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Aiming to be a Global Food Company from Japan

A Close Look at Tridor's "Human Resource Development

〜 The key was to invest in young employees 〜

This April, Marugame Seimen, which enjoys overwhelming popularity in Japan, opened two new restaurants in Taiwan. Marugame Seimen's overseas expansion began with the opening of a store in Hawaii in 2011, and in addition to the 44 stores in Taiwan, Marugame Seimen has now opened a total of 238 stores in 11 countries and regions around the world. We will look at the source of the power of Tridor Holdings, which is battling the economic shock caused by Corona, and continues to accelerate its challenge to become a global food company originating from Japan that can be accepted worldwide.

We asked Kohei Oshita, General Manager of the Sustainability Promotion Office, about the human resource development of Tridor Holdings, who is one of the few people who joined the company 20 years ago as a new graduate in its first term, and has established various departments and implemented reforms as a project leader.


In addition, Hirokazu Yasunaga, 20 years old, was selected to participate in the "in-house mentoring system" by external professional mentors to nurture autonomous individuals who will serve as the core of human resources. What are his strengths and appeal? We will look at the struggles that any millennial or Generation Z member must face during his two years with the company, and the way of thinking that paved the way for his success.

From left, Hirokazu Yasunaga, who was selected for the in-house mentoring project at age 20, and Kohei Oshita, the in-house mentoring project leader.

Hirokazu Yasunaga

Born in 2000

Born in Tokunoshima, Amami-Oshima Island, Kagoshima Prefecture.

Joined Tridor HD as a new graduate in 2019 and assigned to Marugame Seimen. Despite graduating from high school, he was appointed manager of three stores the following year, and in the same year became the youngest manager of a store at Haneda Airport, which boasts the highest sales in Japan. Later, at the age of just 20, he was assigned to the Tridor HD Sustainability Promotion Office and selected as a mentor for the in-house mentoring project.

In 2020, he joined the mentor workout provided by OVER20 & Company.

Kohei Oshita

Born in 1978

Born in Kakogawa City, Hyogo Prefecture.

After joining Tridor HD as a new graduate in its first term, he worked as a store manager at Toridor, a labor union chairman, and a sales manager at Marugame Seimen. At the head office, he established numerous departments, including the CSR Promotion Office. Currently, he is the head of the Sustainability Promotion Office of Tridor HD. He directs the in-house mentoring project as project leader.


What is Tridor's vision of becoming a global food company?

What "values" are important to you as you aim to become a global food company originating from Japan?


Ohshita: Tridor's goal of becoming a global food company is to create restaurants that respect the cultures and societies of all countries. And when we think about what is necessary to become a global food company from Japan that can be accepted around the world, it can only be "people".


In particular, our business is supported by our strength of "handmade" and "freshly made" products, so "people" are always needed at the center of our business, and the actions of each and every employee lead to the joy of our customers. That is why our number one strategy is the growth of "people.


What kind of human resources do you need?


Ohshita: We need to nurture "autonomous individuals. As I mentioned earlier, people are the embodiment of all of Tridor's strengths. We are conscious of how to nurture "people" from the perspective of, for example, how to encourage small changes in the behavior of our employees.


In order to compete on the world stage as a global food company, we are required to act quickly to resolve any discomfort or issues that we feel in the field. To achieve this, we need to be a group of autonomous human resources who can always think for themselves and act on their own initiative, rather than waiting for instructions from the head office.


As a company, what kind of perspective do you think is necessary for each and every employee to embody an assembly of autonomous human resources?


Ohshita: First of all, in order for each individual to become an autonomous human resource, the company must be a place where employees "grow based on self-realization" as a basic premise. Therefore, it is necessary for each and every employee to face his or her own career and work based on self-realization. We aim to create a company in which each employee has a clear vision of what he or she wants to accomplish within the company, which will also lead to growth as a company.

Kohei Oshita, Director of the Sustainability Promotion Office and leader of the Mentor Project, responding to an interview.

Transforming the image of the food and beverage industry

What kind of self-realization do you plan to achieve within Tridor in the future?


Oshita: I have achieved a great deal of self-realization within Tridor. Among them, I have always been thinking about the social value of the food and beverage industry.

Since I was in my twenties, I often had to deal with external meetings and government agencies, and what I keenly felt was the frustration that "we are not good at all.


When I thought about the restaurant industry from the perspective of internal controls, profit structure, contribution to society, and sustainable business structure, I felt that we were not doing enough at all. Naturally, external evaluations were also quite low at the time. At the time when I was looking for a job, the image of the restaurant industry itself was not good, and parents were sometimes opposed to working in restaurants.


However, from the perspective of someone like me who came from the field, there is a big gap between the external image and the external image of the industry. Working conditions, for example, may not necessarily be as good as in the manufacturing industry, but those who work in the stores enjoy their work very much and take pride in it. In particular, at Tridor, even high school graduates can become store managers within a few years, at which point they have 20 to 30 subordinates. I think it is very fortunate to be able to place yourself in this kind of environment when you are around 20 years old. It is extremely rewarding to be able to develop leadership skills while at the same time actually interacting with customers in the stores and influencing their business performance.


