Group Human Resources Management Department is promoting the "Back to Basics Project." "Back to Basics" means returning to Rakuten's core human resources goal of "building winning talent and winning teams." The project’s background, progress, and its future goals were confirmed in an interview with Kentaro Hyakuno, Representative Director, Group Executive Vice President of Rakuten, who positions this project as "unprecedented large-scale personnel reform."

To bring out the best of our employees' strengths
in a diverse and open corporate culture

As a "Global Innovation Company," the Rakuten Group aims to create world-class innovative services. One of the things we value most is a corporate culture that allows a variety of people and ideas to flow openly. We promote the creation of systems and environments that allow each and every one of our employees, who come from different backgrounds, to demonstrate their abilities to the fullest.

The number of our employees has continued to increase over the past few years as the business has grown, with the number of countries/regions of origin represented now exceeding 100, and the company environment changing at an astonishing pace.
I think there are very few examples of an environment as diverse and open as Rakuten exist in Japan, and I am very proud of that. On the other hand, communication becomes more complex and mutual understanding more difficult as the diversity and scale of the business continues to expand. The "Back to Basics Project" was launched to overcome this issue, to create an environment that draws out the full potential of each employee, and to achieve the goal of "building winning talent and winning teams."

Revamping conventional recruitment and training programs to resolve issues identified in large-scale research

First, we undertook three initiatives to understand the current status of Rakuten's human resources and to clarify any issues to be addressed. The first was to interview the employees. We interviewed current employees and sometimes former employees in person, where we asked them to share their feelings on the issues they face(d) from various perspectives. The second was to conduct an employee survey. The data collected on the organization overall and human resources in particular was analyzed from multiple perspectives. The third was a meeting with all of Rakuten's HR staff. The issues we identified through the first two steps boiled down to slow evolution in the three areas of recruitment, training, and retention. By hiring the people required for each business and developing them into people who can play an active role over the medium to long term, we can create an environment where people want to stay with us. These are all basic HR fundamentals, but the necessary reforms were lagging far behind changes in the actual environment. Therefore, we made the decision to review all of our existing recruitment and training programs. We knew it would be a challenge, but the staff of the HR Department worked together with the firm belief that change was absolutely necessary.

We started to see results much faster than expected

The "Back to Basics Project" is starting to show some positive results.

In terms of recruitment, efforts to improve the recruitment process and strengthen recruitment branding have led to results such as securing the number of hires and improving our recruitment brand ranking.

In terms of "development", we started with the company-wide introduction of weekly one-on-one meetings between managers and team members. The supervisor should not only pay attention to the "results" of a member's work, but also listen to the "process" and occasionally give suggestions or advice. If they think highly of their members, make sure they know it. We are aiming to revitalize communication through by including such tangible and easy-to-understand feedback through these meetings, we aim to revitalize our in-house communications. Of course, feedback also requires certain skills, so in parallel, we also started "feedback training" for managers. In addition, we developed 38 new group learning and experiential training programs. According to the results of a survey of participants afterward, over 90% were satisfied with the efficacy of these programs.

In terms of retention, we updated the evaluation and remuneration system to reflect employee performance more fairly. Moreover, we have established a new severance payment system for long-term employees, expanded teleworking and staggered commuting, and introduced a flex system to promote a variety of work styles to meet the needs of employees. Finally, we created a "human resource development map." The goal of this initiative has been to clarify the skills and careers that can be gained at Rakuten, thereby enabling employees to map out their mid- to long-term career plans at Rakuten.

Besides these efforts, we also worked on improving the infrastructure of the human resource management system and other systems, including the introduction of one that allows simultaneous talent and personnel management for the entire Rakuten Group. When we first started this project, an outside consultant told us that such a radical change would take five or six years to demonstrate results, but we saw results in just one and a half years. I believe this is something that only Rakuten, with its swift pace of implementation, can do.

The future goal is to realize global talent management

With the implementation of a human resource management system that can be used across the Group, we are now able to centrally manage the information of Rakuten Group employees around the world. The ability to seamlessly manage talent by placing the right people in the right positions, regardless of country or language, is only possible because Rakuten's official language is English, which serves as a foundation for further strengthening the company.

I think that the number of companies committed to diversity will increase in Japanese society in the future. As a pioneer in this endeavor, Rakuten would like to share with the world the ideal type of environment where everyone can work together smoothly. I also think that Rakuten is one of the few places in Japan where employees can experience global HR operations. In this regard, I believe that Rakuten offers a unique and high-level career driven environment. We intend to continue to refine our HR projects and expand our initiatives worldwide. Rakuten is rich in opportunities to hone your capabilities as a truly global HR professional. For anyone who wants to grow through their work in human resources and is globally-minded, we hope you will be able to make your mark at Rakuten.