Diversity at Mercari: Putting Intercultural Exchange into Practice

3 min read

In this series, we introduce companies that use Fourth Valley Concierge’s & Connect Job services for their global recruitment. This time, we’ll be introducing one of Japan’s most famous tech companies, Mercari, whose “free market” app is wildly popular here in Japan. We interviewed Liz Cheng, an experienced global recruiter who is now a member of Mercari’s Human Resources Business Partner team.

  • Could you tell us why you joined this company and your main responsibilities here?

I graduated from The Chinese University of Hong Kong four years ago and then started working in Japan. I joined Mercari in December 2017 and have launched several projects in the global recruitment and diversity and inclusion initiatives. Since May this year, I’ve been in the Human Resources Business Partner team.

  • Mercari has garnered a lot of attention as a company that enthusiastically goes for global recruitment. When did it start, and what was the motivation behind it?

It’s hard to pinpoint when we decided to start recruiting globally because we’ve always welcomed applications from around the world. We want to hire talents no matter where they’re from, so we’ve never limited opportunities to Japanese. However, you could say that our global recruitment activities ramped up after we hosted our first recruitment event in Taiwan in 2017.

  • How many of your employees are non-Japanese now?

Foreigners make up about 10% of all of our employees. Among them, about 40 countries are represented.

  • Does your company provide any support for foreign employees?

Many of our employees joined the company as fresh graduates and don’t have much Japanese language ability. We want to reduce their stress, and allow them to demonstrate their value right away. In particular, we offer Japanese language education support from the time a job offer is made, continuing after they start working at Mercari. We also support our new hires in matters such as visa acquisition, flight arrangements, residence card registration, and bank account creation.

  • What kinds of support do you offer in terms of languages?

We have two language support systems: Language learning support and translation & interpretation. We hire both Japanese and English teachers, and our language training program is run in-house. Our language classes provide our employees with language skills they can use in practical situations.

We also have “chat lunch” opportunities where employees can talk together in the languages they are learning. The two chat lunch types are English and Japanese, with three levels each: beginner, intermediate and advanced. By choosing the appropriate level, people can have fun learning a language during lunchtime. These lunches are sponsored by the company.

  • Apart from language, is there any other communication-related support provided by the company?

Yes. We’re focusing on intercultural communication right now. The Diversity & Inclusion team, which was formed last February, supports the company’s community. We have a community called “Multicultural” made up of members interested in promoting a multicultural environment at Mercari.

We also have unconscious bias training because it’s possible to offend people without realizing it. Another support system we recently implemented is the use of easy Japanese throughout the company. The bilingual environment at Mercari is still evolving, but we are trying to communicate with easy-to-understand language. Managers are trained to understand what constitutes easy English and easy Japanese.

  • Has Mercari’s business changed since overseas hiring began?

We’re able to solve many problems because of the variety of perspectives among our international employees. In order to achieve our mission, to “Create value in a global marketplace where anyone can buy & sell” employee diversity is truly important. I believe that in that sense, it has brought changes in our business.

  • Are there any internal changes going on at Mercari?

In October 2018, 44 overseas fresh graduates joined our company. Since then the awareness on intercultural communication has increased rapidly. For instance, the usage of English documents become common. Some teams also set themes on certain days, like Japanese Tuesday and English Friday, to encourage members to practice different languages.

In terms of lunch events, we have a wide variety including mentor lunches, shuffle lunches, and welcome lunches. We make sure to take into account people’s dietary limitations and preferences beforehand. In addition to these lunches, we have meetup events, which are attended not only by employees but also by guests from outside. For these, we use stickers to indicate employees’ language levels.  I believe diversity brings us opportunities to learn from each other.

  • Do you have any advice for companies looking to start global recruitment?

You have to make the reasons for doing it clearly. The first step in global recruitment is clearly deciding what kind of people you want to hire. People say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” But I’m not sure if that’s necessarily right. Employers should also consider what they can do to maximize the value and performance of their employees.

  • Could you give a message to those out there looking for a job in Japan?

I was lucky to receive offers from several Japanese companies during my final year of bachelor education.  At that time I had not yet built up my career, and thus I did not hesitate to come.  Working overseas is a lifetime experience. So if you have the chance, I recommend going for it!

Mercari, Inc.

Human Resources Business Partner

Liz CHENG

https://about.mercari.com/about/

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