Autonomy, mastery and purpose. These cool factors sum up job satisfaction for millennials today. Wantedly’s Founder Akiko Naka shares why she’s making hiring super casual, and highlights the intrinsic male and female strengths that companies should use to achieve success.
“When someone applies for a job, it leads to a casual coffee. Not a formal, stiff recruitment interview. It’s like dating. Instead of jumping straight into marriage, the casualness is crucial for you to get to know the person.”
It is our first meeting. Akiko Naka is dressed in a hoodie, earphones plugged in, waiting at the hotel lobby when I approach her. She is visiting Singapore for business. I am instantly struck by how humble and unassuming she looks. Casual jeans, round neck t-shirt and a hoodie, the new dress code for well-travelled, tech-savvy startup founders.
With a slight bow, firm handshake and a bright smile, Akiko jumps up from the couch. We adjourn for tea, and Akiko leads us to her favourite corner, the deep end by the window. Away from human traffic and a view of the front porch, we proceed to chat for over an hour.
Pun intended, Wantedly is a cheeky wordplay on a wanted criminal. As Japan’s trust-based social recruiting site, Wantedly aims to match talents with yet to be known mission-driven companies through friendly connections. “It is a platform to hire great people who are passionate about something, by finding each other based on real social media ideas,” says the founder in fluent, Japanese-accented English.
“For example, if you are looking for a tutor, you go on Facebook for real recommendations. If you ask your friends, you are likely to get someone reliable compared to asking strangers. I want to do this for the recruiting process, turn it casual. We don’t encourage people to describe salaries and benefits, more like revolving around the mission of what they do,” explains Akiko with typical Japanese composure.
Doyenne: How do millennials define job satisfaction today?
Akiko: Motivation 3.0, creative work. Designing an iPhone is super creative work, you need ideas and a team of people. These things are driven by inner motivations for autonomy, mastery and purpose.
Autonomy is the freedom to decide how to do something, having a certain space to do what they know. Mastery is to keep growing, learn new things. If the task is too hard, too overwhelming, they stop doing. If too easy, they get bored as well. Millennials need to have the right level of challenge everyday. Then there’s purpose. They have to resonate, feel for what they are doing, where the company is heading.
D: Are there also startup founders in Japan like yourself, trying to disrupt the markets?
A: Yes. But the problem is, when you have a cool new idea that doesn’t exist in another part of the world, the product will only be used by Japanese people. You can’t scale it globally with a 120 million domestic market, which is decent sized but not an English speaking one. So crazy ideas like Uber, AirBnB wouldn’t come to Japan. It is vibrant here, but not as much as the US, like San Francisco.
D: What about the startup culture in Singapore? Our market is so small. 6 million! People get bored easily.
A: Singapore is like Tokyo for Southeast Asia. Wantedly’s mission is to make people really excited about their work. That’s only possible if people are already happy with the main foundations in their lives. And Singapore is one of those advanced countries where people actively seek career satisfaction. This becomes a strong focus for the startup community.
D: Let’s talk about Wantedly. What does it mean for you?
A: I wanted to turn the recruiting process into a more casual, fun process, rather than serious, traditional, contractual stuff. We don’t encourage people to describe salaries and benefits, more like revolving around the mission of what they do, what the company does.
When someone applies for a job, it leads to a casual meeting over coffee. Not a formal, stiff recruitment interview where you pay X amount of dollars in exchange for Y amount of hours in a person’s life. It’s like dating. Instead of jumping straight into marriage, the casualness is super crucial so you get to know the person.
With that, we want to target millennials who are swinging between motivation 2.0 and 3.0. We want to save these people and move them to the next rung.
“When we build new things from scratch, women are logical. We want to work for the amount of returns we can get.”
D: Is there a difference between what men and women look for in a job?
A: I think so. Women are more risk averse, men are more risk taking. It is biological. Women are stronger with details, like secure, stable, safe and clean environments. This isn’t good or bad, just different. When we build new things from scratch, women are logical. We want to work for the amount of returns we can get. Men just go for what they want. The mindset is different. Of course as individuals we differ and this is not necessarily true for all women and men. But the tendencies are there.
“I am really focused on the product’s user experience. It has no colour, users don’t know if it is built by men or women. You won’t get judged. You can win with your product.”
D: People often say that there is a glass ceiling in large corporations. Should women go for top jobs?
A: In their early twenties, women and men are not that different. But as they grow older, around thirty, this changes. When they face biological issues like having children, getting married, these life stages really change their way of thinking.
Talented females are usually more suited for large MNCs like Facebook, Google or even Goldman Sachs. There is a certain clear rule, you do X and you get Y. With that, women are surer. They pay more attention to details, their risk averse tendency is so clear. I have to keep reminding myself that nowadays, women have so many opportunities. Compared to women in the past who had to work so hard, we cannot take who we are for granted.
In general, males are more suited for aggressive roles like investment banking, M&A, while women are more suited for defensive roles. These are not necessarily stereotypes, but inherent differences among men and women that organisations should better leverage on.
Don’t take me wrong. With startups, everything is pretty much offensive, and men are better suited for these environments. But when startups grow bigger, they need women’s strengths, especially when it comes to building a product, like a mobile app. I am really focused on the product’s user experience. If it has no colour, users don’t know if it is built by men or women. They use it because it is useful. Nothing else matters. That’s why more women should go into programming. You won’t get judged. You can win with your product.