Scott Millar: “Purpose-driven values”

Purpose-driven values — where corporations and companies will strengthen their corporate philosophy and values and broaden programs that align with those values. At Canon, our corporate philosophy of Kyosei is directly aligned with our corporate social responsibility and employee-volunteer programs. There have been major disruptions in recent years that promise to change the very nature of work. […]

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Purpose-driven values — where corporations and companies will strengthen their corporate philosophy and values and broaden programs that align with those values. At Canon, our corporate philosophy of Kyosei is directly aligned with our corporate social responsibility and employee-volunteer programs.

There have been major disruptions in recent years that promise to change the very nature of work. From the ongoing shifts caused by the COVID19 pandemic, the impacts caused by automation, and other possible disruptions to the status quo, many wonder what the future holds in terms of employment. For example, a report by the McKinsey Global Institute that estimated automation will eliminate 73 million jobs by 2030.

To address this open question, we reached out to successful leaders in business, government, and labor, as well as thought leaders about the future of work to glean their insights and predictions on the future of work and the workplace.

As a part of this interview series called “Preparing For The Future Of Work”, we had the pleasure to interview Scott Millar.

Scott Millar is senior vice president and general manager, Corporate Human Resources and Corporate Audit, Ethics and Business Consultation, Canon U.S.A., Inc., and senior vice president, Human Resources, Canon Solutions America, Inc. In his HR role, he oversees people strategies for Canon U.S.A. and Canon Solutions America as well as Canon’s other operations throughout North and South America, ensuring alignment and continuing growth and development across multiple business segments. Areas of focus include Talent Acquisition, Talent and Leadership Development, Total Rewards, Employee Engagement and HR Operations and Support.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers like to get an idea of who you are and where you came from. Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where do you come from? What are the life experiences that most shaped your current self?

My name is Scott Millar and I am the Senior Vice President and General Manager, Human Resources, Audit & Business Consultation and Corporate Communications at Canon U.S.A. Inc., and Senior Vice President, Human Resources, at Canon Solutions America, Inc. Canon U.S.A., Inc., is a leading provider of consumer, business-to-business, and industrial digital imaging solutions to the United States and to Latin America and the Caribbean markets. I have been a member of Team Canon for 29 years! Before joining Canon U.S.A., I worked at Canon Virginia, Inc., our flagship manufacturing, engineering and technology center in the Americas which is located in my hometown of Newport News, VA. During college, my summer job was working in the welding and painting departments of the Newport News Shipyard, building aircraft carriers for the U.S. Navy. I began my Human Resources career in the public sector, working in local government for the City of Newport News. My wife Muriel and I now split our time between our homes in Newport News and Melville, N.Y., which is where Canon U.S.A.’s headquarters is located.

Growing up I was interested in both athletics and the performing arts. Looking back, these were foundational experiences where I learned many life lessons and developed skills I have used throughout my career including, communication and public speaking skills, how to improvise, think on your feet, prioritize and pivot due to changing conditions, organizational skills, time management skills, how to provide performance feedback and accept constructive criticism, how to strategize, game plan, coach and be a supportive teammate, and how to be a strong and effective leader.

Many of my life experiences come from working in Human Resources, (HR) engaging and leading people and business operations. Canon believes our outstanding and talented employees are our most valuable asset. Our mission in HR is to nurture, cultivate, develop and sustain this talent and do our best to ensure that our employees enjoy a satisfying and fulfilling career with our organization. We seek to provide outstanding and valued programs that attract, develop, motivate, engage and retain our talent and I feel that we are successful as an HR organization when our employees are successful and they in turn make our business successful. My role in HR has always been to help maximize the contributions of people and lead human capital to outstanding results. As I heard someone recently describe it, I am fortunate not to have a “got to” job — as in “I’ve got to do that task today”. Rather I enjoy a “get to” job — how cool is it that “I get to play that role”.

What do you expect to be the major disruptions for employers in the next 10–15 years? How should employers pivot to adapt to these disruptions?

I have enjoyed a long career in Human Resources and had many unique experiences, but the global COVID-19 pandemic has been a disruption unlike any other. In many ways it has monumentally changed our culture of work and our collective mindset about employment. Due to this crisis, Human Resources has gained a prime seat at the table in many organizations as “people issues” have been pushed to the forefront. Because of the pandemic, many employees have re-defined and re-prioritized what motivates them and what provides meaning and happiness in their lives, and they are bringing these new perspectives to work with them. We see this, for example, in the desire for more work/life balance, increased demands for remote work, a new focus on mental health and well-being. This, along with technology advancements and potential talent gaps may create disruption and drive change long after COVID-19 wanes.

