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Apex Ranked 5th in Women's Workplace Satisfaction! Apex Consultant Presented 3 Reasons at GPTW Japan Press Conference

Great Place to Work® Institute Japan (GPTW Japan) has announced the 2024 rankings of the top 5 companies in each size category that excel in workplace satisfaction for women, based on surveys conducted from July 2022 to September 2023 by "Great Place to Work® Certified Companies". This is the 8th edition of the women's rankings, which have been released annually since 2017.

Ms. Yuri Kwak, Principal Consultant at Apex, which ranked 5th in the mid-sized company category, gave a presentation on “3 Elements that Increase Workplace Satisfaction for Women at Apex”.

*This article is a transcript of the presentation given at the press conference for the 2024 rankings of "Great Places to Work" for women in Japan.

A Diverse Organization with Fairness and Transparency


Apex is a leading executive search firm specializing in the recruitment of bilingual professionals from mid to senior-level management positions. It was founded in 2010 by 5 experienced executive recruiters. We now have 119 employees from 19 countries, making Apex a highly multinational and diverse organization. Of the total 119 employees, the majority (70) are women. Among the 20 managers, women account for nearly half (9).

The organizational culture is flat, with close proximity between management and employees. Directors, including the Managing Director, work at the same desks as all employees, fostering open daily communication. Employees are evaluated based on transparent criteria regardless of gender or age, so our hard work and contributions are consistently recognized and rewarded.

Another characteristic is high engagement. Apex hosts many events throughout the year, including Hanami cherry blossom viewing in spring, Yakatabune boat cruises in summer, company trips in autumn, Christmas parties in winter, and quarterly celebration events. For the Hanami cherry blossom event, employees are encouraged to bring not only family, but also significant others, and even pets. This leads to deep connections and bonding among employees' families.

Diversity is another key feature. With employees from 19 countries and many Japanese staff with extensive overseas experience, Apex has a flat, global culture conducive to generating new ideas, unconstrained by fixed Japanese notions.

Joining as a New Grad at 23 and Promoted Twice in Just 1.5 Years


I will now share two specific examples that provide hints on increasing workplace satisfaction for women, starting with the career path perspective of a female recruiter who was promoted twice within her first two years.

This is actually my own story. I joined as an Associate Consultant straight out of university in October 2020 at age 23. I was promoted once after a year, and again six months later. Within 1 year and 8 months of joining, I underwent six months of manager training. After 2 years and 11 months, before hitting the 3-year mark, I was recognized as one of the youngest members of the annual top performers. In a very short time, I was given many growth opportunities and career highlights.

The key takeaway for workplace satisfaction for women is having fair, transparent evaluation criteria regardless of gender, age, or tenure. I never heard comments from management like "you're still too junior."

While manager training usually indicates an expectation to take on a managerial role, there is no such pressure at Apex. Instead, I am encouraged to speak up when I feel ready. In other words, I can choose my own career path. I am grateful that management respects my desire to focus on being an individual contributor and delivering results at this stage.

Comprehensive Support for Maternity Leave


Next, I will share the case of a female recruiter who took maternity leave and returned to work, which I witnessed firsthand as her teammate. In the pre-leave phase, our supervisor, the recruiter herself, and the supervisor's assistant discussed an exit plan for her leave and a return plan for coming back.

As she managed several clients, it was decided that our supervisor would take responsibility for her accounts during her absence. In the pre-return phase, the supervisor set up online meetings with her starting two months before to provide updates on the team and clients.

Upon her return, the team hosted a welcome back lunch to ensure she felt at ease. In the post-return phase, it became clear that while she needed to perform as a recruiter, she was also pressed for time due to shorter work hours. The supervisor allocated his two dedicated assistants to provide her with full support.

I could see the supervisor's immeasurable efforts and genuine desire for her to return. This case illustrates that workplace satisfaction for women is driven by management actively accompanying the employee through the maternity leave process, sharing and implementing concrete plans and support to create a welcoming environment, and demonstrating understanding and flexibility for employees with childcare duties through actions.

While most companies have maternity and childcare leave systems in place, providing this level of hands-on support before and after leave is a key point in increasing workplace satisfaction for women beyond just having policies.

Fair, Transparent Evaluations and Maternity Leave Support Are Crucial


In summary, the three elements that drive workplace satisfaction for women at Apex are:

1. A workplace environment full of diversity and free from stereotypes

2. Clear evaluation systems regardless of gender or age

3. High ownership by management and well-planned, effective maternity leave processes

Regarding diversity, Apex does not think in terms of men versus women, but sees each employee as an individual. Thanks to the fair and transparent evaluation system, I was able to quickly advance my career. And in witnessing my supervisor's support during the maternity leave process, I felt that Apex is where I would want to experience taking leave and returning to work if I do so in the future. I hope the examples shared today provide hints for increasing workplace satisfaction for women.

Ms. Arakawa from GPTW Japan:

Thank you for your presentation. The transparency of the evaluation system at your company is excellent. Previous research shows that high transparency and a sense of fairness in evaluation, compensation, and decision-making processes boost employee motivation and retention. Apex truly embodies this.

The follow-up for employees on maternity and childcare leave, such as welcome back lunches and update meetings, is also very thorough. I experienced many anxieties when I gave birth, like wondering if I could work the same way when I returned. It's wonderful that you proactively address those concerns and foster an environment where employees can openly share their worries.

And this is a common trait of companies with high engagement - an unwavering commitment to creating a workplace where all people thrive, regardless of gender or age. In Apex's case, engagement is high not just for women, but for everyone. It's important to ensure there are no major gaps in engagement between different groups. From your presentation, we see that your organization does that well.

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