Effect of the Japanese Employment System

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Since the aim of this research is to investigate how employee trust in the Japanese employment system can potentially influence turnover in companies, the theoretical concepts providing the background for the study are employee commitment and trust, turnover, and the employment system. To explain the relationship between the employee trust and their possible turnover in the context of the Japanese employment system, three theories should be applied: the social identity theory, the turnover theory, and the self-construal theory. These theories need to be discussed in detail to demonstrate how they form a model of research and interpretation for this study.

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The social identity theory was developed by Henri Taifel in the 1970s, and later, it was adopted for the areas of human resource management (HRM) and business organization. For this research, the social identity theory is selected because it explains how employees identify themselves as members of a certain group, including the team of their colleagues. The turnover theory, the principles of which were first formulated by March and Simon in the 1950s, is chosen to support the study because it explains internal and external factors that can motivate employees to leave their organization (Peltokorpi, Allen and Froese, 2015: 293; Tsuru, 2017: 60).

In addition to these theories related to HRM, it is also important to apply the self-construal theory developed by Markus and Kitayama in the 1990s to clarify how the representatives of Asian cultures differ from the representatives of Western cultures in terms of viewing themselves as part of social settings (Bai, 2014). Thus, these three theories have been chosen to compose the framework for this study because they help to elucidate Japanese employees’ trust in relation to their organization and attitudes to turnover.

When applying the social identity theory, it is possible to determine how managers can use HRM practices to develop employees’ motivation and vision of themselves in the context of a certain organization. Individuals’ behaviours are determined by their identification with a certain group and their feeling of membership (Aoki, Delbridge and Endo, 2014: 2552). Thus, this theory is related to the literature on effective HRM depending on social contexts.

Avanzi et al. (2014: 272) applied the theory to analyse the effectiveness of certain HM practices to prevent employees’ turnover. Zhang, Li and Frenkel (2016) also found that this theory could explain some HR practices work to predict turnover in certain social and cultural groups of employees, but they are ineffective in others. Hiller, Mahlendorf and Weber (2014: 671) studied the concept of prestige in the workplace to explain employees’ attitudes to their organization. These studies allow for understanding how the theory assumptions work in different contexts, but they do not cover the Japanese employment system (Krockow et al., 2017: 227). This theory will explain why Japanese employees demonstrate more trust in their organizations because of their strong feeling of community and group identification.

The turnover theory applied for this study supports the idea that if there is equilibrium in the labour market, turnover is almost absent. Thus, the theory can clarify why certain labour markets demonstrate higher turnover rates than others, and it is clearly related to the problem and aspects of turnover in the Japanese context discussed in this study (Moriguchi, 2014: 58; Takahashi, 2014: 129; Takahashi, 2015: 261). In their study, Reilly et al. (2014: 766) applied the turnover theory to examine how turnover and employee retention can influence organizations.

The findings of Gamage (2014: 2) discussing the concept of turnover in Japanese organizations are important to analyse the role of HRM practices in forming the Japanese employment system. Hom et al. (2017: 530) explained the key assumptions and development of the turnover theory, and these conclusions are important to interpret the findings of this study. Thus, the turnover theory will help to explain the specifics of turnover tendencies in Japanese organizations with reference to the Japanese employment system and their typical lifetime employment.

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The final theory used in designing a conceptual model for this study is the self-construal theory, according to which independent self-construal accentuates the importance of self-image and autonomous operations and goals, and interdependent self-construal emphasises the role of relationships and connectedness to others. In the context of the current study, the knowledge about the self-construal is important to explain Japanese’ employees trust and turnover behaviours with reference to interdependent self-construal typical of Asians in contrast to Westerners (Shimomura, 2016: 1).

Today, there is limited research applying this theory in the area of management, and the studies by Bai (2014), Call et al. (2015:1208), Cloutier et al. (2015), and Mustafa (2015:5) on employee turnover, retention, trust, and commitment referring to the self-construal theory provide the necessary background. The further application of the theory to HRM and the retention problem is discussed by Cohen, Blake and Goodman (2016) and Watty-Benjamin and Udechukwu (2014:58). This theory will be applied in this study to determine how the self-construal typical of Japanese employees explains their decisions regarding turnover in the context of the Japanese employment system as this topic is minimally covered in the literature.

A visual representation of the conceptual model appropriate for this study is provided below:

Conceptual model


Aoki, K., Delbridge, R. and Endo, T., 2014. ‘Japanese human resource management’ in post-bubble Japan. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 25(18), pp.2551-2572.

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Bai, F., 2014. A (moral) virtue theory of status attainment in human social hierarchies. Academy of Management Proceedings, 2014(1), p.16544.

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Call, M.L., Nyberg, A.J., Ployhart, R.E. and Weekley, J., 2015. The dynamic nature of collective turnover and unit performance: the impact of time, quality, and replacements. Academy of Management Journal, 58(4), pp.1208-1232.

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Krockow, E.M., Takezawa, M., Pulford, B.D., Colman, A.M. and Kita, T., 2017. Cooperation and trust in Japanese and British samples: Evidence from incomplete information games. International Perspectives in Psychology: Research, Practice, Consultation, 6(4), pp.227-232.

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Peltokorpi, V., Allen, D.G. and Froese, F., 2015. Organizational embeddedness, turnover intentions, and voluntary turnover: the moderating effects of employee demographic characteristics and value orientations. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 36(2), pp.292-312.

Reilly, G., Nyberg, A.J., Maltarich, M. and Weller, I., 2014. Human capital flows: using context-emergent turnover (CET) theory to explore the process by which turnover, hiring, and job demands affect patient satisfaction. Academy of Management Journal, 57(3), pp.766-790.

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Watty-Benjamin, W. and Udechukwu, I., 2014. The relationship between HRM practices and turnover intentions: a study of government and employee organizational citizenship behavior in the Virgin Islands. Public Personnel Management, 43(1), pp.58-82.

Zhang, H., Li, X., and Frenkel, S. J., 2016. HR practices, self-identity and employee turnover: an explanation from social identity theory. Academy of Management Proceedings, 2016(1), p. 14836.

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