In conversation with People Matters, Takahiro Hemmi, Executive Vice President- Human Resource, Yamaha Motor India talks about the steps needed to tackle diversity and inclusion deficit in the manufacturing sector.
Takahiro Hemmi joined Yamaha Motor India in January 2017 and is responsible for the development and implementation of all human resources strategies for company. He joined Yamaha Motor Company, Japan in 1988 and has studied law at National CHIBA University in Japan.
The manufacturing sector has a skewed gender ratio. What are the key challenges that women in manufacturing face? And what is Yamaha doing to address issues?
The overall perception related to the women workforce in the manufacturing sector has changed now if you compare with the previous years. The sector is more positive about the women workforce and their contribution. Issues like gender discrimination, low pay scale, lack of technical skills, physical work, night shifts which ruled for years has been suitably addressed and the situation is quite different now.
In order to further change the perception and encourage women workforce, Yamaha started a unique initiative in 2012 called the ‘Pink Assembly Line’ in collaboration with the state Government of Uttar Pradesh. Under this program 200 women workers were hired to run an assembly line for scooters managed entirely by the women workers. The program empowered women from weaker sections of society to stand on their own feet and help them make an even larger contribution to their families and to their communities.
Women empowerment programs are the stepping-stones. But it should also have the vision to create leaders and not just workers. It is a major strategic challenge. Women from various backgrounds should be encouraged and given support to learn and deliver in cross-functional jobs so that their natural skills of leaderships are explored by the organizations. Such diverse skills should be nurtured properly and productively utilized in the industry.
At Yamaha, we have taken several measures in this direction to support our women employees by providing them the right opportunities to enhance their skills through training & development programs facilitated by our headquarters in Japan.
What kind of workplace opportunities does have a multi-generation workforce enable? How do you address differences, if any, while working with a multi-generational workforce?
A multi-generation workforce promotes the sharing of best practices and different perspectives. There is a huge opportunity in terms of understanding and learning from each other’s insights, perspectives and ideas. On one hand where the experienced professionals bring in tremendous wealth of knowledge and skills which plays an instrumental role in the career development of younger employees, younger employees bring in more creativity, innovative ideas and fresh perspectives on a subject on the other hand.
Over the years, we have built a culture where people respect each other’s views and the opinions are taken positively. We have managed to create an atmosphere of collaboration where people sit together, discuss/debate with facts and arrive at a solution together. We believe that difference in opinion can actually help you build a stronger team as brings better perspective on the situation.
What are the needs of the older generation at the workplace? How are they being addressed in the manufacturing sector?
There are 3 basic needs we have identified so far:
- Setting collective objective or common goals by engaging new managers in equal participation
- Designing an effective “On the job training and micro skill building” program for the new managers or team subordinates
- Upgrading self with new technologies of communication, interpersonal efficiency etc.
In manufacturing sector, functions are laid as per a concise planning that involves supply to production, logistics and sales. There are specific specialized parameters of skill or efficiency based on which recruitments are opened. Manufacturing sectors are led by rigorous operations which are step-by-step procedures and thus, get less influenced by personal objectives or needs of the employees.
How can HR leaders work towards gaining leadership buy-in and ownership towards driving diversity and inclusion initiatives?
Right from recruitment processes to training programs, skill development programs and rolling out/policies which promotes diversity within the organisation, HR leaders have to play a very important role in ensuring that the overall objective of creating an inclusive organizational culture is achieved. They are required to be involved at each and every step taken in this direction.
The HR leaders/Department Heads must reiterate the importance of an inclusive workforce and how it can benefit in the growth of the company. Another step would be to conduct employee engagement surveys to understand from the employees about their experience at the workplace, their roles & responsibilities and also about the company policies. An important aspect in order to create opportunities for women is to realize a woman’s comfort and challenges by addressing it through developmental policies. Like at Yamaha, special care is taken by the division heads after the women employees join after the maternity leave in order to ensure her health and concerns of childcare remains a top priority. A healthy mother and child can win the future for us.
What are the key cultural pillars that fosters inclusivity?
In order to let women workforce to grow in strength, we should support in two key steps – first, to create an opportunity and second, allow them to team up with present employees in order to raise standards of team efforts.
What are your top priorities for D&I in 2020? And could you talk about why you’d chose the priorities?
At Yamaha, we encourage new talent within our organisation from diverse backgrounds which has helped us build a strong culture – a place where people can work together and grow together. Our priority has always been to strengthen Inclusivity, create Equal opportunity for all and improve Work-Life Balance.
1. Inclusivity increases creativity and innovation and helps in building a skilled and trained workforce. It motivates employees and makes them feel valued and respected which contributes in achieving the common goals of an organisation in a bigger way.
2. Equal Opportunity on the other way promotes a transparent and fair culture right from the recruitment to selection, appraisals to promotions, training & development to performance evaluation. The company feels extreme responsibility towards individual successes or failures of employees which is very much critical in the overall growth of an employee as well as the company.
3. Work Life Balance creates a steady balance of work. The company policy is laid down to accommodate remarkable maintenance of mental and physical strength by reducing excessive work hours with the aim of reducing work time. Several leave policies and work hour related policies have been implemented in order to strike a distinguished balance between work - loads and the recreational aspects of life.
To promote active participation by women, Yamaha have globally set and are pursuing targets of doubling the number of women hired for managerial positions in 2014 by 2020, and to hire three times the 2014 number by 2025. Yamaha believes that it is important for workforce to incorporate diverse viewpoints and values in order to maintain continuous growth.