Interviewer: Mitsuki Kato
Created by RGF Professional Recruitment Japan Marketing Team
The HR Tech market has garnered a lot of attention in recent years. According to MIC Research Institute Ltd., the HR Tech market within Japan is expected to reach a value of ¥61.3 billion in 2021. Within the market, ASHITA-TEAM Co., Ltd. is garnering attention in the areas of performance evaluation, personnel management, and talent management. We spoke with their CTO Kouichi Hayashida about his company and the industry.
We would like to ask you about HR Tech, which is very big right now, as well as about ASHITA-TEAM. First, could you tell us a little about ASHITA-TEAM?
ASHITA-TEAM provides our “Absolute! Evaluation®” performance evaluation services to small to medium sized startups across a wide range of industries and businesses. We have been providing performance evaluation services for 10 years since we were established in 2008, and our “Competency Cloud®” performance evaluation cloud that supports these services has been used by over 2000 companies to date within Japan.
Company founder and current representative director and chairman Kyousuke Takahashi first realized the importance of performance evaluations when he was working as the vice president of a jewelry company. He started the company because of his desire to create a performance evaluation system that could accurately evaluate employees for compensation purposes.
When the service first started there was a lot of room to improve the cloud system, and two years before I joined ASHITA-TEAM there was only a single engineer. Following the establishment of ASHITA-TEAM, business was conducted in other areas, and the performance evaluation system that director Takahashi originally wanted to create was in the red for quite a while before it finally moved into the black.
That shows how dedicated he is to the idea of performance evaluations.
So is that when you decided to join ASHITA-TEAM, Mr. Hayashida?
The services of ASHITA-TEAM are useful all over the world, and I saw the opportunity after using them at my previous job.
At my previous job, performance evaluation was an important issue, and many employees were leaving after being unhappy with an evaluation. With all that going on, I heard that my old acquaintance Hiroyuki Akahane, current president and CEO, had joined ASHITA-TEAM, so I decided to join ASHITA-TEAM myself. Also, after bringing in the services of ASHITA-TEAM at my previous job, we saw a decrease in the rate of employee turnover, so I had personally experienced how effective a performance evaluation system could be.
Currently, there are a variety of players in the field of HR Tech. What do you think will be necessary to come out on top of this industry battle?
For small to medium sized companies with fewer than 100 employees, rather than using the cloud for performance evaluations, just using Excel might be enough. However, looking at the performance evaluation system for your own company from the point of view of an outsider is very important. There is significant value in having a performance evaluation system that was created by performance evaluation professionals.
Also, many companies bring in tools that they are unable to fully utilize, so ASHITA-TEAM provides thorough follow up services. An “evaluation master” who is responsible for helping that specific company visits them monthly, and they provide operational support for the performance evaluation system.
For companies with a small number of employees, many of them say, “Our employees don’t even have an email address!” or “We don’t have a computer for each employee!” With those types of companies, even if we explain the cloud, it seems unlikely that they would be able to fully utilize it. Because of this, we created a mobile version. But that alone is not enough. We also feel it is important to have our evaluation master provide operational support and give specific advice about how to use the system.
I see. So the human side and technology side are both important. Well then, what plans does ASHITA-TEAM have for the future?
Up until now our primary customers have been small to medium sized companies that were not particularly strong when it comes to IT, but moving forward we plan to strengthen our ability to serve companies involved with tech and other large companies. Specifically, we would like to focus on 1on1 services and other areas like that.
Also, as the “Competency Cloud®” accumulates more and more company payroll data, we might end up having more payroll data than any other HR Tech company ever has. By analyzing that payroll data, we are working to determine if there are components which could be useful for things like goal setting and evaluation. Just the other day, we acquired a patent for the AI that carries out this analysis, so in the future we plan to strengthen our services by utilizing this AI.
Why do you think HR Tech is necessary?
Just like other fields, personnel has also seen a trend toward wanting to use data, but aside from a few of the larger companies, currently almost no companies are actually doing it. Each employee has their own individual goals, and personnel matters are handled by hand in Excel. To be honest, this makes evaluation almost impossible. I believe that this is why technology is becoming essential.
In particular, evaluations for engineers are especially difficult, aren’t they? The processes are kind of hard to envision.
That is correct. For that reason, the ASHITA-TEAM performance evaluation system carries out a hybrid evaluation, combining processes and results. The skills of the engineers at ASHITA-TEAM are also included in this evaluation.
In fact, and I could say this about all of the functionality we offer, we first try using it within our own company, and only after it works well there is it reflected in the “Competency Cloud®” for use by others. The employees of ASHITA-TEAM are the first users.
Changing topics, you recently moved your office to GINZA SIX. Why did you choose GINZA SIX?
The reason for the move was simply that we had outgrown our previous office, but the fact that director Takahashi had a fondness for Ginza also played a part. He previously had an office in a building there before GINZA SIX was built, and it sounds like he had a strong desire to return there.
To be honest, as an engineer, I never quite understood exactly why the other employees were so happy to change offices at the time, but the current environment is very easy to work in. Actually, the interior design and everything was all handled by the ASHITA-TEAM design department. The offices for the engineers and designers were specially designed, with details like wide desks, carpeting, and a no shoes policy. It is the perfect environment for creative work.
Once you actually started working there, what did you think of the new office?
The office was designed around the concept of being more comfortable than working remotely, so in terms of comfort I am extremely satisfied.
Even for matters not related to the office environment, it has become quite a bit easier to work, as we have revised about a dozen components of our personnel system. Among these changes, one of the most popular has been the option to work remotely once a week.
As an engineer, what makes working with HR Tech interesting?
We use Ruby, which is used for a lot of business to consumer (BtoC) services. However, for business to business (BtoB) services, and in particular for personnel services, it has not really been used much, so it is interesting to be treading in unknown territory. For small to medium sized businesses, despite performance evaluations and pay being extremely important, it is not uncommon for these areas to not be given much attention.
There is the aspect of creating something that did not exist before, and I feel that we are really contributing to society.
Do feedback and user reactions reach the cloud department?
They sure do. Every month we receive an enormous number of requests. Even for small requests such as “This component is hard to use,” we consider every single one in our careful issue management process. Of course, in some cases we determine that a change will not be made, but in the past two years we have received about 2500 requests, and we have dealt with about 1800 of them.
Finally, could you tell us what type of people you would like to work with?
Right now we have a lot of veteran engineers and young engineers, so we would love to add some engineers in their late 20s or 30s who fall between these two extremes. Ruby skills are a given, but we also have some engineers with a lot of experience developing in PHP, so it would be great to find some people who are good at object oriented coding.
In addition, we also place a lot of importance on improving the level of service we provide. There were people who felt unhappy or upset with performance evaluations at my previous job. We want people to feel that working to improve that situation is worth the effort. Based on my own experience, not wanting others to go through that unpleasant situation has been a motivating factor in many of our hirings.
Also, many of our employees have said that they want to work on team development. Our team is not all that large yet, so everybody is working together to develop it. This is a great place for people who want to be a part of that type of experience.
Thank you very much.
ASHITA-TEAM Co., Ltd.