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Helen is South African and has been working as a project manager officer at Konica Minolta for six years. She’s been together with her wife for 20 years. Helen always wanted to find out more about international development, justice and politics to understand better disparity in the world. Therefore, she graduated in international studies. And if we ask her, how it is linked to her job at Konica Minolta, she will respond wisely that everything we do, eat, wear, say, is related to politics.
Paul works within Research & Development and has worked for Konica Minolta for seven years. He’s been together with his husband for 18 years. His first degree was in marketing sciences and he was also trained and worked as a psychotherapist. In his last company before joining Konica Minolta he was part of a little LGBTQ+ group in the UK which published his story about coming out at work to 40,000 people. At this point, he had no choice but to learn to be much more comfortable with being out at work. He was lucky to have great mentors supporting him. Paul feels fortunate to work for research and development, a diverse and rapidly evolving function building networks with others.
Konica Minolta is a company with huge potential. In response to changes in the market, the company adapted very quickly. But because we are very decentralized and Europe is highly fragmented, we still are sometimes too slow.
In the today world, we have to be able to pivot without mercy or guilt. People have to listen to the customers, be willing to challenge their own existing assumptions, taking things forward, shaping, and making changes, but always in a spirit of respect. Open-mindedness, resilience and empathy make us understand people’s life and working style for finally changing our ways of working.
Showing empathy is equally important on a corporate level. For example, when we make sure that our ethics principles are being applied at every part of our value chain or when we attract talents, as many people choose their employers with a strong ethical compass. In summary, we have to act with empathy and as responsible citizens.
The two colleagues really like working with Konica Minolta people who they describe as generous with their time. Whether it is a board member, a senior leader or an engineer who spends all his or her time out in the field, it is easy to interact with all our colleagues as if they were peers.
Konica Minolta seems to attract very individual people almost eccentric for the corporate world. We have highly individual people who are imaginative and independent thinkers. Many of us found good friends at Konica Minolta. But of course, in the time of pandemic and lockdowns, getting to know people is a bit more difficult. When all interactions are virtual, we tend in meetings to jump straight into the agenda and miss the chat about non-work things. Therefore, although collaboration and exchanges are very easy with all colleagues at Konica Minolta, it might be difficult today for new employees to build relationships. This is why our networks are very important.
There is a strong Konica Minolta Culture, but it does not take over on people's own personalities
We have a very flexible way of working. The assumption is that people are quite capable of managing their own time and trusted to deliver on their tasks. We are able to work from home and are supported in terms of the equipment we need. With systems like for example Remote Deployment Distribution we are not obliged to commute constantly and have therefore more time for our private life. Of course, in transactional jobs or project management, the environment dictates time, but if we align with the right people and communicate clearly, we can adapt our time to our needs quite easily.
It's a reciprocal relationship. Our leadership does not expect people to be in the office just to show that we are working. There is, in general, no presentism attitude. We can split our day so we can for example leave the screen to do something else. Of course, at the end, it is down to the manager to decide and it does not work always perfectly, but Konica Minolta, acknowledged that workplace life harmony matters.
Learning is a very important aspect of Konica Minolta culture. We do not concentrate only on hard skills, but also on the behavioral framework. Now that the trajectory of the business is changing, we serve different kind of customers and markets, which brings opportunities to progress, either both professionally and personally. In our journey to a system integrator and moving into the new digital services world, there is a cultural shift between looking at the long term rather than just being constantly focused on whether we've made hit target each month. And when you shift into software and services, you create dependencies and need to look at business cases from a synergistic point of view, because not all services and software products can stand on their own. Therefore, we keep learning and evolving a lot.
We also learn from each other, from our successes and mistakes. We use failure creatively as part of the evolutionary process. If the culture is right in the organization, then you do have that room to fail, learn and try again and succeed ultimately. It allows us not to reinvent the wheel twice. We encourage multilateral decision-making and involve people in a democratic decision process, so they feel invested. We succeed and fail as a team.
For Helen and Paul having a level of flexibility and space at work where you can be your authentic self is hugely important. We can be ourselves completely and trust the corporate culture to let and support us. So far, none of them has directly experienced any form of discrimination being a member of the LGBTQ+ community, but still sexist language exists. Alienating behavior, for instance by not being included or not being treated as others can be equally isolating as direct discrimination. Therefore, mindfulness and awareness are very important. Being self-confident certainly helped them in their private and working life. They also feel, if there was a situation where someone was using homophobic language or being homophobic, it wouldn't be tolerated by their colleagues, and something would be done about it. However, sometimes we observe old-fashioned comments, some women still hear in our organization, which could be offensive. This would be unacceptable within the LGBTQ+ group and we'd have the support of each other, specially thanks to our network.
There is indeed time to create networks, where we find ways to connect and grow our mindset. It seems to have been facilitated by the lockdowns, where we looked at ways of making connections and engaging with our colleagues while not necessarily being in the office. This is how our LGBTQ+ network VIBRANT started: One colleague was furloughed with two colleagues at the beginning of the pandemic. They decided to stay in touch with weekly catch-ups, where the idea came to form the LGBTQ+ network! It takes time and effort, but it has been really well supported. The pandemic has created a paradigm shift that is going to stay with us. We used that time to look at what other organizations are doing, to benchmark ourselves, but also to look after people and adapt our ways of thinking. Those networks make random connections to other people possible. It is a very practical way of breaking down silos. Talking about Vibrant, it makes also people feel that they are not alone, funny, marginalized and on their own. With the help of those networks, we did cross and span so many boundaries. However, it is not a political statement; it is a statement of empathy with our fellow players.
Because Konica Minolta is a global company located in many countries, no matter what legal or government system is in place, people will find this community in their work places, which is massively important
“Konica Minolta adapted quickly to changes in the marketplace, and that's a sign we are moving in the right direction. The fact that we actually have this conversation in the context of an LGBTQ+ network is testament to the change that can be initiated by difficult circumstances and few people’s ability to innovate.”
“On the one hand, it's like joining a small firm with an established business wanting to build a new future and welcoming new perspectives on the world ahead. On the other hand, it's a confident company growing through acquisition and investment in artificial intelligence, clinical diagnostics and advanced imaging.”