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Recruit Group

An External View on Recruit Group's Efforts

Create your own opportunities and let the opportunities change you

Sandra Sucher

Sandra Sucher

Professor of Management Practice, Harvard Business School

Recruit Group has always been a company that manages from the inside-out. It has recognized since its founding that success will depend on its people. What distinguishes Recruit Group from other companies is how well the company understands the needs and interests of the particular kind of employees it wants to attract, and how to build a company where they can thrive. Recruit Group's method of people management is perfectly embodied in the founder's description of how an employee should approach being at Recruit Group. He urges that employee to "create your own opportunities and let the opportunities change you."

Recruit Group's management believes that the world is full of people with unique talents, and that it is the role of the employer to help those talents blossom. So instead of telling each unit of business or each employee what to do or forcing an agenda, managers ask questions that foster autonomy and growth. They know that employees are more likely to take risks and explore novel ideas when they play an active role in the company, which is why managers encourage employees to think about how they want to contribute to the world, what social problems they want to solve, and how the company can help. In a company where anyone can propose and implement new business ideas, employees find fulfillment in applying their passions to problems that they believe matter.

One good example of this fundamental belief is its support of career mobility. For Japan-based businesses, lifetime employment is a social norm. But Recruit Group employees are always encouraged to try new roles to find their passion, even if their passion leads them away from the company. Being a place that is "good to be from" gives Recruit Group access to employees for whom freedom to innovate is intimately tied to freedom of movement, whether inside the company or out.

Recruit Group's challenge now is supporting an organization that is becoming bigger and more diverse every day. So far, the company has taken the approach to let each new line of business adopt the practices it wants. This belief that empowered divisions will be more motivated, more passionate, and more successful if they find their own way mirrors how Recruit Group treats its employees. In the tradeoff between autonomy and consistency, Recruit Group is betting on autonomy. Perhaps a middle ground could be found, or may need to be found, to allow this larger and more diverse company to learn from all of the parts, and transfer knowledge for the good of all.