Leadership   //   September 26, 2022

How Shiseido is retaining talent in the age of quiet quitting

This story was first reported on, an published by, WorkLife sibling Glossy

Responding to the rapidly changing nature of work life, Japanese beauty company Shiseido is expanding its employee retention strategy through a range of initiatives.

The cosmetics giant is leaning into education to keep its global workforce engaged and loyal through programs like the Shiseido+ Digital Academy, individual career development workshops and study abroad opportunities. It’s part of Shiseido’s long-term strategy for both its workforce and its finances ahead of a tumultuous decade for the global economy. 

Establishing digital and data literacy is central to the goal of Shiseido+ Digital Academy, which has seen 10,000 global employees take part since its inception in 2016. “Our catalyst is our biggest asset: our people,” said Roxanne Ong, svp of strategy and education at Shiseido’s digital transformation office. “We cannot be successful without people who can confidently navigate an ever-changing digital world.” 

Rather than have employees break from their day-to-day for training on digital capabilities, as Levi’s does with its AI bootcamp, Shiseido considers the everyday workplace to be “the school.” It’s “the place where you learn and work at the same time,” according to the company.

Gone are the days when a competitive salary was enough to entice top talent. Now more than ever, people are seeking out flexible, engaging, fulfilling and purposeful work. “Candidates are being very mindful of corporate culture, the purpose of the business, the [extent to which] the leadership team is inspiring and the vision of the company,” said Annabel Weeden, associate director at Nigel Wright Group, a U.K.-based recruitment firm that works with beauty brands like Dior, L’Oréal, Estée Lauder and Clarins.

The digital academy has seen an uptick in employee interest over the last three years, said Ong. “Since 2020, we’ve had a 30% increase in enrollment at our digital academy. We just kicked off a new program for digital literacy this year and already have over 5,000 employees signed up to get certified. The pandemic has certainly helped our employees become more aware of the need to embrace and learn about the digital world.”

In September, Shiseido announced the establishment of the Shiseido Future University, which will open in 2023 at the company headquarters in Ginza, Tokyo. The university promises to promote talent development through business education with an emphasis on strategic thinking and leadership. 

Shiseido isn’t alone among beauty companies in finding creative ways to engage its workforce. Also leaning into employee education and development is The Honest Company, which partnered with Pepperdine’s Graziadio Business School in January. The Honest Company employees and their spouses are eligible for discounted tuition for degrees and certificates, scholarships and guaranteed admission to a part-time MBA program with Pepperdine. 

Taking a different approach to employee benefits, L’Oréal opened a new L.A. headquarters in August, designing it in collaboration with employees to be a space centered on employee wellbeing. Features include personal wellness spaces, an exercise studio, cafés, gardens and dog-friendly offices to create experiences that employees can’t get by working from home. 

Within the Shiseido Digital Academy’s dedicated hub, employees can engage with webinars, think pieces, and other resources focused on “strategic topics of interest for our business and times,” said Ong. Recently, the curriculum has included Agile People training, which takes principles from the software development world and applies them to people management principles, an overall “Life in 2030” mindset, web3 and the metaverse. 

“The [Agile People program] is incredibly important because of the spectacular speed our world moves in. The old ways of managing people are no longer useful,” said Ong. Life in 2030 underscores that, said Ong. “This is quite simply about always having a future-forward viewpoint of the world. It is important for us to always cultivate a progressive mindset and make our employees aware of all the technological advances that are happening as we speak.” 

Following the Digital Academy, Shiseido employees progress to what the company calls UpKnowledge programs, on digital and technology literacy. They cover topics like e-commerce and omnichannel commerce, social media, blockchain, AI, cloud computing and automation. After the UpKnowledge program, employees can progress to Shiseido’s UpSkill program to learn tangible skills like UX design, data and analytics, artificial intelligence, and omnichannel marketing. Last year, Shiseido partnered with IT consultancy Accenture to accelerate the rollout of around additional 250 resources. 

As Shiseido’s leaders see it, completing these types of programs help employees advance in their careers within the company. The return on investment for this initiative is a workforce that is “faster, better and smarter than before.” Retaining employees within the Shiseido ecosystem is also less expensive than replacing unhappy employees. “We believe in upskilling rather than replacing and rehiring,” said Ong. “Done right, from a cost and efficiencies standpoint, closing the knowledge and skills gaps is far less disruptive and more cost effective than replacing employees with new hires.” 

The way we define, engage with and aspire to work is in a state of flux. In 2021, during the height of the pandemic, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported around 47 million American workers quit their jobs in what was dubbed “The Great Resignation.” This year, the phenomenon of quiet quitting — setting boundaries based on one’s job description — rippled through the zeitgeist as a response to pre-pandemic hustle culture. Meanwhile, hybrid and fully remote work culture look set to stay, pushing our careers online like never before.

For many companies, it has never been harder to attract and retain talent. According to Microsoft’s 2022 Work Trend Index Annual Report, 52% of millennial and Gen-Z workers are likely to consider changing jobs. Within that same group, 51% of employees working in hybrid setups say they’re likely to go fully remote in the coming year. 

Weeden said that, increasingly, employee retention programs like Shiseido’s will become standard in the beauty industry and beyond. “As more businesses undertake these [types of] strategies, they will become the norm, in terms of what is expected by the candidate pool,” she said. 

To combat the quiet quitting phenomenon, engaging and supporting employees through education and upskilling appears to be a valuable avenue for businesses to explore. This, coupled with wider investment in people power could help to future-proof workforces while helping employees develop valuable skills. 

“The reality for senior leaders is that you still need driven, committed employees in order to make an organization grow,” Weeden said. “Because there is an increasingly competitive environment for talent, the talent pool universally has more power. where we are now is unprecedented.”