If there is a positive side, it’s that the past year has taught us many valuable lessons. More than ever, companies in general, with the assistance of HR, have learned to become better listeners, to be attentive to rapidly changing conditions and to more proactively react to the ever-evolving sentiments of the workforce. As long as employers keep a strong line of communication open with their employees and always put their health and well-being front and center, I believe we will be successful in navigating through future disruptions. Lastly, it is important to always show grace, care, concern, empathy and understanding while balancing business priorities — after all, disruptions provide the ultimate opportunity to learn and adapt.

The choice as to whether or not a young person should pursue a college degree was once a “no-brainer.”. But with the existence of many high profile millionaires (and billionaires) who did not earn degrees, as well as the fact that many graduates are saddled with crushing student loan debt and unable to find jobs it has become a much more complex question. What advice would you give to young adults considering whether or not to go to college?

There are many opportunities to become “educated” that don’t involve a classroom. The correct advice often depends on each individual, how their talents are best leveraged, and their ultimate career goals. Today, many folks maximize their potential without going to college, and our world desperately needs these individuals and their talents. In fact, many outstanding career opportunities for non-college grads can now be found within company driven workforce development initiatives where organizations such as Canon seek to train-up a new generation of technical talent and build a pipeline of in-coming skillsets to meet our future workforce demands.

That said, I continue to be a big believer in the power of higher education. As an active alumnus of Christopher Newport University (CNU) in Virginia, I have served my alma mater in a number of roles including President of the CNU Alumni Board, a member of the business school advisory board and the University’s Education Foundation board, and ultimately as Rector of the University, leading our Board of Visitors. Attaining a strong academic foundation and learning how to be a contributing member of the campus community are valuable experiences — at CNU we call this “learning to lead a life of significance.” But I also understand that a traditional college experience might not be for everyone. I am very appreciative of what CNU provided me but there are many continuing education opportunities also available. I am a huge advocate of mentorship and experiential learning such as internships, co-ops, job shadowing, etc., even at the high school level. Having a mentor or even a network of key influencers with whom to discuss career options can certainly help any young adult make the best decision.

But I also talk to many students right out of high school or recent college grads who are so intently focuses on finding “the perfect job” right out of school that this can paralyze their initial career decisions and create significant indecisiveness. My advice to them is to realize that your full career is likely to be 30 or 40 years long — you have a lot of time to get it right and find that perfect fit. Don’t be afraid to explore career options, discover where you’re true talents lie and focus on gaining skill sets in your first job that best sets you up for on-going career progress and advancement. fter all, finding out early in your career what you don’t want to do for the rest of your life is never a bad thing. And, it is never too late to pursue a college degree or go back to college to pursue an alternate career.

Despite the doom and gloom predictions, there are, and likely still will be, jobs available. How do you see job seekers having to change their approaches to finding not only employment, but employment that fits their talents and interests?

We are learning that employees have significantly re-evaluated what work means to them, what they value in a work environment and how they wish to spend their working time. As in the past, job seekers desire work that is meaningful and provides happiness, fulfillment and personal satisfaction. They are seeking a work style that offers stability and security, and they are making career decisions that take these priorities into consideration. To accomplish this, they are leveraging tools that may not have existed in the past, such as blogs, comment boards, and expanding the research they do into a company. Additionally, there are on-line job posting boards that can identify positions that may be of interest to the job seeker, thus helping the individual to narrow the job search.

At Canon we understand these issues and feel that it is necessary to be flexible and develop new work models that best balance the advantages of remote work with the importance of bringing people together in a collaborative office space. Our goal is to create an engaging work culture that will benefit employees and their new lifestyles. Yet, it is equally important for job seekers to be transparent with potential employers regarding what they value and what they seek in their employment relationship. We provide information on our website that can help job seekers learn about Canon, so that they can make an informed decision as to whether to apply for a position with us. Creating the optimal work environment and organizational culture of today requires that HR leaders be attuned listeners, adept managers of change, purposeful collaborators, developers of talent, strong and versatile communicators, and above all, strong business partners and leaders.

