As the entire country comes together to call for improved productivity and the revision of long work hours, work style innovation has become an issue of the utmost importance for companies to tackle. However, many companies that promoted these innovations ended up with disappointing results. What must be done to avoid failure? Here we evaluate the five reasons why work style innovation goes wrong based on case studies.
Japan's Labor Productivity is the Lowest Among the 7 Major Industrial Nations, Making Work Style Innovation a Pressing Issue
Japan's labor productivity by hour is ranked 20th out of the 35 OECD member countries. Among the 7 major industrial nations, it has continued to rank lowest (Note 1). The government has also announced work style innovation as a crucial policy measure and in September 2016 established a " Minister in Charge of Work Style Innovation." As working long work hours has become a social issue, many enterprises are working with various initiatives to implement innovation. Included among them are telework systems that allow employees to work from outside the office such as from home, as well as field operation innovation that utilizes non-territorial office layouts where employees have no assigned seats, smart devices and IoT (Internet of Things).
However, its progress is not always trouble-free and the reality is that many enterprises are floundering.
(Note 1) from the 2016 International Comparison of Labor Productivity announced by the Japan Productivity Center in December 2016.
The Realities of Work Style Innovation Struggling to Make Headway (Case Studies)
Case Study 1: A system exists to allow employees to work from home but nobody uses it.
Company A implemented a system for working from home to support employees raising children. However, only around 10 employees use it per year and most are from the Human Resources Department. When employees were asked why they don't use it, there were many opinions along the lines of: " It's difficult to acquire when it's by one day units. If it were by the hour or even half a day, it would be easier to use" and " my line manager doesn't look pleased when I ask to work from home." In addition to the system's design, there appears to be problems with how managers view it.
Case Study 2: A non-territorial office layout was implemented, but ultimately everyone returned to a chosen seat.
When Company B moved offices, it took the opportunity to take the plunge into creating a completely non-territorial office layout. It was an effort to revitalize communication capable of transcending department walls. However, after a few months, employees of the same department ended up sitting together in the same seats every day. Line managers made excuses, saying they needed to keep an eye on their subordinates or work would lag behind. Subordinates complained that they wanted to keep documents and office equipment on the desk so moving seats everyday was a hassle. The Human Resources Department, which promoted the non-territorial layout could not defy the resistance from the field saying " the layout gets in the way of productivity" and ultimately everyone returned to fixed seating arrangements.
Case Study 3: By supplying smart devices, employees should have gone directly to their customers first thing in the morning and head straight home from their customer's office in the evening. Instead, employees returned to the office every day.
Company C distributed tablets to all employees in charge of sales, which prepared an environment for employees to read emails from outside the company and access the company system to check sales data, etc. The objective was to encourage them to head directly to their destinations and head straight home, enabling them to visit as many clients as possible. However, in reality, many employees returned to the office in the afternoon to write their daily sales report, saying the company computers were more convenient.
Case Study 4: Management cannot judge the cost-effectiveness of work style innovation.
The Human Resources Department at Company D implemented telework, which would allow employees to work outside the office. They discussed it in a management conference, explaining that it would increase productivity and be a part of the company's BCP (Business Continuity Planning) by reducing time spent commuting. However, executive members fired off multiple questions regarding ROI (Return on Investment). They posed questions that were difficult to subjectively refute, such as: " how much commute time can actually be reduced?" " What is the possibility of the head office being damaged by disaster within the next five years?" and " Wouldn't working from home decrease productivity?" The Human Resources Department was reduced to giving up on promoting telework.
The 5 Negatives that Block Work Style Innovation
Why do things turn out this way? It can be said there are five negatives that lurk behind work style innovation.
(1) No objective (alternatively, the objective has not been conveyed to the field or it is pursuing too many goals)
(2) Employees have no change of awareness
(3) Promotion Department has little knowledge of the field
(4) Results are rushed and little consideration is given for others
(5) No vision for work style innovation (alternatively, the vision is not shared and the story is not told)
The root cause of the issues raised in (1)-(4) can be said to be the issue (5), " no vision."
What sort of company and workplace do we want to create in five or ten years' time? What sort of innovation is necessary for that to happen? When such visions are not made clear and popular work style innovation is randomly introduced, a variety of issues arise during the implementation process. The same problem occurs when senior executives and field leaders have a vision but it is not shared among the General Affairs, Human Resources, ICT Department and employees in the field.
Everyone involved in work style innovation, including executive managers, has to come together in a workshop to share their vision and use it as a basis for creating a long-term plan. If such groundwork can be established, the five negatives can be resolved.
As one of the platforms for supporting the formulation and sharing of visions, Fujitsu is conducting " co-creation workshops" for customers, established on the achievements of implementing ICT to 7,000 client companies. Managers and various department supervisors from companies that are considering work style innovation will participate in the workshop. Members will discuss what they would like to see achieved, share values, decide on the desired direction and summarize all of it into a vision.
The co-creation workshop is situated in a position to encourage promoting effective work style innovation that fits each company. This is achieved by listening to comments and ideas from employees in the field and leveraging the company's strengths. Participants will experience the process of sharing visions that transcend department walls. This is also likely to be useful during the phase of putting the work style innovation project into practice.