Mazda believes in learning together, which means studying and teaching each other regardless of office hierarchy. This approach is called "Tomoiku," from a Japanese word meaning "to learn together." The importance of Tomoiku can be seen from its inclusion the seven basic principles of the Mazda Way.
While all employees recognize the importance of Tomoiku, many employees have expressed the view that it is hard to find the time to apply it in practice in the course of a busy work schedule. As if to attest to such internal situations, Tomomi Wada of the Human Resources Division summarizes employees' sentiments found in results of an Employee Awareness Survey and other means this way: "An increasing number of employees have come to feel that collaboration among colleagues and mutual instruction between senior and junior staff members are falling by the wayside, given the habitual focus on individual work."
Many divisions in Mazda are addressing this predicament with their own efforts to pass skills and knowledge from the more senior employees to the younger ones. One such division is the R&D, which has long implemented a system called the "buddy coaching system." Two employees who have taught each other as a pair through this system since FY2009 are Daisuke Tabata and Shinji Watanabe. "When I joined Mazda, I had no idea how to fit into my workplace," Watanabe reflects. "Having Tabata here to advise me was a real plus. Back then, I was working on engine layouts. So many issues came up, and I got stuck. That's when Tabata said, 'Don't try to shoot for the goal all at once. Solve problems one at a time.' By changing my approach, I was able to start making progress immediately." He adds, "In the future, I'd like to put that experience to work as a coach, helping someone else to think about their work together." Speaking of his own growth through the buddy coaching system, Tabata explains, "To teach someone, I first have to study, which really improves my own depth of knowledge. Also, thanks to Watanabe, I gained a lot of new insight, so I learn as well as teach."
The spread of unique practices such as the buddy coaching system, adopted by various departments throughout Mazda, resulted in the "on-the-job-training (OJT) coach system," introduced in FY2011. All new employees in administrative and engineering positions are assigned an OJT coach, typically a more senior employee who shares a workplace with the new hire. The purposes of this system are to train new employees, foster the coach's growth, and energize the workplace.
Promoting the OJT coach system, Yoshinori Shigemura, the Human Resources Division, explains, "The OJT coach system marks the first concrete implementation of a series of human resources development measures Mazda is currently rolling out. We're using these efforts to reconstruct the human resources development platform, based on the concept of Tomoiku." Various departments' efforts in independent human resources development are integrated and expanding to a company-wide approach.