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Stakeholder Dialogue in FY2017 (human resources)

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Dialogue on human resources

In February 2018, we invite Professor Hiroki Sato, Chuo Graduate School of Strategic Management, and Professor Hiroko Nomura, School of Communication and Design, College of Humanities, Shukutoku University, to have dialogue about the following theme:

  • Evaluation of our actions at our frontline to improve productivity and efficiency while creating a fulfilling working environment, and input to our future efforts to further promote work style reform
  • Importance of diversity and inclusion, and practical advice for linking diversity to value creation


<Participating expert>

Professor Hiroki Sato
Chuo Graduate School of Strategic Management
Professor Hiroko Nomura
School of Communication and Design, College of Humanities
Shukutoku University

<KDDI participants>

Dobashi, Executive Officer, CSR Environmental Sustainability,General Manager, General Administration & Human Resources Division
Takiyama, General Manager, Human Resources Department,General Administration & Human Resources Division
Tokuda, General Manager, Talent Development Department General Administration & Human Resources Division
Mase, General Manager, Diversity & Inclusion Department General Administration & Human Resources Division
Aketa, General Manager, Management Planning Department Corporate Strategy Planning Division
Tanaka, General Manager, General Administration Department General Administration & Human Resources Division
Torimitsu, General Manager, CSR & Environment Management Department General Administration & Human Resources Division

  • Participants' titles as at end of March 2018

What work style reform means and aims for

Nomura: I remember once interviewing KDDI about the work shift interval rule. The purpose of setting a minimum time between shifts is to improve work environment by ensuring that workers are given sufficient rest time between leaving work and starting again the following day, and KDDI is one of the early adopters of this rule in Japan. KDDI's approach was to link this rule to health management and combine it with reducing working hours, which I thought was excellent. There has been a lot of talk about "work style reform" recently in the wider society. It's important for any company implementing such a reform to have a clear idea of what it means to the organization and to reiterate that point from the management point of view persistently.

Sato: The purpose of work style reform is not just to reduce overtime, but to end the current reliance on regular overtime work and improve productivity. It's important that both the company and its workforce understand this purpose clearly. Excessive overtime work that harms health must be stopped of course, but where cutting overtime is seen as the overriding purpose, it leaves no scope for employees' own initiative. Work style reform ought to be a reform undertaken by individual employees to enrich their own life outside work, whether it's to invest more time in self-development or have more family time. Overtime reduction should be a result of that. Making "leave office by 8 p.m." a rule may be a good idea to start with, but working two hours of overtime means not getting home before 9 p.m.; after an evening meal, you would have hardly any time left at all to spend for yourself. If that's the case, then it may be better to make sure you set aside some "no overtime" days and work four hours of overtime when necessary. Work style reform should be a reform to make your work style suit your lifestyle.

KDDI: Overtime reduction is part of our own work style reform initiative at KDDI. In the past, overtime work was so normalized that staying on after regular office hours was often regarded as a commendable thing. "Leave by 8 p.m." was promoted as the first step to changing this culture, but we do hear voices saying, "but what about the work that needs done?" We feel we need to move on to the next step.

Nomura: One key question I must ask is whether the management is fulfilling its responsibility before applying pressure on employees not to do overtime. For example, a company can avoid having to compete on price or time commitments by moving to a higher value added business area. The management is also responsible to control the volume and quality of work across the company. In the distribution industry, where there are serious manpower shortages, some companies have stopped 24-hour operations. Companies in other industries also need make some management decisions to prevent overwork. An investment in productivity improvement is also essential.

Sato: You can only go so far with overtime reduction through productivity improvement if the current volume of work remains as it is. It is essential to tackle both workload reduction and productivity improvement. It is not up to those on the frontline to decide to cut tasks to be done; it has to be a management decision.

KDDI: The new round of medium-term management plan starts from fiscal 2019 under the new president in April 2018, and its focus is indeed high added value business areas. As more and more new companies enter the telecommunication industry, we need to move away from price competitions and shift to business areas that offer customers more value. We have set up 12 project teams for management modernization to reduce costs and increase productivity. We are also in the process of moving manpower to key departments and investing in measures to improve productivity based on survey results.

Work style reform is communication reform

Nomura: Work style reform is also a communication reform. To promote diversity in work styles, it is essential that we change the way we think of communication. For example, we need to draw up a set of rules about setting task targets and reporting. This enables weekly updating with your line manager to make your working week "visible." Communication is particularly important for employees who work remotely out of sight of their managers, peers and subordinates, such as those on parental leaves. We need to create a company-wide framework to facilitate this, for example by sharing best communication practices with subordinates through training sessions. Otherwise, the job of individual managers would become impossibly hard.

