Recent years have seen growing interest in work style innovation, and we often hear about cases in which companies take the initiative to promote work style innovation by alleviating long working hours, introducing telework systems, and other means. However, work style innovation does not mean merely introducing systems and tools.
What can employees do to design their work styles by taking the initiative on their own instead of leaving it up to the company? And how should they address it?
Let's look at Fujitsu's workshop to see some tips for successful work style innovation.
[Fujitsu Insight 2017 Workshop Report]
Developing Different Perspectives on Work Style Innovation through the Workshop
This workshop aims to consider the kind of work style innovation to promote at work sites together with participants by introducing the work style innovation initiatives tackled by Fujitsu's sales representatives as well as the insights obtained from such initiatives. Participants' goal is to "acquire tips on work style innovation to promote at their own work sites through workshop dialogues."
What is work style innovation? Each participant writes down the key concepts they think of on the paper provided. The workshop begins with the participants at each table showing the keywords to each other to recognize individual differences in their feelings and the thoughts that they can share.
Next, Fujitsu employees introduce their efforts to achieve work style innovation. The Social Infrastructure Business Unit, Japan Sales, is working on work style innovation at work sites under six themes. In this workshop, employees introduced innovation activities focusing on the following three themes: "Women's Work Styles," "Sales Process Improvements," and "Team Capability Improvements."
Considering Work Styles while Focusing on Women's Happiness (Theme: Women's Work Styles)
Women's careers tend to be affected by life events such as marriage and childbirth. Given such circumstances, I think that a true productivity improvement can be achieved by developing a work environment where female employees can play active parts while pursuing their individual happiness, not just by increasing efficiency and speed.
According to questionnaires and hearings we conducted, female employees have concerns and complaints that cannot be resolved only within the company's system. For example, they have concerns about an insufficient number of female role models who have established their careers while rearing children, and they have complaints about bosses who do not understand their career plans. To resolve these problems, we conducted some trials with the hope of making our company a better place for women to work happily with vigor and enthusiasm in the ways that they like.
Happy Career Meeting is a trial program for considering female employees' careers, including life events, together with their bosses. This has been a good opportunity for women to review their own careers, and the majority of participants (both bosses and female employees) responded that the program was fruitful. We expect this program to prove effective for male employees as well when we apply it to the existing career interview system.
We also held a young employees' career meeting and a mothers/fathers meeting. These were held as lunch meetings in a conference room so that people with time constraints could attend. The meetings highlighted the lack of exchanges between employees of the same generation, but they also contributed to increasing participants' motivation. Participants expressed opinions such as: "I want to hear opinions from people in different environments" and "I regret that we pass down nearly the same problems to our juniors, so I want to share my thoughts and ideas for improvement."
It also came to light that each division has a different culture with respect to their work styles. Participants in these trial programs assembled by word-of-mouth, so we want to create a database at headquarters and continue to conduct such programs to create a more worker-friendly culture in the entire headquarters going forward.
Always Keeping Customers in Mind (Theme: Sales Process Improvements)
Fujitsu wants to co-create new businesses on an equal footing with our customers. However, sometimes we communicate with customers mainly by email or phone, and we only visit them to the minimum necessary extent. In other cases, we cannot make new proposals that meet customers' needs because we fail to understand their real needs and the hints they give.
To address such situations, we worked on sales process improvements, recognizing the necessity of reforming the process we use to communicate with customers.
As a trial, we set up a satellite office close to a customer's office to shorten the physical distance between us. We expected that the following improvements would lead to a stronger relationship with the customer so that we could become true partners.
- Increased number of opportunities for face-to-face communication with the customer
- Improved quality of customer contact by using the time saved by shorter travel times to prepare proposals and provide information to the customer
The one-month trial results showed some positive achievements, such as "contributing to effective use of time" and "increased the amount of time we have to think about the customer." On the other hand, there were some negative results as well, such as "only a slight increase in the number of opportunities and amount of time to meet the customer" and "intimacy with the customer did not increase very much." These results made us acutely aware of the fact that simply shortening the physical distance from customers is insufficient; what is important is to provide value to customers to make them think they want to meet us. This trial also revealed that satellite offices are not cost-effective unless many people use them. So, we think that it is important to change the form of operation depending on the sales style. We hope to consider appropriate satellite work styles according to the situation at hand.
Developing Teams' Work Styles to Enable Members to Work Happily in Their Own Ways (Theme: Team Capability Improvements)
According to Google, successful teams have several points in common, one of which is psychological safety. Psychological safety refers to members' sense of confidence that the team is a place where they can express their true selves, not their work-only selves. According to Unilever Japan, which is a leader in promoting work style innovation, enhancing productivity means allowing employees to choose their own work styles so that they can feel happy in their jobs.
Based on these concepts, we examined the definition of a "good team" and reached the conclusion that good teams are teams where each member can work based on his or her own motivation to work and with his or her own work style, which other team members respect and support. After that, we started a trial with the goal of "developing a team where members can work enthusiastically with a feeling of excitement and happiness."
We implemented the trial based on measures from the following three perspectives: "realizing the work styles desired by individual members," "fostering a team atmosphere that raises motivation," and "improving mutual understanding among members." As small steps, team members called each other by nicknames and made it a rule not to contradict others' opinions in discussions and dialogues. Furthermore, we played an "escape game" in a team building workshop to further deepen team members' understanding and improve teamwork. In the questionnaire we conducted later, more than half of members responded that they learned more about each other through the workshop. A managerial-level employee responded: "All team members are very reliable. I think I will entrust more work to them." I felt the activity provided substantial benefits by deepening mutual understanding among members.
At Fujitsu, the prescribed number of working hours per day is 7.9, which is approximately 40 hours 5 days a week. Therefore, we implemented an approximately two-week work style trial by establishing a rule that the number of working hours must be at least 40 hours a week, allowing employees to freely select their working days, hours, and locations. As a result, productivity reached 61% after the trial, an increase of approximately 10% from the pre-trial level of 50%. In addition, approximately 70% of regular employees responded that they could realize their ideal work styles. However, managerial-level employees generally responded that they did not feel any productivity improvement after the trial, and all managerial-level employees who participated responded that there were management problems. They are concerned about the difficulty of managing subordinates' schedules and the tendency to work overtime until late at night and on holidays. While regular employees have hopes for free working styles, managerial-level employees have concerns. Thus, we observed a large gap in consciousness between these two groups.
This work style innovation aims to have each person recognize work style innovation as a matter of his or her own concern and to develop work styles that make both regular and managerial-level employees happy. We hope to continue to work to achieve this goal.
Expressing Each Individual's Work Style Innovation
After the presentation on Fujitsu employees' efforts, workshop participants considered their own work style innovation. They added words to simplified facial expressions on Emotion Maps, which helped them express their own thoughts about work style innovation. Then, participants selected the theme that they were the most emotionally attached to or the most interested in from among the three themes of "Women's Work Styles," "Sales Process Improvements," and "Team Capability Improvements." Afterwards, they brought together the Emotion Maps to exchange their opinions, share information, and discuss individual themes together with Fujitsu employees. At each table, participants actively exchanged opinions on work style innovation in a pleasant atmosphere marked by occasional laughter.
In this short 1.5-hour workshop, participants raised their awareness and acquired tips for their future work style innovation.