Q&A with Stephen Pierce, Chief Human Resources Officer, Hitachi Europe

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QWith a global staff base of 320000; what are the challenges in achieving a homogenous company culture in Hitachi?

That’s a great question! Hitachi is a complex organisation with 900 companies globally. In Europe we have around 12,000 staff across 100 companies in sectors as varied as trains to nuclear power; data systems to construction machinery; financial services to consulting. With such diversity it is challenging to create a homogenous culture and the question we have to ask ourselves in HR is what needs to be consistent and what can be different across the company depending on sector, market etc? We are fortunate that Hitachi is a globally recognised brand and has strong Values which stretch back over 100 years to the founding of the company. These values help define who we are today; the English translation of the three Hitachi Values is Harmony (teamworking, respect), Sincerity (integrity) and Pioneering Spirit (innovation). In addition to this, our people processes and HR best practices should be consistent and part of the corporate ‘glue’ which links our companies and creates a homogenous culture. Implementing these HR best practices is the journey we are now on – we are making good progress but still have a long way to go.

QStephen, after more than 25 years in the HR business what in your view is the single biggest challenge HR faces?


I think our biggest challenge is to create change in our organisations. This means that we all need to look outside our organisations to understand current and future issues and to influence our colleagues to do things differently. For example, we all talk about ‘Gen Y’ but how many organisations have really changed and adapted to how that generation see the world even though they will account for 75% of the global workforce by 2025? Part of the challenge is that many (most?) organisations are entirely led by a completely different generation who may have succeeded in their careers based on different values and priorities from the Millennials. So in my view we need to be catalysts for change which is challenging but, if we do it well, it can help ensure we have an effective voice at the most senior level and are seen as strategic contributors who are shaping the future of our organisations.

QYour keynote at HR Vision is one of the most anticipated talks at the event. What can our audience expect from your deep dive session on the phenomenal growth of Hitachi’s rail business in 15 years?

Hitachi’s rail business is a great success story. In around 10 years it grew from 3 staff and no revenues to delivering the ‘Javelin’ trains running from St Pancras to the south coast (which also took 2.5 million people to the Olympic Park in 2012) and a £4 billion order for new high speed trains. These will be manufactured at our new factory in County Durham, opened by the Prime Minister a couple of weeks ago. HR has been an integral part of creating that new business and at HR Vision I will look at the importance of culture, what we in HR can do to shape it, and I will share our experience of developing a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship and some of the lessons we have learned along the way. HR in all sectors faces many of the same challenges and I hope that our experience may provide helpful insights as we all look at what we can do to help shape our organisations for success!

HR Vision is the elite, boutique style event, where HR leaders gather to discuss core business strategy. Learn more and download the brochure here.

HR Vision London, 18-19 November 2015

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