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Perspectives 01-07-2020

12 min read

Fresh Perspective: Q&A – Engaging the pioneers of the future

The Heads of HR for Hitachi and Hitachi ABB Power Grids respond to questions from our Youth Panel – an enthusiastic and engaged group of talented Generation Z employees from across the world who came together to decide what they want to know about the future of their business, its culture and opportunities.

As Hitachi ABB Power Grids Ltd. embarks on its first chapter in these extraordinary and dynamic times, it aspires to nurture a forward-looking, diverse and inclusive culture. Fuelled by a compelling Purpose relating to ‘Powering good for sustainable energy’, the company aims to empower and energize its 36,000 experts across 90+ countries to give their best – and attract new talents to join in its mission.

With a long and rich engineering heritage (almost 2.5 centuries combined), the business, which has its roots in two iconic companies, Hitachi and ABB, is proud of its track record of pioneering new technologies. Going forward, it recognizes that to compete successfully, its Technology Mission of anticipating the future and a culture of continuous innovation, must also come with an open mindset: that the best ideas can come from anyone, anywhere and are even better when co-created together.

Now more than ever – as the new company seeks to leverage the power of digital and energy – it is driving hard to engage young talents. Born between the mid 1990s – early 2010s, Generation Z, who have grown up with climate activism in the headlines and who are instinctive digital natives, will play a greater role in pushing us forward into a sustainable future.

The Challenge: How can a company such as Hitachi ABB Power Grids Ltd. engage and attract ‘Generation Z’s’ to join in its cause and harness their fresh ideas needed to bring sustainable energy to the world?

Committed to the shared goal of engaging the future workforce, Mr. Hidenobu Nakahata (Senior Vice President and Executive Officer, Chief Human Resource Officer, Hitachi Ltd.) and Mr. Achim Braun (Head of HR, Hitachi ABB Power Grids Ltd.) invited a group of young, aspiring talents from across the new company (India, China, Columbia, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland) to pose their questions as part of an online interactive session.

Enthusiastic, erudite and full of curiosity, the young talents showed excitement for the future of the new joint venture and the opportunities that it represents. You can read their questions and the answers given by both HR leaders below, which shine a light on the company’s approach.

Questions and Answers

Q. Our generation (Generation Z) is described as both multicultural and individual. How do you see these aspects in the culture of Hitachi ABB Power Grids Ltd.? (Anna, Germany)

A. Hidenobu Nakahata, Hitachi Ltd. I believe in the power of effective communication. Each person, group and generation will tend to have its own culture, own way of seeing and doing things. This is just the way things are, it is a natural part of life, and we can either focus on the differences or find strength in them by understanding each other. There are ways that these differences can complement each other – as long as everyone is willing to understand and learn from each other.

This year, Hitachi has launched a new set of competencies, which will guide our employees’ behavior. One of the competencies I particularly like is ‘Contribution’, which is defined as “speak up and listen respectfully to others.” I believe that as long as we are willing to share our thoughts openly and listen to others, we can understand and work well together. So, let us leverage our differences and find new value by collaborating with each other.

Q. Today, we have a strong brand and heritage (originating from ABB Power Grids and Hitachi). How will we stay visibly present, using the right channels (e.g. social media), to attract new talent? (Daniel, Columbia)

A. Achim Braun, Hitachi ABB Power Grids Ltd. Yes, both Hitachi and ABB Power Grids have strong brands with a lot of integrity and a long history as technology and innovation leaders. We will carry this forward into our new company.

Whilst we have always attracted talent with a strong technical background, today’s Generation Z’s, who are starting out in their careers, do not want just a job working for a technology leader, they want a company with a strong purpose to do good in the world. This is a top priority for them and for us.

So to appeal to young talents (who may also be considering careers with dynamic tech. start-ups), requires us to adapt and focus our message far more on ‘impact’. It’s essential that we can clearly articulate our sustainability values, which we hope will have a greater appeal. In addition, to increase visibility, we are exploring new ways to leverage social media channels (e.g. Instagram) to connect with talent. Our goal is to create a meaningful, personal and informal dialogue, using engagement techniques such as gamification to excite and inspire. We know that many young people are also interested to talk to colleagues already doing the job and we hope to increase such opportunities.

By communicating more about our Purpose and through techniques such as storytelling (e.g. ‘My Power Grids Stories’), we can spotlight how our people get to make a real contribution. Together, with a more social approach we aim to attract a continued high level of talent from across the globe.

Q. How will we encourage even more creativity in the workplace? (Anton, Sweden)

A. Hidenobu Nakahata. Having creativity and a strong innovation mindset, which emphasizes the “I will” spirit is one of the aims of the company. We realize this kind of initiative from employees should be encouraged and nurtured. To support innovation, in 2015, we launched our annual ‘Make a Difference’ project, a global ideas contest where anyone can submit their ideas freely, and all ideas are screened and judged equally. Winning ideas are then developed and supported for the possibility of commercialization.

Since Make a Difference started, we have received more than 3,800 ideas and have discussed a lot of possibilities with employees of diverse backgrounds, ages, and ethnicities. The most recent event was the “Challenge to COVID-19,” where we collected ideas focused on initiatives to overcome the global crisis. We collected around 1,400 ideas in just a few weeks, and we are currently considering the implementation of several.

Also, we are working with four teams in realizing and commercializing the ideas that were selected last year in the Make a Difference contest. Among those four teams, two consist of members from Generation Z that had just joined Hitachi. Our executives were very impressed by their passion and contributions. I believe that this initiative can and will be an important path to welcome and nurture creativity from all our employees.

