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Companies vie for mid-career IT talent as digitization accelerates

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The office of LegalForce, Inc. in Tokyo, which hires mid-career workers mainly as IT and sales personnel

An increasing number of Japanese companies are recruiting employees who are already established in their careers, with some eyeing the post-pandemic era when economies normalize.

Digitization and other rapid changes are taking place in the business environment, and many companies are finding it difficult to handle challenges with the employees who have only ever worked for them.

Shortage of staff

LegalForce, Inc., a Tokyo-based company that uses AI to screen and manage contracts, has seen a rapid increase in its workforce in the past few years. It only had about 60 staff members in 2019, but now about 310 employees work for the company.

All the new staff members joined the firm via mid-career recruitment and now work mainly as IT and sales personnel.

“Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the demand for the digitization of legal services has become even more notable, and we’re enhancing our services,” said Nozomu Tsunoda, representative director and CEO of LegalForce.

The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry said in its 2019 estimate that there will likely be a shortage of up to 790,000 IT personnel in 2030. Under such circumstances, a fierce battle to secure employees is already underway.

According to a survey released by Recruit Co. in October, about 70% of companies asked were unable to fill their mid-career hiring needs between April and September. In the internet-related industry, about 90% of firms said they were unable to hire as initially planned.

Salary boost

Major companies are also striving to secure people who can immediately get started using the required skills.

At Toyota Motor Corp., mid-career hires currently account for about 30% of the company’s overall new hires a year. The automaker will gradually increase the percentage to 50%, with a focus on strengthening its recruitment of software-related personnel. This move reflects intensifying competition in the auto industry to develop automated driving technology and connected cars.

A male employee in his late 30s joined Toyota in 2018 and now heads a software development team.

“There’s nothing glamorous about software development, but the work I do here props up all Toyota vehicles and helps impress our customers,” he said. “It’s very rewarding.”

Nomura Securities Co. plans to increase the number of mid-career hires, including digital services personnel, to about 250 in fiscal 2021, up by about 20% from the previous fiscal year.

The company is working to enhance services that allow users to trade stocks and other securities on smartphones.

Fast Retailing Co., which operates the Uniqlo brand, will pay up to ¥20.1 million a year to mid-career hires with advanced IT skills and other skills. The company is also considering paying them extra depending on their abilities.

Post-pandemic planning

Some companies are strengthening their mid-career hiring to prepare for the post-pandemic era.

Daiichi Koutsu Sangyo Co., a major taxi company, plans to hire 2,000 regular employees in fiscal 2021 separately from its usual hiring. The company plans to hire 1,700 of them through mid-career recruitment.

Major izakaya chain operator Watami Co. also plans to hire about 100 mid-career workers in fiscal 2021. While izakaya pubs are struggling, sales of yakiniku grilled meat restaurants are growing, and the company will expand its business.