It’s that time of year again in Japan when the office is assailed by fresh young salesmen, all making their first cold calls for photocopiers and other equipment in the approved salesman school mode. New employees that started their working lives on April 1 are receiving their OJT – on-the-job training everywhere you go: the post office, bank and government offices. Recently Decision Japan looked at one of the new employee training programms of Japan’s largest systems house – NTT Data Communications Systems Corp. Starting life only in May 1988 when a privatising Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp spun off its data processing and communications division, NTT Data now has 7,800 employees and total revenue last financial year of $1,937m. Previously one of the pillars of its business was systems development and consulting for government departments, but since splitting off from the telephone giant, NTT Data has been developing its business as a systems integrator to the financial and other private sectors, as well as developing and selling some innovative products such as an IC card for use in health management.NTT Data took on 500 new graduates this spring, the same as last year. According to one survey it was ranked 24th by new science graduates in popularity as a potential employer – Sony Corp was in first place – indicating a major increase in public awareness since last year when the company was not rated. NTT Data’s approach to training is summed up as systems development equals people development. New employees are considered in training for 18 months after entering the company. The first two months are spent in common group training in classroom, involving training in basic computer knowledge, report writing, programming and so on. They are then assigned quite arbitrarily to departments and on-the-job training continues for the remainder of the 18 months, according to a schedule that involves once-a-month group review meetings. At the end of 18 months, trainees receive a post in a department, as one of three types of staff – sales, systems engineer, or system maintenance engineer. Only 10% of the total are placed as salespeople, with almost all the remainder as system engineers (a category that in Japan includes application programmers). Subsequent job transfers occur at the wish of the manager or the person himself, part of a consensus that aims at both training generalists and adhering to individual desires regarding work. Education is on-going however, and for the first time in 1990 NTT Data introduced personal training plans for each member of staff, defining goals and the training required to achieve those goals. (This may be common practice in the West but is considered revolutionary in Japan). The personal training plan is based on on-the-job training (and the actual techniques for effectively performing OJT are still being examined closely, according to an education department manager) but with periods of off job training or classroom work in the Training Institute, a centre with 66 instructors and over 2,000 courses to choose from. Asked to define the what makes NTT Data’s training programme different from those of other Japanese hardware vendors or software developers, Kentaro Wada, Education Planning Manager, said it was the emphasis on training in fields such as project management, quality control in large system development and applications knowledge, for example in the financial area. NTT Data sees itself as a true systems integrator in the sense of integrating multi-vendor hardware and software – in Japan, vendors seem to have (mis)appropriated the term systems integration to mean mainly linking of their own hardware across different sized systems.
Desire to learn
The origins of NTT Data as part of the common carrier means that one of the company’s strengths still lies in communications, but in the training field, while sometimes NTT instructors may be invited to give courses in specific communications issues, both sides enforce the independence of the subsidiary. Overall NTT Data is exploring n
ew ways of inspiring the desire to learn, and more effective means of conducting training, not only of the shinnyu shain (new employee) but of all employees. However doing so is almost an imperative to keep staff in Japan in this age of increased labour shortage and increasing job mobility in the software field, and to win contracts in the face of competition for large systems integration contracts from strong firms such as Nomura Research Institute and Anderson Consulting. – Anita Byrnes