Trust is Fujitsu’s North Star.
This helps explain why the $27 billion-revenue Japanese multinational IT giant was not only ahead of the curve, particularly in APAC, in trusting its employees to work remotely prior to the pandemic, but also it has stayed fully committed to hybrid work post-pandemic.
In an exclusive interview with UNLEASH, Fujitsu’s executive vice-president and CHRO Hiroki Hiramatsu shares the employer introduced remote work partly “in anticipation of the Tokyo Olympics”, which were originally scheduled for 2020, and the postponed until 2021 due to COVID-19.
Although initially Fujitsu’s 150,000 employees weren’t entirely sold on remote work – only one in three embraced remote work at least one a week – when the pandemic pretty much forced working from home, the workers began to realize the benefits of working from home – notably no stress from commuting and having a better work-life balance.
Therefore, Hiramatsu notes Fujitsu “listened to the needs of all our employees… and did not return to our old work styles”, even when the COVID-19 situation would have allowed it.
Instead, the Japanese IT giant embraced a concept called ‘Work Life Shift’ – and, you’ve guessed it, it centers around trust.
Fujitsu and the ‘Work Life Shift’
‘Work Life Shift’ is all about enabling employees to work in a “self-reliant way” – it “offers employees more options and allows them to independently decide where to work based on their own, and their team’s, work situation”, notes Hiramatsu.
As things stand, Fujitsu has 20% office attendance – that’s roughly the same as during the pandemic. A recent employee survey found that 70% of employees think that is the right level.
Importantly, as part of this hybrid work policy, Fujitsu has really thought about the definition of the office – it put the people at the center.
Hiramatsu adds: “The office is not just a simple workplace anymore, but a place where employees can experience various perks, like a trial for working with their pets”
Plus, it has been re-designed to offer nicer places to work; the idea is to make the office a place “where it is easier than ever to collaborate and work”, he continues.
Fujitsu and Hiramatsu calls on other HR leaders to really follow suit and trust their employees to work where it suits them.
In fact, Fujitsu is so sure of the success of ‘Work Life Shift’ that it has commercialized the concept and is now providing “in-house work style reforms as a service to customers internationally”.
Closing skills gaps at Fujitsu
Hybrid and remote work haven’t been the only topic of conversation for Hiramatsu and his HR team.
In the 2020s to date, the employer has been focused on globalization and diversification – and this has impacted how it thinks about its people and HR strategies.
There is an increasing need to standardize how the company operates across the world.
One example here is the introduction of the HR Business Partner (HRBP) position for the first time, each sub-organization now has a HRBP who works closely with the head of that division “to solve organizational problems” – “the HRBP is trusted as a partner in the business”.
In addition, Fujitsu has thought carefully about how to better align employees to growth areas in the business.
As well as acquiring new talent, Hiramatsu and his HR team have been working hard on learning and development of current employees.
The IT giant decided to assign skills to every job role in the organization – this helps the employer to identify (and visualize) the skills gaps, and in what region, and then initiate upskilling and reskilling programs to close the gaps.
For Hiramatsu, by focusing in on skills as a lever of corporate can really help Fujitsu achieve its talent and financial goals, and drive broader efficiencies in the business.
Fujitsu has also “significantly expanded internal job postings…to maintain and improve internal mobility of our talent”.
Between financial year (FY) 2020 and FY2022, of its 73,000 employees in Japan, almost a quarter (20,000) have voluntarily applied for internal job postings – 7,500 were successful, an increase on pre-2020 levels, according to Hiramatsu.
AI, HR and Fujitsu
The conversation then turned to the topic of the moment: AI.
In a recent media briefing, Fujitsu’s CTO Vivek Mahajan shares some thoughts on AI – he believes it has huge potential “to improve people’s live – I don’t now what the upper limit is to be honest”.
But Mahajan has some concerns about being about to find the right AI skills – this fits with what Hiramatsu was saying about the skills focus at Fujitsu.
But the benefit for Fujitsu is its global approach – “we are not limited to talent here in Japan”, noted Mahajan, and by partnering with global universities and academic institutions the IT giant is ensuring it always has access to a pool of emerging tech talent.
In his exclusive UNLEASH interview, Hiramatsu shares that the HR function at Fujitsu is really leveraging AI to maximize the business value it drives (and to ensure they are partners to employees).
In general, focusing on demonstrating the business value of the HR function is top of mind for Fujitsu’s CHRO in 2024 and into 2025.
Automation can help HR teams be more efficient, and “devote more time than ever [on] strategic operations”, rather than operational and administrative tasks – plus it can support better analytics capabilities, allowing HR teams to make data-powered decisions.
Top of mind for Mahajan, Hiramatsu and Fujitsu as a whole is the responsible use of AI – this goes back to the company’s North Star of trust.
“While the use of AI and advanced technologies is a very effective tool for HR departments, it is also very important to consider privacy and ethical points of view,” Hiramatsu tells UNLEASH
He added: “We believe that insights obtained through these technologies should only be used to support our decision-making, but not be used as the main indicator for our decisions.”
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