Haken Agency or Virtual Assistant Company?
You need to hire, but the process comes with delays, fees, and few good candidates—let alone results. Additionally, as a foreign executive in Japan, you are looking for a bilingual individual. Where does all this leave you?
Often, right where you started: Needing staff, but not finding many options.
In Japan, a standard answer to a plight like this is to turn to a dispatch agency and hire haken shain (派遣社員), temp staff sent by a dispatch agency. However, a remarkably parallel but less-widely known option is that of virtual assistant companies.
Virtual assistant companies, such as TokyoMate KK, provide many of the same benefits as dispatch agencies, e.g., the speed of hiring and flexibility based on immediate need.
Here’s what you need to know about the similarities, the differences, and the issues of concern to think about as you look to expand your staff.
What’s the same?
Dispatch agencies and virtual assistant companies share the following benefits:
You are not hiring individuals directly.
Your initial contact is through a company.
You can count on pre-vetted hires/individuals.
Skill pools are quite similar (office work, customer support, etc.).
No need to worry about Japanese labor laws.
No need to worry about employee insurance and pension.
The differences between a dispatch/haken agency and a virtual assistant company take shape when examining the details. Here’s a quick list of areas to look at, which we will unpack in detail.
Speed of hiring.
Length of contract.
Level of skills.
Salary and price.
1. Speed of hiring.
With a dispatch agency, the average time for securing dispatch staff for you is between 3 to 6 weeks. In reality, it will take however long it takes for them to find a match for your needs.
Depending on how particular you are about hours, price, and skills, it may be easy—or less so—for them to find dispatch staff who will suit your specified parameters.
Even though many dispatch agencies declare they can fill positions quickly, this is rarely the case if you are looking for native Japanese temp hires who are also fluent in English.
With a virtual assistant company, staffing is immediate. You are pulling from their existing pre-vetted staff, so there is no lag time between when you sign up and when you can start offloading duties.
Dispatch agency: 3-6 weeks.
Virtual assistant company: Immediate.
2. Length of contract.
Dispatch contracts are for 3 months or 6 months, after which, if you were happy with the work provided, you can renew the contract for another 3 or 6 months.
The contract you make will be with the dispatch agency, and the agency will create an employment contract with the haken staff. You will not have a direct contract with the haken staff. In this way, it will be easy for you to ask for a replacement if the staff did not fulfill your expectations.
Dispatch staff cannot work for longer than 3 years with 1 employer, a protection that is meant to benefit temporary workers from getting stuck in stagnant positions. If you are happy with the work provided, you can make a full-time employment offer to the individual under a dispatch contract.
On the other side of the fence, with a virtual assistant company like TokyoMate, there are no contracts to sign. Instead, you pay-as-you-go, and you can increase your assistant’s hours based on immediate needs.
Dispatch agency: 3-to-6-month contracts, but no longer than 3 years for a single employer.
Virtual assistant company: No contract needed.
3. Bilingual communication.
Looking for bilingual talent in Japan is a challenging task. You will likely be familiar with this truth if you have lived or worked here for any amount of time.
Jeremy Sanderson, CEO of Icon Partners KK, provides this insightful summary of the state of Japanese bilingual talent in his LinkedIn article, “The brutal guide to hiring and firing in Japan”:
“Declining birth rates and a hopelessly inadequate English language education system in Japan have conspired to produce a very small talent pool of capable bilingual professionals. The hiring dynamic in Japan is generally the opposite of that of most other developed countries: there are plenty of job opportunities for experienced professionals and too few people to fill them. This produces a supply and demand situation which makes talented people expensive and recruiters’ fees high when compared with Europe or America.”
If fluency in English is not an essential skill when filling out your team, there’s a decent chance of finding a good hire from a dispatch agency.
However, if English fluency is an essential skill you are looking for, then a better option is working with a bilingual virtual assistant company, with bilingual staff already on offer.
Dispatch agency: Challenging to find bilingual talent + desired skillset.
Bilingual virtual assistant company: Provides bilingual talent + desired skillset.