We take pride in our food and beverage business, but the public has a different opinion. Bridging this gap is what I hope to achieve with this company.

In December 2019, President Awata read an article about us in the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, and in April 2020, a mentor workout project was launched for Marugame Seimen 19 graduates. The training for in-house mentors will then begin in January 2021. After the introduction of the mentor workout, it was actually less than a year before the decision to establish an in-house mentor team was made. We asked them about their intention to establish a new mentor team.

Producing autonomous individuals, the mentor's intention at its axis.

The Mentor Workout project was launched at a time when the corona outbreak was spreading.


Ohshita: With the economic shock caused by the corona, it was very difficult to know what we should invest in as a company. However, when we thought about the vision that Tridor is aiming for, we prioritized investment in human resources, as the growth of "people" is still at the core of the company. While investment in human resources is one of the things that are cut when a company's performance is sluggish, our company is the exact opposite. Investment in people is essential for Tridor's growth. Therefore, we have decided that this project is necessary to embody the autonomous individual, and we have decided to launch it.


What changes have you seen in the company and its employees as a result of the one-year mentor workout project?


Ohshita: All of the executives on the project team, including myself, recognized the potential that each employee in his or her 20s has. That is why we felt that turnover was a greater loss to the company than the numbers. I once again felt confident that Tridor has such a diverse workforce and that the values and abilities of each of these individuals will surely lead to the future growth of the company.


What kind of changes have you seen in the young employees who have participated in the mentor workout?


Ohshita: The first thing he said to me was, "Wow, he (the professional mentor) really is like a magician. He was able to draw out a lot of things about himself, and that was an insight that even he was not aware of, and he said, "I wanted to do this! I recognize that I was brought out more and more of the latent


And as the mentor workout sessions went on, the negative feelings of hesitation and "blurred vision" of "wanting to change jobs" went away.


Another thing that impressed me was the change in employees who had been working with low motivation with a post-employment gap. The post-employment gap is a problem that can occur in any company. Before joining the company, they had high expectations and wanted to do something like this, but when they finally joined the company, they found that it was not what they had imagined and was not at all what they had heard.


Among the participants in the Mentor Workout, there was one employee who lost motivation and considered changing jobs because his career was different from what he had imagined when he joined the company.

When we met with the employee after the Mentor Workout program, he told us, "Actually, until this program started, I thought that if I couldn't achieve what I had envisioned before joining the company, I would just quit. However, as he participated in the mentor workout, he said, "I now see what I really want to do at the company!" He had a realization that


The environment was different from what he had imagined, and he changed his mindset from "an environment where I can't do what I want to do," to "I want to make the most of the environment I have now" through thinking about what he really wants to do.

Ishidoh and Mentor Project Leader Mr. Oshita, who is in overall charge of consulting for Tridor Holdings, Inc.

What is the background that led to the in-house production of mentor workouts?

Tridor has been working to link the self-realization of each employee with the growth of the company, and now, confident of the success of this project, you have established an internal mentoring team and decided to produce the mentor workout skills in-house. Please tell us about this decision.


Ohshita: In embodying the self-disciplined individual, we faced the challenge that it would be burdensome to leave all training for employee self-actualization to the stores. This is because stores must create measures to please customers while also pursuing profits as a company. In addition, in today's world where each individual has a diverse set of values, supporting self-actualization is a highly specialized job. Therefore, we decided that it would be a good idea to set up a specialized department from an educational perspective as well.


We were convinced that goal management by store supervisors and internal mentoring to enhance self-esteem (self-affirmation) would increase the number of employees who could self-actualize.


If both of these wheels are functioning, I believe it will have a significant impact on employee satisfaction.


Oshita: I also expect to see an improvement in employee satisfaction. Higher employee satisfaction will lead to higher customer satisfaction, which will contribute to further business growth. For this reason, we position investment in human resources as one of our management strategies.


Investing in young people, the future leaders of Japan, as a corporate social responsibility

Contrary to the impression of Japanese companies that are increasingly investing in middle and senior age groups, you have chosen to target mentors in their 20s this time. What is the reason for this?


Ohshita: The idea is to invest in the potential of 20-somethings and their willingness to take on challenges.


As 20-somethings have a long working life ahead of them, they have a sense of ownership of the events that are happening now. Many people of our generation are just "Oh, I see" when it comes to the same events. For example, when it comes to environmental issues, I feel that the younger generation is more likely to see these issues as their own and act accordingly. They are the generation that will carry the future of Japan, so it is only natural for companies to invest in their younger members as part of their corporate social responsibility.


Please tell us why you selected a 20-year-old employee as a mentor for the establishment of the internal mentoring team.


Ohshita: The first is that I expect discontinuous growth.


