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Work-X—Driving a transformation of employees’ mindsets and behavior

In our Long-term Management Vision 2030 (LTMV), which outlines our vision for the future, Mitsui & Co. has announced our determination to realize our evolution from "connecting" to "creating." Through effective collaboration between individuals, we aim to generate cognitive "intellectual chemical reactions" that will make the Mitsui & Co. Group able to create unprecedented new value and new business proactively.

In May 2020, we moved into a new Head Office building. Taking this relocation as an opportunity to realize new work-style in our company, in 2018 we launched the Workplace Experience (Work-X) project to make our vision of the new workplace experience a reality throughout the company. It is a cross-organizational project within the company seeking to promote a transformation of each employee's mindset and behavior, which goes beyond the improvement of the workplace environment in the new Head Office building.

So as to continue creating new value by effectively utilizing the diverse individuals that make up Mitsui, we need to transform employees' working styles to be more flexible and more agile. Prior to the implementation of the Work-X project, we had already been implementing greater diversification in terms of working hours. Now, with Work-X, our main focus is on promoting cross-departmental communication and collaboration through the diversification of work locations. By making it possible for employees to proactively select the work location that is best suited to their current work situation and work content, we aim to realize more productive, more creative work-style.

The key aspect of Work-X is not the transformation of physical office environments, but rather the transformation of individual employees' mindsets and behavior, which in turn will enable us to realize the Medium-term Management Plan 2023—Transform and Grow. By disseminating this transformation of mindsets and behavior throughout the Mitsui global group, we will continue to challenge ourselves and realize further innovation.

Work-X has been underpinned by the proactive stance adopted by the Work-X Ambassadors

Over the past year, the Workplace Experience Dept. has been taking the LTMV as a foundation for enunciating and realizing our approach to the adoption of new work-style. Turning the content of the LTMV into concrete implementation strategies was no easy task, but the biggest challenge was to help Mitsui's approximately 6,000 employees to understand and accept the new approach, and to inspire them to take action. In promoting these changes, the single biggest role has been played by Ambassadors, who were selected from business and corporate units.

Initially, the expected role of the Ambassadors was to promote Work-X in each unit. However, once the project commenced, there were many instances where the Ambassadors provided a wide range of advice and suggestions from a frontline perspective, and actively exchanged views with others. Reflecting the Ambassadors' frontline perspectives and suggestions in promoting Work-X naturally made the project easier for the employees to take in, and this has been one of the major reasons why the dissemination of the new approach at individual workplaces has proceeded so well.

Creating new business in a new environment

Following the Work-X discussions, several new measures have been implemented at Mitsui's new Head Office to foster communication and collaboration. One of these measures is the adoption of a free address system (hot desking system within each organizational unit). This system has made it possible to implement flexible team formation in line with operational and project needs. The second measure is the establishment of Camps (dedicated communication areas). These serve as places where employees can engage in cross-departmental collaboration, in a relaxed atmosphere conducive to the free generation of ideas. The third measure is "stacking"; through a strategic placement based on Mitsui’s management strategy, departments that are likely to generate business synergy together are located on the same floor of the building, or on the floors immediately above and below one another, with the potential for changing these arrangements flexibly as needed. These three measures combine with one another to provide maximum effectiveness. When adopting the free address system, we firstly implemented a trial to verify the effectiveness and identify problems. Initially, many departments were cautious about participating, but after repeated, careful explanation of why the change was needed, and once they heard the positive comments from the departments that had taken part in the initial trial, there was a steady increase in the number of units that wanted to adopt the new system. The introduction of the free address system has also led to significant progress in paperless office implementation. With this initiative, the acceptance and active participation by our employees made it possible for significant results to be achieved.

Another major transformation realized by Work-X is the proactive utilization of digital technology. As a means of fostering real-time communication and making business processes more efficient, we have promoted a shift away from fixed-line telephony towards utilization of iPhones, and the adoption of digital technology such as Microsoft Teams and DocuSign. With the outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, all employees suddenly found themselves having to work from home, but because of the preparations that had already been made to adopt new working methods, employees were able to adapt smoothly and promptly. In this sense, the recent challenges have helped to promote further digitalization. With employees now back in the office, they have already become more accepting of new forms of communication, and this is contributing to a substantial improvement in productivity.

Realizing further evolution on a global group basis

Workplace Experience Dept. staff and Work-X Ambassadors (February 2020) Workplace Experience Dept. staff and Work-X Ambassadors (February 2020)

The mission of the Workplace Experience Dept. is not only the continuous improvement of the office environment, but also to contribute towards the enhancement of our productivity and corporate value by improving the company's internal ethos and atmosphere, promoting an even higher level of collaboration, and transforming employees' mindsets and behavior. Given the rapid pace of change in today’s world, and the ongoing trend towards diversification, a company will be unable to take full advantage of new business opportunities if it continues to rely on a conventional organizational structure. In the future, we are aiming to build synergy by developing horizontal and diagonal linkages, while maintaining and continuing the productivity of the existing vertical organization.

The next challenge is to expand the adoption of Work-X to include the entire global group. Although the catalyst for the launching of the Work-X project was the relocation of the Head Office, the fundamental goal of the project is to generate "intellectual chemical reactions" between people both within and outside the company through spontaneous collaboration, to create new business value regardless of the physical location. By adjusting the initiatives and activities best suited to the needs of each individual business location, we anticipate that this will lead to a major transformation in the overall performance of the Mitsui Group as a whole. As the physical office environment varies depending on the business location, we are hoping that original and innovative Work-X measures will be generated based on the specific characteristics of each location.

Precisely because we are living in an era of uncertainty and rapid change, in the implementation of the Work-X project we have been working to raise awareness among our employees of the need to move beyond conventional wisdom and become used to responding flexibly to changing times. It is thanks to the dissemination of such an approach that we have been able to implement a flexible response to the recent COVID-19 pandemic. The term "new normal" has started to be used with the spread of the pandemic. Having a mindset that can flexibly adjust to a new environment will contribute to invigorating our growth going forward.

Posted in August 2020