Table Speech

Revolutionizing Our Work-style
--- 100 Ways of Working for 100 People ---

April 19, 2017

Mr. Yoshihisa Aono
President, Cybozu, Inc.

 I am not an expert on work-style reform. I represent a software company and today, I wish to share how our company has reformed the ways employees work since its foundation in 1997. IT companies tend to have a high turnover rate. Our company was no exception and the rate stayed around 15% for some time. By 2005, it reached 28% and we had a hard time recruiting new employees. As I talked with my colleagues, persuading them to stay, I realized that each person had different motivations for working. Some people worked for money, some for personal fulfillment and some wanted to have good work-life balance. To better address diversified needs, we changed our policy and introduced individual-based personnel system. Consequently, our turnover rate has declined to less than 5% for the past 5 years, a significantly low figure for an IT business, while our sales kept rising thanks to the fast-growing cloud services.

 Today our staff members can choose his/her work-style out of nine models, depending on each working hour and place. We have achieved a female-friendly workplace by providing flexible hours and extending childcare leave to six years. Now we have no employees who resign due to childbirth. We have also facilitated teleworking for almost all categories, including sales and accounting. When the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred, all of our employees switched to teleworking and succeeded in providing seamless services to our clients. This experience taught me that teleworking was helpful not only for working mothers but also in an emergency situation.

 “Self-educating leave” is an initiative introduced to allow our employees to take a leave up to six years and acquire new skills externally. So far we have about eight members who rejoined our office after taking the leave, including one female member who had worked in Botswana for three years as a Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer. We think her experience and expertise will be an asset as we plan to expand our business globally. We also allow side business. For example, one male employee works four days a week at our company, while engaging in agriculture. He utilizes cloud services for agriculture and pioneers implementation of IT across agricultural corporations.

 We have long searched for an appropriate way to evaluate our employees with such diversified work-styles. We concluded the only feasible way was to remunerate individual employee on the merits of his/her monetary value in the labor market. I just touched upon some “systems” we have developed and introduced but I must emphasize we need to renovate the “tools” and reformulate “corporate culture” to ensure work-style reform. For example, the “system” of teleworking becomes operational only when employees have access to “tools” that allow a virtual office. “Corporate culture” plays an equally important role to encourage teleworking as an effective work style to meet organizational and personal objectives. To instigate change, I tried to set a good example to my colleagues and took childcare leave for my three children. I also worked short hours and left the office by 4:00pm to pick up my two sons at the nursery school for a period of six months when my daughter was born.

 Getting involved in child-rearing made me realize how challenging yet meaningful it was. I admit I sometimes felt it was much easier to work in the office than to shoulder parental responsibilities. I also realized that our business activities become sustainable by raising children who would become future workers and consumers. The number of babies born in Japan has halved in 40 years, putting our future at stake. Husbands can become part of the solution by becoming more involved in child-rearing and housework. Survey results reveal an “inconvenient truth” that husband’s contribution to housework and child-rearing exert an influence on the probability of a second birth. Families with supportive husbands have higher chances (70%) of having more than two children, while the figure drops to less than 10% for unsupportive husbands. Engaged in discussions with business and political leaders, I realized that they need to change their mindset and become “iku-boss (derives from the Japanese phrase ikuji meaning to raise children) and commit themselves to supporting the work-life balance of employees and promoting more efficient ways of working.

 I am determined to be a vocal leader to raise awareness on the issue of work-life reform. Currently I participate in various projects implemented by different ministries and agencies, including the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications as well as the Cabinet Office. Prime Minister Abe has positioned the issue to be “the greatest challenge” and CEOs of listed companies share the sense of urgency to take more concrete actions. I feel our society has finally woken up to move forward.

 I must say the time has come to go beyond advocacy and take actions on work-style reform. The choices are quite simple. We should choose individually tailored work-style and keep away from working excessive overtime. I hope each one of you here today feel motivated to change your own work-style so that we can instigate change together for the brighter future of Japan.