A senior VP at Canon uses a 'shout-out room' to keep employees engaged and motivated — here's how it works

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A senior VP at Canon uses a 'shout-out room' to keep employees engaged and motivated — here's how it works
Isao "Sammy" Kobayashi.Courtesy of Isao Kobayashi
  • Isao "Sammy" Kobayashi is an executive at Canon leading its hybrid-workplace-solutions team.
  • He says team camaraderie is more important than ever in a hybrid work environment.
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This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Isao "Sammy" Kobayashi, an executive at Canon based in New York. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

I'm the senior vice president and general manager of the hybrid-workplace-solutions group (HSG) at Canon. HSG was born in July 2021 to accelerate the hybrid-workplace model for many companies during the pandemic. In my role, I oversee the development, marketing, and sales of our solutions, such as desktop printers and scanners that increase productivity and efficiency for small businesses and home offices, as well as the IVY instant camera and mini photo printer. We're continuing to develop and bring to market more products and services.

I joined the company in Japan in 1990. I began as a copier salesman and discovered that I really liked sales. I asked HR if I could stay in that position, but they assigned me to work in computer sales — at that time, Canon sold Canon-branded computers. I also supported the company NeXT, which was founded by Steve Jobs when he left Apple in 1985.

When I came to the US, I worked as an assistant budget manager in the inkjet-printer group, eventually becoming vice president of the imaging technologies and communications group before assuming my current role.

Canon is on a hybrid office schedule. For the most part, my team goes into the office two days per week, usually Monday and Wednesday. The sporadic face-to-face connection makes team camaraderie more important than ever.

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During the pandemic, I helped to set up a 'shout-out room'

This is an internal chat for employees to celebrate big and small wins. All of my team participates in the internal chat, as well as members of different business units and administrative departments.

The purpose was for employees to cheer each other on and recognize how every person contributes to our goals on a daily basis. Everyone's encouraged to share news, feedback, or even a simple, "Good morning."

We of course like to share big wins in terms of business, like securing new customers, sales numbers, or positive coverage of HSG products in the media, but employees also enjoy sharing personal news in the shout-out room. For example, the manager of one team member who recently had a baby shared a picture of the newborn in the chat, and an overwhelming number of HSG members responded with warm wishes and congratulations. It's important we work together to achieve our business goals, but it's also important to be there for one another on a personal level.

What's unique about the shout-out channel is it doesn't follow a hierarchy

No one's waiting for me or other senior leaders to share praise — colleagues of all levels are generously giving it themselves. It also champions loyalty rather than competition and support rather than tolerance, and above all else, it helps remind us that we're all humans thriving through challenging times.

One thing I like to remind my team is that achieving certain numbers isn't a goal — it's a result. The process of how to get to those numeric goals is more important.

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If we can't meet that numeric result, then there's something wrong with that process. I encourage my team members not to commit to the numbers, but to the process and strategy framework. If you work hard to realize the strategy framework, the result will come.

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