Language and globalization "Englishnization" at Rakuten
Rakuten has been growing rapidly in the recent years. To maintain this level of growth and become the number one Internet Services Company in the world, Mikitani believed it was crucial to globalize Rakuten, especially in the context of a shrinking Japanese economy and as expansion plans are concentrated outside Japan.
To expand the company Mikitani believed that a unified business language was crucial.
His decision to make English the official language of the company helped:
Speed-up post merger integration of acquired companies in all parts of the world. (Priceminister, Buy.com etc.)
Hiring of new employees all around the world
Promote a more direct way of communication
Reduce the hierarchical structure and power distance that arises from the Japanese language
Sharing best practices with speed and ease
Today, about 30% of new staff are non-Japanese.
Another reason Mikitani launched Englishnization is to contribute to expanding Japanese people’s worldview as he considered Japan to be a conservative island nation.
2. How do you evaluate Mikitani’s strategy to achieve Englishnization? What would he have done differently?
The strategy taken by Mikitani to achieve Englishnization is quite aggressive. It is forcing employees to learn English in a limited period of time (1 year and a half). Employees could be fired if they don’t achieve good enough scores at the TOIEC exam. It is also forcing them to do all work in English, from meetings to emails.
- The strategy is efficient because it has a clear goal (score) and a timeline. Knowledge of English is put into practice directly with employees having to use English in their day-to-day work.
- The rationale for “englishnization” is properly explained (Mikitani’s book)
- Employees are properly monitored and tested.
Mikitani raised employee’s salaries so they could pay for