4. Level of skills.
Look at any skill pool when viewing a dispatch agency site, and you’ll get an idea of what is on offer. In-demand skills include IT, data entry, secretary work, customer service, sales, graphic design, etc.
There are some restrictions to what is allowed as dispatch work, mandated under Japan’s Worker Dispatch Law. For instance, construction work, security services, work related to the medical industry, jobs related to port or cargo transportation, and jobs within legal and accounting fields that require certification cannot be hired through dispatch agencies.
Of course, most companies aren’t looking for anything too technical when they approach a dispatch company. According to the Japan Staffing Services Association, the largest temp staffing position is for office workers at over 30 percent.
How do virtual assistant companies fare in a comparison of skills available? Some virtual assistant companies have a specific mandate they are shooting for. For instance, with TokyoMate, our mission is to make it easier for the foreign community to “live, work, and do business in Japan.”
Therefore, we vet assistants in the following areas: bilingual fluency, translation skills, customer support, Japanese business experience, and international business experience.
Another point to consider: If you are looking to hire a specialized skill, such as web design, then hiring through a dispatch agency may be a good choice. But if you have a multifaceted role that needs filling, then a virtual assistant company might be a better fit because assistants are matched to your needs for each task.
Dispatch agency: Access to 1 dispatch worker with a specialized skill.
Virtual assistant company: Access to a large internal skill pool.
5. Privacy concerns.
If you wish for your dispatch worker to sign an NDA, you can make note of this in your communications with the dispatch agency. Most agencies will already have a non-disclosure clause ready for you to use.
If there are certain company workspaces the haken worker should not enter, this should be noted upfront. A segregated working arrangement is less than ideal, however, and can initiate some awkwardness, at least at the start.
With a virtual assistant company, in-office exposure to proprietary IP is less of a concern. As assistants are remote, and information is shared per task and as needed. Additionally, most virtual assistant companies will sign air-tight NDAs or allow for custom-creation of an NDA that fits your particulars.
Dispatch agency: Signed NDAs and clear guidelines on in-office spaces (if applicable).
Virtual assistant company: Signed NDAs or custom-created NDAs that address your concerns.
6. Salary and price.
Dispatch staff are paid per hour, but the fees you will pay to the dispatch agency reflect more than this because they will include agency recruitment fees and other related expenses.
According to data pulled from Japan Staffing Service Association, dispatch agencies charge a 30% premium on what is actually paid out to dispatch staff.
This means that if the haken staff agrees to 2,500 yen an hour, your company will be paying 3,250 yen per hour to the haken agency, 30 percent of which are agency fees.
With TokyoMate Assistant, you pay a lump sum for a set number of hours and then increase the hours in a pay-as-you-go manner as the need arises.
There are benefits to both options. With a dispatch agency, the costs are much less than a virtual assistant company when broken down per hour because a pre-vetted bilingual virtual assistant company is a premium service tailored for executives and the expat community in Tokyo.
However, the price evens out if you consider that virtual assistant services are styled so that an hour work = an hour paid, which allows you to streamline expenses even further when business is slow.
Dispatch agency: Lower by the hour, but potentially higher monthly cost.
Virtual assistant company: Pricier by the hour, but lower or comparable monthly cost.
To close, a couple of points:
While not all assistant services are equal, professional executive assistants have made assistant service their career focus and are highly sought out and recruited by top-level virtual assistant companies.
If English ability is crucial in your selection, then using a bilingual virtual assistant company makes a whole lot of sense.
With high-end assistants that bring recruitment time down from 3 months to 3 minutes, filling out your team with bilingual virtual assistants could be a game-changing way for you to think about temporary staffing in Japan.
Willing to try out TokyoMate’s virtual assistant services?
Here’s what you get:
All the essential skills you need to run an efficient business in Japan.
Native Japanese, fluent in English to ease language obstacles and fill needed business roles.
Assistants are vetted by our tech founders through a rigorous 5-step screening process.
3 months to 3 minutes. Save time and money on recruitment by using our Assistants.
Plans can be tailored to accommodate for slow and busy months.
A no-risk 30-day moneyback guarantee with each of our pricing plans.