The statistics of artificial intelligence and automation eliminating millions of jobs appears frightening to some. For example, Walmart aims to eliminate cashiers altogether and Dominos is instituting pizza delivery via driverless vehicles. How should people plan their careers such that they can hedge their bets against being replaced by automation or robots?

Throughout recent decades, many companies including Canon have introduced advanced automation, high tech machinery, artificial intelligence and robotic process automation. Innovation however is nothing new, in fact it has been going on for centuries. The difference now is how rapidly technology is evolving and advancing — and this pace will likely only accelerate in the decades ahead. Canon is an advanced technology leader and the pace of the change we are seeing is breathtaking. In fact, one silver lining of the pandemic is the new innovations that companies like Canon are introducing to help make virtual work easy and seamless.

In this environment however, I do think there will always be a need for humans on the job to harness and ensure the on-going and efficient operations of innovative technology. After all, despite AI, we still need people to program, troubleshoot and repair the robots! Going forward, employees will require different skill sets to adapt to the pace of technological advancement. We will need more “thinkers” and less “doers” as critical thinking skills take priority. The challenge for business is to promote continuous learning and foster on-going opportunities for employees to develop advanced competencies and skill sets as technology continues to evolve. We should not be threatened by advancements of technology but rather embrace new opportunities to continually evolve and grow careers.

Technological advances and pandemic restrictions hastened the move to working from home. Do you see this trend continuing? Why or why not?

In short — yes, I absolutely see this trend continuing for certain roles and eventually it will no longer be considered a trend — it will be the norm for certain businesses or aspects of businesses. Canon believes so strongly in this concept that we have dramatically re-defined and enhanced our entire work style program. For employees whose job responsibilities allow, we have created a new hybrid work style that allows many of our employees to work remotely three days a week while spending the other two days networking, innovating, learning and mentoring others in the office. We gave this new concept considerable thought and did much research before introducing this new initiative. Now our employees can leverage the flexibility and productivity they have demonstrated working remotely while also benefiting from several days a week in the office where there is greater emphasis on collaboration, social interaction and teamwork. We are already seeing this new balanced concept pay dividends in terms of our ability to attract, retain and motivate key talent.

That said, there are still positions that require being at the work-site and are not conducive to remote work. In this regard, construction, manufacturing, warehouse and logistics positions come to mind, amongst others.

The variety of opportunities and work environments will always be around.

What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support the fundamental changes to work?

It is unfortunate that our society today is so fractured and divided. Increasingly however, companies that promote a strong collaborative work environment and infuse a sense of purpose and belonging in their company culture are bringing people together. At Canon, we often hear our employees refer to their “Canon family.” And, we are like a family in many ways. I believe people today are looking for a common purpose, a common direction and a common connection. Today, employees are increasingly finding these bonds in the workplace.

During past year, many people have re-defined their own life goals and mission and how they wish to contribute to the greater good of society. A strong work culture can increasingly provide an outlet to collectively achieve these personal objectives. That’s why at Canon we offer a wide variety of corporate social responsibility programs where employees can get actively involved and make a positive impact in the communities in which we all live, work and thrive. Our Canon Clean Earth Crew events encourage employees to engage in environmental stewardship and our efforts to support community, health, scholarship and youth programs across the county bring a greater sense of purpose, pride and belonging. Collectively, we can all make a difference.

After all, Canon’s Kyosei philosophy sums up our outlook: “all people, regardless of race, religion or culture, living harmoniously and working together into the future.”

What changes do you think will be the most difficult for employers to accept? What changes do you think will be the most difficult for employees to accept?

One interesting challenge on the horizon is that the trend toward more remote work will intersect with geographic compensation realities. This pivot means that many employees now will have the opportunity to work for companies headquartered in regions where salaries are higher while they live and work remotely from areas with a lower cost of living and a different local economic reality and tax base. As job seekers search for higher-paying jobs that allow them to live and work anywhere, the means by which organizations have traditionally made compensation and base salary decisions is being upended. This is likely to be an awaking and a challenge for both organizations seeking top talent as well as employees desiring maximum flexibility to work from any location.

The COVID-19 pandemic helped highlight the inadequate social safety net that many workers at all pay levels have. Is this something that you think should be addressed? In your opinion, how should this be addressed?

We all witnessed the devastating economic impact of the global pandemic and understand that it is important for everyone to feel that they have access to adequate emergency social safety nets. Employees have a desire to feel safe and secure and this has certainly been challenged in the past year. Companies today are evolving to provide more holistic lifestyle programs that impact and embrace the full person — the physical, mental, financial and societal wellbeing of employees. Innovative opportunities are being created to help ensure that societal needs are identified and resources made available.

