In the next interview in our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Leadership series, we spoke to Tomoko Adachi, General Manager of Global HR and HR Business Partner for the Cardiac and Vascular Company at Terumo Corporation. Tomoko shares her insights in good D, E & I practice from her recent experience in medtech and compares this with what she has seen in the tech world, drawing on her 29-year tenure with Sony before Terumo.
Coulter Partners: What does diversity & inclusion mean to you, and why in your opinion is it so critical for innovation and commercial success?
Tomoko Adachi: I’ve been in HR all my career, but I’m quite new to this industry. I’ll first speak for my current company. Terumo is a medtech company headquartered in Japan, but our business and operations are global. We are really trying to do the right thing in terms of enhancing our global HR strategy, talent management, or Associate experience in general (we call our employees Associates). Terumo’s purpose is advancing healthcare and enhancing patients’ quality of life, based on assured quality and technology cultivated with deep insights in various medical environments. There are diverse needs across the globe, even within the same industry.
For us to drive innovation that addresses the diverse healthcare needs of our global society, we need a diverse team. They should feel respected and valued for bringing their different perspectives, and able to bring their authentic selves to work. It sounds like something from a textbook, but I genuinely believe it is the case. We have to have a real purpose and mission. Looking at the society that we serve, it’s obviously very diverse, so to really live our purpose, we have to believe that we have good value to contribute. I think that’s very important for the success of Terumo.
CP: What are your personal observations of good D, E & I practice and how does it impact organizational thinking and performance? What has worked well?
Tomoko: I have had the pleasure of working in a very global context. My experience is of working with teams of various backgrounds, from a geographical, cultural, or experience point of view, and I have really enjoyed the creativity that is generated in such an environment. If you show an interest and curiosity in other perspectives, it’s the easiest path to success, because combining different ideas can generate creative new solutions with new values.
When I work with an international team of people, it’s very enriching because it gives me the opportunity to contribute to a new value, which doesn’t always happen when working only with people with similar thoughts and backgrounds. It’s a very different experience and very enjoyable indeed. It has led to multiple successes in my career. Regardless of industry or culture, as long as there’s a willingness to listen and be open, it really can bring a lot of value.
CP: Do you have any examples from working on a particular project or in a particular region where you’ve seen that translate?
Tomoko: Trying to create a global leadership development program for our associates from Asia, the US, and Europe, there are certain expectations from the team of varying cultures. If we do something in a Japanese way, then it doesn´t always translate for the rest of the world. It´s the same story if we take the US or European approach. However, if we combine these different perspectives, then no one feels like they have to fit to one standard style. Rather, we’re putting lots of different ideas together and trying to create something new. Diverse audiences are then able to relate, and they also become more interested because it is something that is new to them. The thing that participants appreciate the most is learning from the differences across our Terumo group companies; not just knowing about those differences but applying what they learn from other cultures to their own practices.
CP: With operations in 160+ countries and regions, how is Terumo cultivating best practice and the right culture globally?
Tomoko: Four out of our eight business units are headquartered outside of Japan and approximately half of our associates outside of Japan joined Terumo through M&A, so we have lots of people coming from different backgrounds and organizational cultures. Terumo believes in keeping and cherishing that kind of diversity, rather than painting everyone the same color. There are of course things that tie us together. We’re privileged because we have a solid mission of “Contributing to Society through Healthcare”. In a company like Terumo, or any company in a healthcare setting, that kind of mission or purpose really resonates with people. Our purpose ties us together.
We also have what we call the five Core Values, which is part of our Group Identity. These are: Respect, Integrity, Care, Quality, and Creativity. We can still be a very diverse organization as long as we all have these things in common.
CP: Terumo’s recently announced ‘D, E & I Philosophy’ sounds compelling. Could you kindly elaborate on some of the components of the initiative and how you envisage its success over the next few years.
