I’ve had the honor of working with Kimi Nishita, Senior Director of Corporate Communications at Intuitive Surgical, over the years. This passionate communications leader is a master at finding creative and innovative ways to connect employees to the company strategy and goals. With a love of learning and knowing the latest trends and best practices, she achieves success by combining cutting-edge communication strategies and tried-and-true traditional vehicles to reach and engage employees. She has an amazing ability to connect with people and build lasting relationships in work. I’m inspired by her energy and belief that life is too short to not love what you do, be surrounded by the best (including those she works with and her husband, two children and extended family) and great food! Learn more about this exceptional leader in our Q&A.
Q&A with Kimi Nishita,
Senior Director of Corporate Communications
at Intuitive Surgical
Q: How do you describe your role today?
A: The best thing about my role is that it’s ever changing — my team and I go where the business needs us. When I first joined Intuitive, the communications team had just been formed. My day-to-day revolved around building a communications function from the ground up and working closely with our leadership team, especially on media and PR efforts. Then, over time, my role shifted to addressing internal communications needs.
Now, after building a strong foundation, we are focused on the whole employee experience. We are thinking about how to keep employees aligned and deeply engaged with our mission from the moment they enter our doors until they become Intuitive alumni.
Q: What tried and true strategies do you count on to reach employees and help them feel engaged?
A: At Intuitive, our culture is very mission-driven, which means everything we do to engage our employees must align with our north star. One of my favorite quotes is from Simon Sinek, who says, “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” Lucky for us, Intuitive has an awesome mission that we’re all proud to work toward every day. As a team, we find it easy to keep employees engaged through that emotional connection, particularly the impact our employees have through customer and employee stories — it’s amazing the pride we all share.
More tactically, I really believe in the basics. Asking the key communications questions, such as, “What’s the problem you are trying to solve? Who is your audience? What do they know/don’t know?” By taking a thoughtful, deliberate approach, we believe we can be more effective in how we reach our employees and create a relevant experience for them.
I am also a big fan of taking a surround-sound approach. We all recognize that people learn differently and need to hear a message repeatedly, so we try to get information to employees in multiple ways. This also ensures we’re addressing their personal preferences. For example, we’ve had success combining traditional vehicles (digital newsletters and intranet articles) with vehicles new to our company (podcasts and social collaboration). To be consistent and get the greatest ROI, we re-use our messages across these different platforms. I always like to say, “When you’re sick of hearing your own messages, employees are just starting to hear you.”
Q: Intuitive is all about innovating. We get asked often to share what the best companies are doing when it comes to communications. What's an innovative practice you're especially proud of at Intuitive?
A: As much as we love innovation, we are always careful to not innovate just for the sake of innovating. We start with a business need and then find the right solution to solve the problem.
For example, a few years ago, when my team was first starting to build the communications infrastructure, we realized employees didn’t have easy access to our company goals. We needed to come up with a creative way to align our employees to our strategy, help them digest the information and act on it — something that has become increasingly important in our growing company!
Fortunately, our company values transparency, but the way the information was presented was complex. So, we created a microsite to clearly and simply outline our annual corporate strategy and quarterly goals. The microsite offers employees easy access to the information 24x7 and a whole new way to connect with our strategies and goals. Hopefully now we can all say we’re on the same page! Or microsite in this case.
Q: What’s the biggest opportunity you see at your organization?
A: As a growing company, we’re lucky to have so much opportunity that still exists. We’re excited that the business is moving in a direction that allows us to do more. Our leaders understand the importance of communications, so they are hungry for tools and resources to help them be better communicators. One of our biggest focus areas right now is building communications skills within the business, which includes a robust leadership communications program.
We believe that if we can create the right tools and resources and get them into the organization, we can exponentially impact the business as each of our leaders and internal stakeholders communicate their key messages more effectively.
Q: You’re a busy mom of two and I know family and work are both incredibly important to you. Any words of wisdom to other leaders out there who want to feel fulfilled both professionally and personally?
A: Hah! I’m not sure I’ve figured this one out yet. But what seems to be working for me now is that I try to remind myself to stay balanced. Too much of anything never works for me. As I’ve grown in my career, I’ve become more comfortable being forthright with what I need to be successful at home and at work and asking for help. There’s not a perfect solution, it’s just about being flexible when I need to and not feeling guilty for giving more time to one or the other at any given moment.
I also firmly believe in having strong, healthy relationships. Life is too short to not love what you do and be surrounded by people you like spending time with whether that is at work or home. I find it’s important for me to surround myself with people I trust, who have positive energy and who will make me a better person.
But what works for me, might not work for everyone. So it really comes down to listening to your intuition. If something doesn’t feel right, or you feel off balance, I’d recommend listening to your instincts and changing things up until it feels right. You’ll know when things are working for you.
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