Feature Interview

August 2016

Sony Engineering's HR Strategy: Recruiting New Graduates, the Future Pillars of the Ideal Factory

Sony Group's ground-breaking products have revolutionized the world, supported by the design engineers at Sony Engineering Corporation, the core of the "monozukuri" spirit (monozukuri is a Japanese concept that involves manufacturing, craftsmanship and hand-made creations). Arc Communications helped in preparing a website and brochures dedicated to the first recruitment activities directed at new graduates in seven years.
So, for this issue we interviewed the three members at the forefront of this recruiting operation - including Sony Engineering's president, Toshinori Nakamura - about their HR strategy. Through our conversation, we tried to unveil the secrets behind how they recruit and train these highly skilled resources that are indispensable to monozukuri.

From left to right: Aoki, Sato, Ohsato, Nakamura, Ichiki, Mamiya

Toshinori Nakamura: Sony Engineering, President
Taro Ichiki: Sony Engineering, Senior Manager, Human Resources Section No. 2, Human Resources Planning Department
Mami Mamiya: Sony Engineering, Public Relations Gp, Control Dept.
Mariko Ohsato: Arc Communications, CEO & President
Yoshihiro Sato: Arc Communications, Operating Officer, Web & Cross Media Executive Manager
Takatoshi Aoki:Arc Communications, Web Director, Web & Cross Media

Design Engineers: The People Behind Sony Products' Monozukuri

Ohsato: Congratulations on Sony's 70th anniversary! First, could you tell us about Sony Engineering and its work?

Nakamura: Within the Sony group, Sony Engineering is the only company that is entirely specialized in design. We conceive various projects and participate in all the monozukuri phases, from Sony product design to its factory launch. This includes the development of such familiar devises as mobile devices and digital cameras, but also professional tools like broadcasting and medical equipment, as well as Sony brand products.

Ohsato: As one of the pillars of Sony's core electronics business, in 2016 you started recruiting new graduates for the first time in seven years. Was this a decision you made after assuming your new position as president, or had this project already been underway for some time?

Nakamura: This was my decision, and my goal was to speed up the company's metabolism. In my opinion, welcoming younger staff will bring a breath of fresh air into the company, and training them early on will also help us tackle the problem of labor shortage.

Ohsato: Considering how B2C products are an intimate part of people's lives, youngsters might indeed be the most qualified at finding ways to satisfy the younger generations' needs.

Student Targeting: A Recruitment Strategy Fueled by the Monozukuri Mindset

Nakamura: We would like to evenly recruit students from technical colleges, universities and graduate schools, but at the moment we are focusing our efforts on technical students. They have hands-on classes and are serious students.

Ohsato: Technical college students are in high demand. What is your tactic to attract them on such a competitive market?

Ichiki: Our assumption is that technical college students want to design products. So, based on that hypothesis, in our school visits we tell them that students who enter Sony Engineering will necessarily become product design engineers. Indeed, 90% of our 500 employees are engineers.
Then, we organize company tours upon teachers' requests. I hear that in other companies, this essentially consists of a presentation by an HR person in a conference room; but we try to incorporate an element of entertainment so as to make a lasting impression on these students. So our engineers present actual products they are holding in their hands, and technical college graduates also take part in the demonstrations.

Nakamura: Many students mentioned a need for accommodations, so we decided to prepare a dormitory.

Ohsato: Do you mean that you built a new dormitory? That must have really made an impression.

Ichiki: Mr. Nakamura completely endorses the dorm project. For school visits, we also assign a head of department per region: Mr. A handles visits in Hokkaido, Mr. B is in charge of Tohoku, etc. This is pressed forward as an integral part of their work. Mr. Nakamura himself frequently leads these visits. School personnel were surprised to see a president participate in visits, and this way of building relations allowed us to meet excellent students.

Nakamura: I also noticed several things by showing up on location. For example, schools receive envelopes with recruiting brochures from several hundreds of companies; and they remain in their envelopes, stacked in a box. Because standing out from others with normal envelopes is not possible, in most cases these documents don't reach the students. To counter this, we created our original envelopes: we chose a strong, cardboard box-like material to make them slightly bigger than the rest, and we designed them so that they protrude when lined up. There we added the Sony logo, and made them blue to be more noticeable. That way, chances are everybody will pick one up, don't you think?

Mamiya: This was an in-house idea. One of our departments designs product packaging, and someone from there designed it.

Sato: How interesting! I was surprised at your targeting during the recruitment process. Selecting students who match your needs, narrowing down your target to technical college students and providing them with what they aspire for--isn't that exactly what monozukuri is all about?

Website Renewal: Boosting In-house Motivation

Ohsato: Your explanations give us an image of your whole company working hand in hand on the recruiting activities. Which makes me think that, even without the recruitment website and brochures we helped to prepare, you probably wouldn't have had any difficulties whatsoever... (Laughs)

Ichiki: No, not at all! Many of our staff commented on how good the website looks!

Nakamura: Before starting the recruiting activities, I blurted out in the company that "it won't work. It looks too formal and will draw students away. We have to do something about it straightaway, even if that means renewing the new graduates recruitment page only."

Mamiya: We wanted to create a "Recruitment Information Page" from scratch. It had been seven years since we last recruited new graduates, so we didn't have any idea about the kind of sites that would resonate with students today. We are very grateful for the concept you presented us with, the design based on information regarding the trends in recruitment websites for new graduates and data on student's Web browsing habits on their smartphones.

Sato: Students don't have computers nowadays, so they won't give a website much thought unless it's smartphone-friendly. Based on this, we decided to recommend a website optimized for mobile devices, and we strived to knead a Web design that was in line with the Sony Engineering image.
The reason why we went for an upward arrow made of people gathered together for the main design's illustration is our image of Sony Engineering: a company that always puts people first. Not all of your employees are in the same place, some of your staff work on designs at Sony or in local subsidiaries overseas. It's because they have a team backing them up that they can demonstrate their strength from a remote location. So we illustrated the notion of taking on the future with a combination of individual and team strength.

Aoki: To be honest, the fact that your staff members know so much about design was quite an obstacle to overcome. But you gave us concrete indications about what you expected, and I think this helped us create something extremely good.

Nakamura: Thanks to you, we could already give early unofficial offers to more than ten applicants. Frankly, we weren't expecting such a response and were very surprised. We would have been happy to recruit even one person this year.

Ohsato: That's great news.