Tomoko: We felt that because we’re such a diverse organization, we needed to have a common idea of D, E & I, just like our Group Mission and Core Values. Therefore, we gathered 12 of our associates from different geographies, professional backgrounds, cultures, and generations to form a global D, E & I Council. With their different perspectives, but their common purpose, they had extensive discussions and proposed a global Philosophy and Guiding Principle, which our board strongly supported. This is now one of our management policies. It’s at the same level as our Group Mission and our Core Values. That was a good process that we went through. We actually started with it being called the D & I Council, but the associates who came together told us that without equity, we won’t have much success with inclusion. That really helped our management team to see that actually, it’s D, E & I. So, it wasn’t HR, or somebody at the top, but a representation of our associates that triggered a good conversation. Of course, creating the Philosophy and Guiding Principles wasn’t the end. We are united with the same idea on diversity, but the majority of specific initiatives are driven at the local level in each entity. That can be quite varied because of distinct cultures and societal needs.
Very recently, we had a Terumo D, E & I Week where we encouraged all our entities to conduct relevant events for our associates. We wanted to foster interest in specific learnings within the organization.
So, that’s where we are today and this D, E & I Council will continue to meet regularly so that they can share best practices. We expect them to come up with proposals for top management to enhance D, E & I in the Terumo Group on top of initiatives in each of their organizations.
CP: You can measure diversity by having diverse teams and seeing the numbers change, but what other outcomes are you hoping for by having D, E & I embedded in the business?
Tomoko: We’re serving society better through our business and that’s definitely the outcome we’re looking for. From a process point of view, we hope that more of our Associates feel they have a better experience within our organization. If we know that they have a better Associate experience, then we truly do have a strong D, E & I culture in our organization. We know that we are not perfect, there’s lots of things that we probably should be doing better. One is investing in more inclusive leadership. Supporting our leaders so that they know how they can better foster this kind of environment, and have more skills, confidence and knowledge to be able to do that.
Another thing is growth mindset. We recently launched a new 5-Year Growth Strategy, called the “GS26”. We know that there are lots of challenges in growing the business, and bringing new solutions, innovative ideas, and technologies to serve patients’ needs better. Everyone needs to be willing to try new things and learn from those experiences. We believe that growth mindset will be very helpful to us. I think we can set the right focus by saying that our leaders have to be fostering inclusive leadership and growth mindset and that will help us achieve our GS26 plan. Therefore, we’re trying to make sure that we accelerate this and embed it in the organization.
CP: Much has been documented around the gaps in female senior leadership specifically within medtech. What is your experience of this?
Tomoko: Because Terumo is a company with its roots in Japan, I think we have double the challenge. The first is being in medtech as an industry, but the second is that Japan, as the statistics very sadly show, comes in at the very bottom of the list when it comes to gender diversity. I’m quite new to this industry but have worked in the technology area for a long time. People often talk about the scarcity of women leaders, and it has always been a challenge. I don’t think we can change the situation overnight, but I believe that we are going in the right direction. Today there may be more men than women in medtech, but businesses and business leaders are feeling the need for change because the whole landscape is changing. With digitalization, we need more innovation. Our vision for GS26 is “From Devices to Solutions”. We are very proud of the good quality and technology of our products, but we are now also starting to talk about how to provide better solutions for healthcare providers and patients. We know that we need to be better to perform well in a changing environment. We need to be very much in tune with the diverse healthcare needs of our global society.
CP: What differences have you noticed between the technology and medtech worlds in terms of the attitudes towards and challenges of D, E & I?
Tomoko: For me, the difference in working for a company like Sony versus a company like Terumo is that in the healthcare industry, I feel that people are more attuned to the needs of others. Sony brings great entertainment and excitement to the world, but it’s different from trying to serve patients and be in tune with people who need support to have a better quality of life. I see many of our leaders and Associates very much attuned to people’s needs and wanting to contribute, help and support. D, E & I is a challenge for both companies, but I think in the end, what really drives it is respecting others, and taking into account the needs of different people. We have a good chance in this industry to drive this further, if we put it in the right context.
Prior to joining Terumo, Tomoko built a long career of a total of 25 years with Sony Corporation, most recently responsible for transformation management during corporate turnaround. She also established and headed a global HR platform and was active in diversity and employee engagement. She brings further experience as an Independent HR consultant, having worked in Sweden supporting multi-national companies in Europe and Japan, with a particular focus on talent development, global mobility, and employer branding.
Tomoko holds a Bachelor’s degree in Social Psychology from the University of Tokyo and a Master’s degree in Organizational Consultancy from Middlesex University. She contributed a chapter titled “Inside the minority experiences of multicultural teams” for “Organisational Consulting @ the Edges of Possibility” (Libri Publishing, 2010).
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