Toyota built the first mass-produced hybrid car, but two years into the pandemic, the term “hybrid” has taken on a whole new meaning at its financial services subsidiary.
Unlike some companies calling back employees on corporate's terms, or those who say hybrid and remote work won’t last, Toyota Financial Services has adopted a hybrid work model that’s here to stay, said Chief Information and Digital Officer Vipin Gupta.
“We have a manufacturing side of the business, we’ve got R&D, we’ve got sales and service functions, we’ve got financial services, corporate functions,” said Gupta during a fireside chat at the 2022 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium. “What we realized was that there's no one solution that's going to fit all of it. Everyone has a slightly different need and slightly different approach. Our keyword became ‘flexibility,’ so we called it a flex working model.”
Here are a few takeaways from TFS’s adoption of this new model.
Employee engagement and friction prevention
As Toyota Financial Services was designing its flexible work model, it created a “listening network” to engage employees in conversation and help shape how the model would look, Gupta said. Employees shared concerns about what flexibility would bring in terms of new responsibilities and anxieties about how the hybrid system would impact their performance and growth.
“We invested a lot around training and awareness, and we have what we call the TFS [Digital] Academy,” Gupta said. “That became a central point of how do we help everyone navigate through this new flex model, to help understand what will drive productivity for them, and more importantly, how can they maintain this growth in their personal development along the way.”
The flex work model ultimately empowers managers and teams to make their own decisions on whether they work at home or at the office on a particular day.
“If you go back to pre-COVID days, we had only one way to operate: It was to go to the office every day,” Gupta said. “Now, each one of us has a choice, and we are empowered to make that choice. ... It’s a ‘me time’ if you can be at home. If it’s a ‘we time,’ you go to the office.”
TFS also considered how it could make its flexible work model as seamless as possible and avoid the transition between home and office becoming a “friction point,” Gupta said. One way the company is doing this is by introducing digital care centers for employees who need help with their technology devices. Similar to Apple’s Genius Bars, these digital care centers will be located in TFS offices to help workers with their gadgets and tech.
Taking advantage of digital transformation and data
Embracing digital transformation amid its new work model has also helped Toyota Financial Services reimagine routines and relationships. For example, rather than using a daily scrum only to manage work on product-oriented teams, that scrum “becomes a way to connect with people,” Gupta said. “That daily scrum evolved into driving more and more interpersonal conversations.”
TFS is also analyzing previously untapped data on its workforce in a similar way to how it regularly studies its customers to gain insights, especially if there is any pushback or challenges to the new work model. Aside from the hybrid work model, the company has already studied the intensity of email traffic, using that data to determine whether there is stress or wellness issues among its teams, Gupta said.
With TFS directing some of its customer attention inward, Gupta said the company has “to leverage this data that we have about our employees and their behaviors hidden in [the volume and intensity of] these emails and meetings, to make sure not only that it is enabling the hybrid model, but it is doing it in a way that it doesn't create a negative effect.”