Even though in 2010, Takanobu Ito, Honda Motor Corporation’s CEO, denied the necessity of making English the official work language of the company, Japan’s third biggest carmaker is changing its mind. In a sustainability report released at the end of June, English was said to become the inter-regional official language of the brand’s workspace by 2020.
The decision stands for a global human resources management initiative that would encourage the development of an international workforce that represents the automaker’s diverse customer base and production operations. Manufacturing 81% of its vehicles outside of Japan, Honda wishes to create a management system controlled by local associates so as to enable a closer communication between associates in six regions worldwide. Therefore, by 2020, all employees will have to conduct their business in English as well as all international documents, presentations and interoffice queries. When it comes to Honda’s global work force, Japanese employees represent 32% of a total of 204,730 and last year, the carmaker hired only 719 full-time employees in Japan, while adding 4,778 in North America.
In order to make sure the outcome meets the expectations, employees will attend language training classes and proficiency in English will become a requirement for management level promotion. Even though in the past the Honda CEO considered that forcing Japanese engineers to speak English to one another is not a recipe for success, he now admits it is important to encourage the development of international relations in the company. With Takanobu Ito stepping down and handing the reins over to Takahiro Hachigo, who has worked on three continents, Honda is ready to embrace English as the Company’s international work language.
By Gabriela Florea