That said, I feel it is also important to promote personal responsibility. The San-ji (Three Selfs) Spirit is one of Canon’s guiding principles that highlights the importance of self-motivation — taking the initiative to be proactive in all things, self-management — conducting oneself with ethical responsibility and accountability at all times, and self-awareness — understanding one’s situation and role in all situations. While having a safety net in dire circumstances is critical, we should also strive to ensure that everyone takes personal and moral responsibility for their own circumstances, and plan for that possible “rainy day.”

Despite all that we have said earlier, what is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?

I’m very proud of the work my teams at Canon are accomplishing. Our focus goes beyond a typical office setting — we have hundreds of sales and service employees out in the field. We have product repair centers, call centers and multiple distribution centers located in different parts of the country. We have advanced R&D facilities as well as high tech manufacturing operations. Our President & CEO, Mr. Kazuto Ogawa, also oversees Canon’s operations in Canada, Latin and South America, so our footprint goes well beyond the United States. Collectively we are guided by our corporate philosophy of Kyosei, which I mentioned earlier. If we all live and work by Kyosei — I am confident that the future of work will be bright. And, I am optimistic about the future of work due to the outstanding talents, capabilities and dedication of the team around me as well as the forward thinking leadership of Canon.

Historically, major disruptions to the status quo in employment, particularly disruptions that result in fewer jobs, are temporary with new jobs replacing the jobs lost. Unfortunately, there has often been a gap between the job losses and the growth of new jobs. What do you think we can do to reduce the length of this gap?

We must continue to invest in innovation in order to move forward. But I’m also a big advocate for training, continuing education, job rotation programs and opportunities to grow an employee’s skill sets. Innovation and employee development must go hand-in-hand to help reduce the job loss gap. It is paramount that organizations provide comprehensive programs to facilitate on-going career growth for their associates. And, I would encourage all employees to take full advantage of such opportunities for career development, especially in growing industries such as advanced tech. I also think it’s important for employees to stay current with how the world of work is changing and evolving, and examine how one’s skill sets can contribute to the future. This way, you can stay a step ahead of the curve and be prepared and armed for the evolution that will inevitably come.

Okay, wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Watch In the Future of Work?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. The Human Experience (HX) Will Replace the Employee Experience (EX) — seeing employees in their full selves and helping them develop, grow and prosper in all areas of their lives focusing on: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and financial health. At Canon, we offer an array of programs as part of our company culture and we promote a strong sense of community belonging.
  2. Talent Mobility — the practice of moving people within the company so that they may gain an enhanced organizational perspective and new skills that are sharpened through new roles and responsibilities. We have instituted such initiatives within Canon where we have moved employees to different business units and teams in order for them to work collaboratively in diverse areas of our organization.
  3. Hardware/Software that helps improve and makes working remotely easy. For example, the Canon EOS Webcam Utility software which helps consumers’ livestream like a pro:
  4. In-office solutions that look to help organizations seamlessly bring together those working remotely and those working in the office in a virtual collaborative setting. Canon USA is currently developing a solution called AMLOS (Activate My Line of Sight) which is being designed to help connect people digitally and emotionally. It is being designed so that using a simple hand gesture, a person in the office can launch a meeting so that they can then invite a remote colleague.
  5. Purpose-driven values — where corporations and companies will strengthen their corporate philosophy and values and broaden programs that align with those values. At Canon, our corporate philosophy of Kyosei is directly aligned with our corporate social responsibility and employee-volunteer programs.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how this quote has shaped your perspective?

Hard to pick just one! My first would be from St. Thomas Aquinas who lived in 13th century Europe. He said “If the highest aim of a Captain is to preserve their ship, they would keep it in port forever.” And then from American poet and philosopher Mark Twain, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the things that you did. So throw off the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sail. Explore, dream, discover!” These quotes remind us that taking risks often leads to lasting rewards.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Again, hard to choose just one but my dream golf pairing would include Phil Mickelson, Condoleezza Rice and Jimmy Buffett or Bill Murray. How fun would that be! For a private breakfast or lunch, I believe that former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley and Apple CEO, Tim Cook would make for a fascinating and lively conversation.

Our readers often like to follow our interview subjects’ careers. How can they further follow your work online?

Feel free to follow me on LinkedIn.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.

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