Sato: Communication is important because you can't know without hearing what people say. It may have been fine in the past to assume that your subordinates have the same outlook on work as yours, but these days everyone's circumstances are different, and you may end up with a diverse group of people reporting to you. Managers need to understand these changes.

Nomura: You may have a staff member who has a young family and was unable to do any overtime work until last month, but she may be able to start working longer hours this month now that her husband has returned from his temporary placement. By having regular communication, you can pick up on changes in individual circumstances like this and respond flexibly. By keeping responding to changes with sensitive and sensible work arrangements, you can make diverse work styles possible and nurture a diverse workforce. It's important to make sure that staff can talk to their managers about anything, including family matters. Some studies suggest that there is a correlation between psychological security―such as trust in your team and a sense of ease―and performance.

KDDI: We hold career development seminars for female employees up to the age of 30, and they make us realize how diverse our people are. They have markedly different values from older people; they want a fulfilling private life as well as work. It may be impossible to understand each other fully, but I do feel that, by actively seeking better communication, we are achieving work efficiency and reducing errors.

What the managers and employees of the future need

Sato: Instead of prioritizing the company's needs and wants, managers must manage in such a way that employees taking parental leaves find it easy to work. Making your people accept your demand without question is no longer the way to go; to get jobs done efficiently, it's important that you listen carefully to your staff members and understand them. Companies need to do more to train their managers.
It's also true that the manager telling their subordinates to cut overtime hours is often the one working longest hours. Companies must include elements of the work style reform in their evaluation criteria and manage the results quantitatively, including those of the middle management.

KDDI: There is certainly a tendency that managers' overtime hours are not going down as much as non-management employees' hours. We as a company are aware of the need to tackle this issue and solve the problem.

Sato: As work styles become diverse, with more people choosing teleworking and working from home, the important thing is self-management skills. When people who can't manage themselves take up teleworking, they often end up working even more hours. When you can work any time anywhere, it takes self-discipline not to work and decide, for example, not to check emails after 8 p.m. or make any work-related communication during weekends. Ideally, you should teach new recruits how to do their job without any overtime at all, and allow overtime work only after being with the company for a full year. In Japan, companies allow new starts overtime working right from Day 1, so people are not trained to finish jobs within regular office hours. It is a wrong idea that new recruits who can't do their job well should contribute their time instead.
Besides self-management, it's important that employees can have a clear vision of their own career without totally relying on the company. This means that the company and managers should be sympathetic to employees' wish to learn skills outside their job.

Year 2030: beyond work style reform

Nomura: In a world where the future is uncertain, it's very important for each person to be flexible enough to adapt to changes. At the same time, companies need to do more than just say "invest in yourself"―they must show the direction their people should be going. Point the way ahead, and develop human resources that can think for themselves, including their market worth, and can keep updating their career paths proactively.

Sato: What's needed is human resources that can not only do the job in front of them but also continue thriving for the next 5 years, 10 years and beyond. When it's difficult to predict what the future holds for a company, it's important to develop human resources that are eager to learn, have flexibility and curiosity, and can take an active role in their own self-development.
Where you have diverse people, you need to show the direction they should be going by instilling the company's mission and values in them. As a company that has gone through many mergers and acquisitions, I think KDDI has given a lot of consideration to its company philosophy. These conceptual foundations should provide a ground from which free ideas can grow.

KDDI: We hold company-wide training sessions twice a year, with everyone including senior managers are required to attend, about the company philosophy to make sure everyone understands and practices it. By repeating it again and again, we are trying to make sure everyone shares a common vision of making the Integration of Telecommunications and Life Design a reality.

Nomura: In the age when living to 100 is the new normal and working life is also becoming longer, you can't expect to work in just one company throughout your lifetime. To make the best use of diverse workforce, I think we need to go beyond the membership-based career path that was the norm in the Japanese-style lifetime employment and integrate a more job-based model into it, where people work in their own specialisms.

Sato: How about creating a system where you encourage employees to plan in terms of decades and have a vision of their career in the next 10 years? The key is to create an environment where the people you want to keep feel happy to stay in your company. Allow them a chance to think about different career options inside and outside of the company and, if they decide themselves that KDDI is still the best option to them, they will continue working happily.

KDDI: In our Work Style Reform, we have focused on addressing the problem of long working hours in particular. Today's dialogue has made us realize that it's important to make sure that the purpose is shared among and fully understood by every employee. We will continue with the reform, with the management and the frontline staff working together, to create a work environment where diverse people, including women, workers with disabilities, LGBT people, senior citizens, people raising children or caring for family members can work on equal terms and free from anxiety.

Nomura: With the loud chorus of work style reform in the background, some companies are starting to say that the days of encouraging women to thrive and shine are over, but the reality is that we are not even half way there. As a leader in the field, I hope that KDDI will continue at full throttle with the endeavor.