Nikkei Online have interviewed several employees (article in Japanese) at the Japanese camera and medical equipment manufacturer about their experiences in the two years since the financial scandal broke.
Many employees say they could not quite believe it had happened at their company at first, and felt shame going on sales calls, so hid the the company logo on carrier bags that they took to hospitals.
Olympus had a dominant position in endoscopes so gave very few discounts. “Now I understand why your prices are so high” said one customer after the scandal broke. Others said that if connections to gangsters were proven, then they would not be able to agree to a contract, so many sales deals were delayed.
Inside the company, news was usually known before any announcement, but now there was a total lack of information. People were checking their mobile phones all the time to find out what was going on.
What kept them going was sense of mission – without a stable supply of endoscopes, medical treatment would stop. Most doctors said it was not the employees that were to blame but the executives, and many wrote letters to the company to say so. Olympus was known in Japan for working closely with customers to improve its technology for the patient and was known as a trustworthy company, so dealers also stuck by them.
“In the West, where compliance was more emphasized, there was a negative effect on sales, however” says the Nikkei.
The main change has been more at the management level. The new CEO, Hiroyuki Sasa, has made a point of visiting all operations in Olympus to explain the new strategy (disposal of non core businesses, alliance with Sony). Employees commented that unlike previously, where they did not really understand the strategy of company, they finally now had a plan they could comprehend.
The concern over what to do with the traditional core but loss making camera business continues, but there is a sense that the crisis is over, and governance has been improved, with 8 of the 13 directors being external and actively questioning strategy in board meetings, rather than the board being the one man show of previous regimes.
As for the long term impact on employees, one woman says that she has now realised you cannot rely on companies, and it is up to her to improve her skills and take care of her career. Another says the crisis gave them a renewed sense of purpose and raison d’etre. “It was just stupid incident. We should not rely on our management and just focus on doing our own jobs properly”
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