In a previous Tridor project, a business school for opening restaurants was created within the University of Phnom Penh in Cambodia for a limited period of time. The average age in Cambodia is in the 20s. We needed to pay about 30% of the local starting salary for tuition, but we quickly filled the school to capacity, mainly with young people. At that time, I felt the attitude of the young people to go straight to their dreams, and moreover, the discontinuous and rapid growth I felt there.


The founders of Apple and Facebook also started their businesses when they were young. We believe that people with ambition and entrepreneurial spirit are the ones who can achieve discontinuous growth when we consider our mission and the destination we should aim for.

For these reasons, we thought that young people would be more suitable for the new age profession of mentoring.


Second, they are highly absorptive. I also think they are so absorptive that I have to be careful with my words when interacting with them. I expect that Ms. Yasunaga, whom I have selected for this position, will be able to take in anything as a source of growth for herself.

From left, Mentor Project Mentor Yasunaga and Project Leader Oshita

In-House Mentoring: What is the Key to Success for 20-Year-Old Mentors?

Could you tell us frankly how you felt when you were selected to be the key person for the internal mentoring this time?


Yasunaga: To be honest, I was very anxious when I was selected.

I wondered, "Why did they choose me, when I am 20 years old?


At that time, I practiced a method of anxiety reduction that I thought of with my mentor during the mentor workout. If I didn't understand, I would ask.


On the day I was told about the project, I honestly shared my concerns, questions, and thoughts with Mr. Oshita. I felt that Mr. Oshita was paying close attention to me during our conversations and interviews, and my anxiety turned into confidence and a feeling of "I'm going to do it.

Hirokazu Yasunaga, at just 20 years old, was selected as an in-house mentor within the in-house mentoring project.

Now that you have been undergoing mentor training for two months, how do you feel about the project?


Yasunaga: I was surprised to learn more extensively and deeply than I expected.

Initially, I did not expect to learn so much. I thought I only needed to study a few hours a week, but the one-on-one tutoring is like a private tutor, and the amount of learning is enormous. For feedback on the mentor practical exercises, you have three instructors to give you feedback. When I was in the store, I never received this much feedback at one time, so it is very difficult. I feel that I am always being watched.


I am also struggling to keep up with the assignments that are given to me every week, but I feel that my thinking is becoming more profound with every lecture I complete. I am surprised at how much I have improved.


How did your perception of the job of mentor change before and after the training?


Yasunaga: Unlike before the training, when I first took the mentor workout, I had the image of a "consultant" who listened to my problems and helped me with my mental health. However, when I actually received the training, my perspective was broadened as my own thinking became more organized and my future plans and career development became clearer. And, although unconsciously, I began to think about things I normally did not think about. Although the mentor workout helped me clarify my own thinking, I had thought that the mentor workout had nothing to do with what I usually think about. However, when I actually took the training, I was surprised to find that one of my goals as a mentor was not to "clarify my thinking" but to "get myself to think on a regular basis," which I did unconsciously.


I changed my perception of mentoring from a dependent mentor who "helps me clarify my thoughts" to a non-dependent mentor who "helps me clarify my thoughts on my own."

Senior mentor Itoi, who provided knowledge support to Yasunaga.

Mr. Yasunaga, I understand that you once aspired to start your own business. As we provide mentor workouts to many 20-somethings, we often hear that they want to change jobs or start their own businesses. Many of them say, "I've already gained enough at this company, so I'm thinking about my next career," or "I'm not sure, but I want to start my own business. Mr. Yasunaga himself once aspired to start his own business, but now he seems to have changed his mindset to make the most of the company's environment. How did you change?


Yasunaga: I think the main reason is that I was able to clarify what I wanted to become after participating in the mentor workout.

At the mentor workout, we not only discussed work, but also thought about the future and concretized what we could do to realize our goals. In the process, I gained a variety of perspectives and gradually began to see a future that I had not been able to see before.

On top of that, I changed the way I communicate with my supervisor, which was significant. I made a conscious effort to communicate with my supervisor from my own perspective, because if I did not communicate with him, he would not contact me, except for work-related matters. I believe that by doing so, he became interested in me and gradually began to entrust me with what I wanted to do.


What do you want to achieve at Tridor now?


Yasunaga: I feel that there are not many environments where young employees stand out. For example, I don't know many of my peers who have become store managers or what kind of results they have achieved. I would like to create a system that allows all other employees to share the efforts of young employees.


Last but not least, what do you think are the strengths of people in their 20s?


Yasunaga: I think the strength of 20s is "youth," which everyone has at one time or another. Generally, youth tends to be perceived as a lack of knowledge and experience, but on the other hand, it means that you have the ability to absorb and are very flexible. Above all, one of the strengths of being young is the ability to take on any challenge. With each passing year of age, it becomes more difficult to take on new challenges. However, we believe that simply being young makes it easier to shift gears and go down the path you want to take.


And in the words of one famous young psychologist, "80% of the important life-defining events happen before the age of 35. In this quote, he means that the way you live your life from the age of 20 to 35 will make a big difference in the years ahead; being "young" in your 20s will be an advantage and will be very important for the rest of your life.

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