This post (from Japanese business school Globis) highlights how work can be a source of joy and fulfillment for workers at the Japanese firm Tessei even when they clean trains for a living. I’ve seen them work in Japan, and they do an incredible job.
The author Steven Neo Say Bin summarizes the Tessei success story about how “3K” jobs defined as kiken (dangerous), kitanai (dirty), and kitsui (difficult) embody what a Tessei worker does for a living. When service management philosophy empowers these workers by “3K” values, including kansha (appreciation), kangeki (impressive), and kando (inspiring), they respond with high performance and fulfill the omotenashi culture that has popularized Japanese hospitality worldwide.
The Tessei example could be applied worldwide so workplaces can be better for workers. The Tessei model works because of labor unions in Japan. So much of the private sector is devoted to the extraction of labor at minimal cost with little regard to mid-and entry-level workers who face the brunt of automation and outsourcing. Capitalism works for those brilliant and lucky enough to have access to resources. Worker unions serve as a clear line of defense from outright eviction of livelihoods by a corporate culture pretending to promote employee engagement. Work goes to China or Mexico at the expense of the American worker. The same work can go to Sri Lanka or Cambodia at the expense of those markets. The Japanese philosophy outlined here and adopted by governments may slow the race to the “bottom.”
Such a model is only possible if conscious capitalists, government, and civic leaders set rules, so there will be enough purposeful work to go around. I hope the private sector realizes that all jobs (not only 3K jobs) deserve preservation by 3K values. Donald Trump began his term with a few good intentions but lacked the character and competence to deliver on promises to protect American workers. For the sake of workers everywhere, let’s hope Joe Biden addresses the deep flaws in the current brand of ‘winner take all’ capitalism. Let’s make capitalism work for everyone.