Interview with Members of Society ~富田博氏(伊藤忠商事株式会社元執行役員・人事部長)~


   Mr. Hiroshi Tomita, a former corporate executive officer and chief of the Personnel Administration Department of Itochu Corporation.


 Itochu Corporation, founded in 1858, is one of Japan's leading sogo shosha (trading houses) that deals in textiles, machinery, metals, energy, chemicals, foodstuffs, etc. It has 70,000 employees who work at 130 locations in 66 countries across the world. The company reported approximately 12 trillion yen in consolidated sales in fiscal 2012.


 Hakumon Herald chose Mr. Tomita for its first in a series of interviews with members of society which it planned to mark its resurrection in 2012 after 15 years of suspension in hopes of enlightening our student readers. Mr.Tomita retired in 2012 after working for Itochu and its subsidiary companies.





What do you think the charm of Itochu is?




Mr. Tomita: I think one of Itochu's charms is its free and unfettered corporate style. As compared with other trading companies Itochu assigns more important works to its young employees which help them have a lot of experience. That is also Itochu’s charm.




What does the Personnel Administration Department do?




Tomita: Its primary task is recruitment. We make a pitch and arrange an exam in order to get excellent guraduates. Another important job we do is to train and nurture them. Students have few chances to develop their work skills in school days. So after they joined us, we encourage them to build up their experiences and learn their trade. We give them a lot of training and help them grow up as business persons. One of things we also do at the Personnel Administration Department is to build a system to develop human resources. For example, at Itochu, we make it a rule to change our people's work assignments once every five years. We want them to experience different environments, learn various values and grow bigger in capacity. Another role we play is to promote the corporate metabolism by making the flow of personnel more fluid.



When you hire new graduates, what particular do you see in them?




Tomita: First of all, we see if they are serious and earnest. It is very important to know whether they can make serious efforts. We also see if they have devised ways to achieve a result after making necessary efforts. Next, we check their aggressiveness. After joining a trading company, they sometimes may have to work in tough conditions. It is quite important for them to be positive and cheerful and do things proactively. It's also important for them to be independent rather than simply following others.




Has the number of female employees increased?




Tomita: Since the enforcement of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law in 1986,the ratio of female employees has risen to 25-30% from a low 2-3%. But while many competent women come to work with us, we have some difficult problems. One of them is that some of them discontinue their career along the way for reasons of marriage or child rearing.




We hear you worked for long in New York. Has that experience changed you?




Tomita: When I got my assignment in New York, it was not a common practice yet for Japanese business people to work abroad. I had a lot of culture shocks, such as the difference of languages and cultures. I think my experiences in New York have helped me acquire an ability to adapt myself to different cultures and communicate with people having different language and cultural backgrounds.



What do you think has made Japan a leading economic power after World War II?




Tomita: I think one of the factors is the Japanese people's character that prompted them to work hard to catch up with other countries. Another factor was that Japan had an abundant work force, that is, the baby-boomer generation. And I think the good teamwork between labor unions and the management was also greatly helpful.




What message do you have for the new students who are joining their university in April?




Tomita: I advise them to work on something in real earnest during their limited four years. That can be study, club activity or something else. I think they should consider what they really want to do and just do it with a clear-cut sense of purpose.




Could you express yourself with a single kanji character?




Tomita: That kanji will be "makoto (sincerity)." I think sincerity and seriousness are all important. That will make people trust you and that will help your business and organization go well.




Thank you very much.





Interviewed by: Kento Isogai & Sakurako Ogami