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THE INVESTOR
May 23, 2019
Big Reunion

Startups & Investors

Top foreign companies to work for in S. Korea

  • PUBLISHED :March 15, 2019 - 14:48
  • UPDATED :March 15, 2019 - 16:03
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JobPlanet announces list of top-rated CEOs, companies with best working conditions

Alphabet, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, Netflix and Tesla are not only the highest market cap companies in the US, but they are giant talent magnets that draw the cream of the crop in the global job market

Considering their high wages, stellar benefits and even a sense of pride that you would get while working at the companies, it seems natural to think that employee satisfaction at the firms are much higher than elsewhere.


Dimitris Psillakis (left), CEO of Mercedes-Benz Korea, plays table football with his team in a recreational area at the company’s headquarters in Seoul. (Park Hyun-koo/The Investor)



A recent report by JobPlanet, a crowdsourced corporate data startup, however, showed there are relatively smaller low-profile foreign companies, running operations in South Korea, whose employees are similarly, or even more content with their working conditions than their peers at the business titans.

The data set, based on reviews and ratings by former and current employees in 2018, are categorized into three segments -- CEO’s approval rating among employees, corporate culture, and employees’ work-life balance.


Chipmaker CEOs among the most beloved


Employees in the semiconductor segment, which were in an upbeat mood until late last year, are found to be relatively happier with their CEOs than others in different sectors.




Former and current employees of Tokyo Electron Korea, a chip equipment firm, gave their CEO Won Jai-hyung the highest approval rating of 77.9 percent, slightly higher than Kim Young-sun, chief of lithography machine maker ASML Korea, whose approval rating stood at 77.6 percent.

Won, who used to work for Korean chip companies Samsung Electronics and Wonik IPS, has been at the helm of Tokyo Electron Korea since October 2017 while Kim has been leading ASML Korea since July, 2011.

Both companies supply semiconductor manufacturing equipment for both Samsung and SK hynix, and they have been on an upward trend in terms of sales in recent years.

Yang Jung-yul, CEO of market research firm Kantar TNS; Colin Clark, head of fast food restaurant franchise Subway Korea; and Pfizer Pharmaceuticals Korea CEO Oh Dong-wook made the top five in the category, receiving 73.3 percent, 72.2 percent and 71.8 percent, respectively.

“CEOs of foreign companies usually gain trust from employees as they often have a proven track record, in contrast to some corporate founders or the founding family at Korean conglomerates who lack managerial skills,” said Kim Ji-yae, co-founder and COO of Brain Commerce, the company behind JobPlanet.

The average support rate for CEOs of foreign companies stood at 47.9 percent with the figure for Korea’s largest conglomerates coming in at 39.8 percent.


Company culture matters more than money


Money often serves as a great motivator for employees. Once monetary needs are satisfied, however, there is something more required than these rewards to keep employees engaged as well as motivated at work. So here comes the importance of organizational culture.




The JobPlanet report looked into the company culture aspects. ASML Korea and Tokyo Electron Korea once again attained the highest scores in the category, at 3.95 and 3.87, respectively, on a scale of five. The average rating of corporate culture at foreign companies, at 3.42, is much higher than that of Korean conglomerates, at 2.57.

“The type of industry largely determines the corporate culture of Korean companies. Firms in the IT segment usually receive high ratings than those in the manufacturing sector,” the JobPlanet COO explained.

“In the case of foreign companies, however, they tend to score higher points than Korean counterparts regardless of the industry,” she added.

Surprisingly, GM Korea, which shuttered its manufacturing plant in Gunsan, North Jeolla Province, last year, came third with 3.66, followed by Robert Bosch Korea and Ikea Korea, which recorded 3.54 and 3.53, respectively.

GM Korea has faced a strong backlash from the political circles as well as locals due to the shutdown of the factory. Instead of pressing its employees hard to improve its ever-falling sales and tide over a financial crunch, the company has chosen to encourage its employees to take vacations in a flexible manner and reduce working hours.

Some GM Korea employees said incompetent leadership is a more serious and chronic problem at the company than anything else.

“Top management lacking commitment for business growth is the biggest problem although the company has clear roles and responsibilities and workflow for employees,” a GM employee wrote in a JobPlanet post.

Companies with good corporate cultures, however, does not mean they are impeccable.

The report found that there have been some complaints of sexual abuse or workplace bullying raised by some employees at ASML Korea, GM Korea and Ikea Korea.

Tokyo Electron Korea and Robert Bosch Korea, on the other hand, have had no issues related to sexual harassment, physical violence, or psychological abuse reported on the JobPlanet’s corporate review platform for the past three years.


Work-life balance still a struggle for foreign firms


From a work-life balance perspective, employees at both foreign companies and Korean conglomerates feel relatively less satisfied.




The average work-life satisfaction level for foreign companies stood at 3.19 on a scale of five, while the figure for the Korean companies came in at 3.08.

Among the top scorers are GM Korea, Robert Bosch Korea, eBay Korea, ASML Korea and Ikea Korea.

Since the work intensity depends on the atmosphere of each industry, and more importantly, the labor laws of the nation, the gap between foreign companies and domestic ones, in terms of work-life balance, is not that wide, JobPlanet explained.

“The work-life balance levels at most foreign companies except the top eight companies in the list scored below the average,” said Kim, adding that “it means there is still more room for improvement in the Korean labor market.”

By Kim Young-won (wone0102@heraldcorp.com)

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