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Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013

Softbank dangles ¥1 million carrot for employees who join TOEIC '900 club'


Staff writer

Softbank Corp. said Friday it will pay a ¥1 million bonus to any of its employees who score 900 points or more in the TOEIC English-language proficiency test, starting this month.

Those who score between 800 to 899 will each receive a ¥300,000 bonus, said Softbank spokeswoman Hiroe Kotera. The maximum score on the Test of English for International Communication is 990 points.

By incentivizing workers to enhance their English skills, Softbank aims to increase the number of its workers fluent in the language as it expands overseas. In October, Softbank surprisingly announced that it will acquire Sprint Nextel Corp., the third-largest cellphone carrier in the U.S.

"We have also been investing in firms in Asia and other countries, so (Softbank employees) have opportunities to operate at a global level," Kotera said. "Improving their language skills will increase their chances."

Softbank's workers can take the test multiple times to aim for a higher score, but the total amount of cash each will receive is fixed at ¥1 million, Sofbank said.

While those who score less than 800 points won't receive any language-related bonuses, employees scoring between 600 and 799 will be provided with financial support by Softbank to attend English-language schools. Workers who have already beaten the 800-point mark will need to retake the test — and ace it again — to receive the ¥1 million jackpot.

Currently, around 800 of the firm's employees have scored in excess of 800 on the TOEIC, but it plans to increase this number to some 3,000 across its five group firms by the end of 2015, when the language bonus will end.

Although this is the first time Softbank has dangled bonuses to boost English skills among its workforce, the firm has been running a bonus system based on childbirth to support efforts to boost Japan's birthrate.

The company pays out ¥50,000 when an employee — male or female — has their first child, ¥100,000 for the second, ¥1 million for the third, ¥3 million for the fourth — and ¥5 million for the fifth.



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