Q. What changes can we expect to see in our everyday working style and in our culture? (Anushka, India)

A. Achim Braun. Great question. Both ABB Power Grids and Hitachi have strong cultures and there will be considerable influences from both. In our new company, we are set on building a mdoern culture where individual differences are embraced and imperative to shape the future of sustainable energy.

What will endure will be our passion for technology and innovation, and our focus on people and our collaborative environment. We are putting a great emphasis on Diversity, which is at the heart of our new company. To drive this forward, we have kicked off our ‘Diversity 360’ intiative. This is all about championing an inclusive culture built on the commitment of equality for all – regardless of age, education, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity or background. Our leadership team is firmly committed to ‘Diversity + Collaboration = Innovation’, which will create an environment that drives sustainable business success.

We are building Diversity 360 into everything we do to create a brilliant employee experience and we are focusing on four key areas:-

Firstly, we are co-creating a new leadership model, which involves embedding our diversity and inclusion strategy into our leadership behaviours and decision making. This covers important topics such as interrupting unconscious bias.

We are also advancing our Female Acceleration Program to deliver clear targets defined at several levels, including key topics such as equal pay and how to increase gender diversity from 18% to 25% by 2025. Whilst this is not our final destination, it is a first conscious and humble step in building momentum for change.

Another key deliverable is our Hitachi/ABB Power Grids Talent Acceleration Program, which creates opportunities to progress extraordinary talents across the organization. And finally, our Attracting & Retaining Talent area includes our graduate talent programs.

By connecting these areas with our refreshed employee value proposition, which aligns everything with our Purpose and values, will help us to engage top talents across the world who want to contribute to Social Innovation.

Q. How can we prompt more chances for young talents to learn, experience and make connections globally? (JiangKe, China)

A. Achim Braun. I’m glad this came up, as we are committed to providing growth opportunities for innovative young talent and open up even more doors for career development across divisions and regions. One key action we have initiated is our Hitachi/ABB-Power Grids Talent Exchange. These events involve employees from Hitachi and Hitachi ABB Power Grids Ltd. meeting up (both virtually and physically – when able) for cross-cultural and cross-teams networking and idea-sharing sessions. The goal is to establish an interactive exchange that will boost and enrich our internal talent networks and collaborations as well as our external partnerships. This covers important topics such as interrupting unconscious bias. 

Q. What opportunities will be available for employees to develop their careers across Hitachi and Hitachi ABB Power Grids Ltd.? (Vanessa, Switzerland)

A. Achim Braun. I really see this new company as a rare and unique opportunity for young talents to grow and thrive. Joining a dynamic global organization that is involved in some of the most innovative projects in the world can give them a wide perspective on the business from many angles. We will actively promote career development, enabling talents to leverage all of the opportunities that will be available across teams and regions.

What is important for young people to know is that we are focused on recruiting those who are not only talented – but also driven. We have found that motivated people are more likely to tackle big problems and find holistic solutions – and they tend to create their own opportunities. To further develop talent, there will be an openness to seeing how our teams can benefit each other and how we can collaborate to enable sustainable energy and make the world better.

Q. How will Hitachi and ABB collaborate in the future? How do we plan to engage in one another’s work (across the whole portfolio and scope) and create global opportunities for employees? (Anton, Sweden)

A. Hidenobu Nakahata. In November, 2019, the first Hitachi/ABB-Power Grids Talent Exchange discussion session was held between emerging talents from our two companies. It was a great opportunity for these high-potential talents to get to know each other and exchange their experiences and viewpoints on leadership. It was also a good way for them to get to know each company’s history and values.

On June 4th, a follow up session was held, this time virtually. Living in the “new normal,” we can adapt new practices to get to know each other and explore new methods of collaborating. Going forward, based on this model we have used so far, we can consider how to expand it further and maximize its output.

Q. For the development of emerging technologies, a fresh approach could be regarded as being as valuable as experience. How can different skills or generations benefit from each other? (Anna, Germany)

A. Hidenobu Nakahata. Hearing diverse ideas is key to developing new value. It is also important for us to know our employees, their skills, experiences, and aspirations, and so Hitachi has launched ‘HiNext’, a human resource information system powered by Workday. There are now more than 130,000 employees who are using HiNext. By the end of FY 2020, we are projecting over 180,000 users.

To take full advantage of the diversity and individuality of each employee, this is a common HR platform which enables all employees to show their talent information, such as career history, expertise and aspirations. This will allow stakeholders to find suitable in-house talent for new roles. Aside from having a database of employees’ information, HiNext also houses Hitachi’s talent management system including performance management, talent reviews and succession planning. In this regard, HiNext is an enabler for talent visualization, and allows employees to showcase their skills and goals. Having this information is a powerful way to explore possibilities from a business and career point of view.

There are two more things that are important to emphasize. The mindset to understand and collaborate with each other is key for us to move forward. And also, equally important is having the infrastructure to know and understand our ideas, thoughts, skills and aspirations.

In closing, I would like to thank everyone in the Youth Panel forum who has shared their thoughts, insights and questions. I think this is the beginning of a good and open way of understanding each other. Let us all work together and look forward to a bright future.     

With thanks to Hitachi ABB Power Grids Ltd.’ Youth Panel – Generation Z Talents:

Anna Vollweiter

Student working in the Market Innovation Team

Anton Ter Vehn

R&D HW Project Manager for Bay Level Products, Grid Automation Business Unit (based in Sweden).

Anushka H

Marketing Engineer, High Voltage Products Business Unit (based in India).

Daniel Cardona

Material Planner, Transformers Business Unit (based in Columbia).

Jiangke Huang

Associate Project Manager, Transformers Business Unit (based in China).

Vanessa Schröder

Project Manager, Substation Automation Systems, Grid Automation Business Unit (based in Switzerland).