Do Personnel Relocations Promote The Career Development Of Employees? Lessons From The Career Management System Of A Japanese Company

By Masumi Nagae and Yoshiji Ishikawa

Personnel Relocations in Japan and Other Countries
This research studied a variety of companies, each with a variety of positions with different purposes, roles, activities and content. However, they are tied together by management's philosophy and vision. As more companies across the world globalize their businesses, relocations and their impact on personnel are increasing. Japanese companies have conducted periodic personnel relocations since the 1940s. Many employees are employed in general management positions and are periodically relocated by their companies. While the costs for personnel relocations are high, there are advantages that outweigh the costs.


The purpose of our study is to examine how the personnel relocations system in Japanese companies contributes to employees’ work values and what support is necessary for relocated employees. We investigated the employees (average age = 36.8, SD = 5.0) of seven companies with experience in personnel relocations, and evaluated satisfaction related to the relocations. We also conducted an evaluation of work values (Amundson & Poehnell, 2004) and performed multivariable analysis for the subjects related to the work value and each personnel relocation factor.



The Impact of Personnel Relocations on Employees
First, the employee enlarges their expertise by experiencing variety in their work through personnel relocation (so-called job enlargement) and can develop broader professional skills. When we continue working in the same specialty for many years, we tend to be less flexible and value our skills less.


Second, personnel relocations encourage standardization of duties, which advances and promotes efficiency. When we change positions, we entrust our work to another person, which motivates us to standardize the tasks.


Finally, relocation may greatly impact employees and their families, since an entire family will need to accept and adjust to a new work and life environment, including new schools, new friends, and new social structures.


Key Findings
Compared to employees who were unsatisfied with their personnel relocation, employees who felt more satisfied with their personnel relocations:

  1. had better means of making physical and mental changes,

  2. experienced less stress in their family,

  3. wanted to continue using their current skill set, and

  4. had a stronger desire to obtain a higher occupational position.

Overall, employees were more satisfied with their relocation experience if they believed the relocation promoted their career development.



A Case Study
Takeshi worked in a major electrical equipment manufacturer company for 12 years. He is 34 years old, married, and has one child. After learning business administration at university, he found a job in a major electrical equipment manufacturer in his country of birth. He selected this company for two reasons. First, the head office, a branch office, and a factory were all close to his hometown so he could work in any of these locations. He was promised a job in personnel affairs, which matched his major at university.


Ten years passed, and major changes occurred around him. The parent company merged it with two other companies and became a much larger company. Takeshi’s company was reorganized as one branch of the newer, much larger company, and it made products that were different than what Takeshi was familiar with. Additionally, since the head office moved to a place 600km away from his hometown, Takeshi faced personnel relocations which required him to move to a new community. Soon after, he spoke with a career counselor. Here is a brief part of their discussion:


Counselor: How do you feel about the need to change the way you work from now?


Takeshi: Since I could decide the way of working by myself in the past, I feel anxiety about how this change will affect me in the future.


Counselor: What kind of things do you expect?


Takeshi: The operation will be confused, and this confusion may often have a great influence on us.


Counselor: Are there any good things you can expect from this change in the way of working?


Takeshi: I suppose we will learn the new way and flexibility.



After counseling, he became more aware of the factors involved in relocation and his relation to them. For example, he recognized advantages as well as disadvantages of relocating, which information he could and could not control, his career vision, and the support of his wife. Following counseling, he decided to start a new life with his family in the new company location. He decided that his personal goal was to focus on a part of corporate life that others had ignored. He felt challenged to rebuild the aspect of the company that focuses on the career development of the individual.



Needs for Career Counseling for the Satisfaction of Personnel Relocation
Career development was a very important factor in helping Takeshi make a successful and productive relocation transition. By helping employees to view personnel relocation as an unexpected opportunity to learn through a change in their environment instead of a crisis in their career path, a personnel relocation can become an opportunity for career development.


When employees see relocation as an opportunity to learn, grow, develop, and succeed, the employee, their family, and their company all benefit. Therefore it is important that companies provide counseling to employees to talk about their personnel relocations and career development goals before and after the relocation to make the most of this corporate and career opportunity.



Amundson, N. E., & Poehnell, G. (2004). Career pathways. (3rd Ed.). Richmond, B.C.: Ergon Communications.




Masumi Nagae, M.S.,is assistant professor at Saga Women's Junior College in Japan and specializes in career design, education and counseling for college students. Masumi has a B.A. in Educational Psychology an M.S .in Medical Science, and is currently in a doctoral program of Medical Social Science. Masumi is currently researching the effect of organizational developments in companies and the effect of career education in K-12. Masumi is a Career Development Advisor and member of the Japan Career Development Association and JAICO, the Japan Industrial Counselors Association. Masumi can be reached at masumi11@mac.com.


Yoshiji “Yoshi” Ishikawa, M.S.,is Representative Director of Strategic Personnel Department Co., LTD. Yoshi has worked in the HR department for 10 years after completing a Master’s degree in Environmental Science, and now serves as an employee career consultant and trainer, serving approximately 1,000 people in 30 companies per year for 10 years. Yoshi is a Career Development Advisor and member of the Japan Career Development Association. Yoshi can be reached at ishikawa@senryakujinji.com.


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