Comparison of the Human Resource Management in Japan and the UK


Human resource management, or HRM, is an area of knowledge and practice aimed at providing the organization with quality personnel capable of performing the assigned functions, as well as its optimal use. HRM practices in different countries may vary significantly due to specific cultural and institutional frameworks developed there. Focusing on some of the most important aspects of HRM, such as recruitment, motivation systems, and working conditions, this report is going to compare the institutional side of HRM in Japan and the UK.

HRM in Japan

All over the world, Japan is considered to be a country with a special and interesting culture and traditions. Finding itself on the verge of complete ruin after the Second World War, Japan managed to revive its economy (Jyoti & Sarthak, 2019). This was made possible primarily because of the specifics of Japanese management. Now the Land of the Rising Sun is known as one of the most important manufacturers of innovative technologies (Sardi et al., 2020). Most experts identify several characteristic features of Japanese management, which will be discussed in terms of their relation to HRM aspects in the UK.

HRM in the UK

The UK is the center of the world financial system and international trade, with a large number of public and private organizations and enterprises, small and large corporations. Each of these companies has its own methods of personnel management, but there are still certain common features of organizational HRM in the UK. For example, Compared to other European countries, the UK spends much less money on vocational training (Franco-Santos & Doherty, 2017). Generally, employees gain all the knowledge and experience while working in the field.

Recruitment and Selection

In terms of recruitment and selection, there can be similarities and differences observed between the two countries in question. For example, in Japan, attention is drawn to the attitude of employers toward their employees. When getting a job, Japanese people know exactly what prospects await them. This confidence is a result of an approach to permanent or life-long employment. However, over the past 20 years, there has been a shift from this system to more flexible forms of employment.

In Japan, it is also not common to fire an employee just because they lack certain skills necessary for their position or because their age is not suitable for performing their duties. The employee is more likely to be transferred to another position or even to another branch of the company but not fired. In this way, Japan is similar to the UK since the latter pays great attention to the issues of discrimination related to recruitment and selection processes. Thus, in the UK, it is against the law “to discriminate against a job applicant based on protected characteristics” (“Check you are following discrimination law,” n.d.). These characteristics include age, disability, race, gender reassignment, marriage, civil partnership, pregnancy, maternity, etc.

Motivation and Rewards

As one of the schools of institutional theory, the ‘varieties of capitalism’ framework can be used to discuss rewards systems in Japan and the UK. Thus, Japan is an example of a coordinated market economy (CME), where commitment to the firm is encouraged through a system of rewards and promotions. The longer an employee works, the higher their rank and, consequently, their salary. Career advancement and increase in income levels directly depend on the quality of the employee’s work, which generates healthy competition within the organization (Ahammad, 2017). The most capable and active employees can be rewarded in both tangible and intangible ways, such as a referral to training or an increase in status in the organizational hierarchy.

The UK, in turn, belongs to liberal market economies, or LME, which tend to have relatively short-term relations between actors in the economic system or organization. In the HRM field, liberal economies do not have well-developed systems of employee involvement. Labor motivation in the UK consists of two remuneration systems: monetary and shareholder rewards. In both of these models, the employees’ salary depends on the total profit that the enterprise makes in a set period of time (Bretos et al., 2017). The employees’ income from the company’s profits currently makes up about three to ten percent of the salary, and the salary is four percent lower than in similar positions in companies with different reward systems.

Working Conditions

The Japanese closely connect themselves with the corporation that hired them. Many employees rarely take rest days and often do not fully utilize their paid leave because they believe it is their duty to work when the company needs it (Otoo, 2019). Local corporations provide job security for their employees and use a seniority-based reward system to prevent employees from leaving for another firm. Most Japanese companies and businesses have built special systems based on effective communication, and formal communication, corporate ceremonies, and a single workplace are the ‘three pillars’ of this system.

In the UK, many companies have introduced flexible work schedules, which are becoming more and more popular. The most recent legislation has established 48 hours per week as a maximum work week. In addition, “workers receive mandatory rest periods after 4 hours of work each day and at least one day’s rest per week” (“Rights to rest breaks: Rest breaks,” n.d.). However, representatives of certain professions have been reported to experience poor working conditions (Ravalier et al., 2020). One example is social workers, who tend to experience high levels of sickness absence.


It can be stated that Japan and the UK have many differences in HRM systems. For example, in both countries, the staff is actively involved in decision-making, and employees generally care about the company’s success. It can also be seen that in Japan, employees tend to spend more time at work than employees in the UK. The reward systems in these two countries are different, though, because many companies in the UK use a shareholder system. Recruitment and selection practices also differ because Japanese organizations have appeared to create stronger connections with their employees, which makes the latter more dedicated to the companies that hired them.


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