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What if you could choose your own manager?

Sakura Kozo, an architectural firm based in Hokkaido, northern Japan, introduced this new managerial system in 2019

Published: Jun 6, 2024 11:49:49 AM IST
Updated: Jun 6, 2024 12:41:20 PM IST

What if you could choose your own manager?Choosing the right manager not only turns traditional hierarchical relationships on their head, but can also create a better working atmosphere. Image: GettyImages

Just as you can't choose your family, employees rarely have a say in who their manager is. But in Japan, a company is offering its employees the chance to choose their line manager. It's an original initiative designed to enhance employee well-being and, hopefully, reduce staff turnover.

Sakura Kozo, an architectural firm based in Hokkaido, northern Japan, introduced this new managerial system in 2019. At the time, the Japanese firm was facing a staff turnover rate of around 11%, according to Japanese public broadcaster NHK. A very high rate that led Sakura Kozo to fear the worst in a country beset by major labor shortages.

The group has therefore decided to rethink its management structure in a bid to hold onto its 120 or so employees. Once a year, Sakura Kozo employees are asked to complete a questionnaire in which they rate their line managers according to 14 criteria. These include their ability to take account of their subordinates' anxieties and their knowledge-sharing skills. Managers carry out their own self-evaluation by filling in a self-assessment form. All the company's employees then receive a report detailing the qualities and weaknesses of each manager. They can then choose which of them they wish to work with over the next 12 months.

The idea may seem gimmicky, but the novel approach is paying off. The employee turnover rate is now below 1%, according to NHK. The Japanese firm's employees are generally satisfied with this new internal policy. "I do think it's a little harsh to put a cross against anyone. But it's for the benefit of the employees. Having something quantifiable makes it easier to choose, one of them told the Japanese public TV channel.

Choosing the right manager can not only turn traditional hierarchical relationships on their head, but can also create a better atmosphere in the workplace. Younger generations of employees are particularly sensitive to their working environment. For them, the office is more than just a place to work; it's also a key location in their life, where they can thrive in the presence of their colleagues. As an article in the Harvard Business Review France points out, “company loyalty is no longer linked to the fear of losing one's job, but rather to the desire to be happy at work.”

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For young professionals, staying in a job where they don't feel fulfilled is out of the question. They are willing to resign if they identify dysfunctions in the workplace, and in particular if they have a bad relationship with their manager. Japanese companies are particularly hard hit by this shift in values. In fact, one in ten young recruits leave their job within a year of being hired, while 30% do so within three years, according to figures from the Japanese Ministry of Labor quoted by NHK. Perhaps they would stay longer with an employer if they have a say in selecting their direct supervisor.