Muto: Sony Kibou/Hikari currently employs both people with disabilities and their allies. Sony's founder, Masaru Ibuka, once said that he would like to see workplaces where employees with disabilities are not afforded special privileges, yet can thrive and make products that exceed those made by able-bodied individuals. We have inherited this philosophy and go about our daily work with the aim of delivering professional results. When the company was established in 2003, it started off undertaking cleaning operations at our Head Office, which was located in Gotenyama at the time. In subsequent years, the company expanded its operations and work locations to include the collection and delivery of in-house mail as well as cleaning operations at the Atsugi and Osaki sites. After the Head Office moved to Shinagawa Konan in 2014, Sony Kibou/Hikari Corporation diversified still further to cover a range of other work, including the production of name cards, bookbinding of texts, clerical support for digitizing documentation, and communication services at operational counters.
Naturally, we have to use our ingenuity as we expand our operations. We cannot expect some employees to deliver 100% efficiency right from the start because of the nature of their disabilities. This means it is necessary to adapt work and procedures and restructure them so that these employees can carry them out from beginning to end. They begin by learning 70% of the job, then go on to 80% or 90%, eventually reaching the stage where they can work independently. It is vital to identify the qualities of each individual employee. Some of them are good at remembering things from images, others from what they hear, and still others from what is written down. Using the teaching method that suits each individual best helps them grow little by little. Today, basically each employee is working independently and raising his or her productivity. I believe that just because this is a company where the disabled work does not mean that they can only do certain fixed tasks or things that they are able to handle. From a company perspective, it is only natural to want employees to accomplish their work in a professional manner, and widen their range of expertise. More than anything, I want to see the employees who work here expand the work they do, grow as individuals, and take up the challenges posed by new work.
Muto: In my view, the fact that we have managed to expand our operations so much is because our employees have lived up to the expectations we place on them when we entrust them with work. However, I also think that Sony's free and open corporate culture has been a major advantage. The ability to discuss work requests within the Sony Group so easily also makes it more likely that new work opportunities will open up. Moreover, delivering good results on a work request from one department allows us to expand our operations to other group companies because word gets around and often leads to similar requests from other departments. Sony Kibou/Hikari Corporation also shares these fine qualities of Sony's corporate culture. Creating relationships that encourage supporters and disabled employees to discuss matters frankly is part and parcel of everyday work life. My own approach is to make judgments based not on who said something, but on the content of what they actually say. We set a high value on a company atmosphere that encourages everyone to listen and respond positively to worthwhile opinions.
Komura: I usually provide support for employees in charge of cleaning, and we have reached the stage in the workplace where employees tell us if they feel they can do something in a better way. The other day, one of our employees announced the results for creating and putting into use a measuring device for lining up the chairs neatly in the meeting room in the executives' area. At that time, Hatori-san, who works here, said, "I have a question! How much time have you saved as a result?" This unexpectedly brought my attention to something I had not noticed before.
The ability to exchange views like this is also the result of gaining confidence in one's work. When our workplace moved to Konan, there were initially quite a few occasions when everyone was so nervous that they could not move. After repeated training sessions, however, everyone now goes about their work without hesitation. Since our operations evolve from day to day, we are constantly working together to think up solutions to new challenges. I am determined to support our employees as they advance one step at a time in such an environment, gradually growing in confidence, gaining more awareness of the situation themselves, and eventually becoming more independent.
Muto: The key thing about going to the company to work is that we are not alone. What is important is that we have colleagues, we work as part of a team, and we can consult and cooperate with our fellow workers on a mutual basis. Empathizing with each other is also important. We prepare an environment in which it is easy to work, so we want everyone to do their best at tasks that are rewarding. We expect everyone to complete their assigned duties properly and responsibly. Ideally, an environment where disabled people work should be one where those around them accept them naturally, and consider working with them a routine matter. From this perspective, as we go about our work we move freely around the Head Office building, which houses many group companies. We are thus well aware that the employees of other group companies are colleagues who work in the same building, and are therefore members of the same team. This is the same whether we are in Atsugi or Osaki. There is nothing in the least strange about this, and I believe the fact that it has materialized without anyone raising their voice is one of the great things about diversity at Sony, and the reason why it has evolved into an inclusive environment.