Honda Motor Co., Ltd.
Gathering Global Talent to Nurture Next Generation Leaders.
Honda Motor Co. has launched Global Leadership Program-Discovery (GLP-D), a selective training program for next-generation leaders around the world, to form a basis as a global leader at the early stage of one’s career.
To learn more about this initiative, we interviewed:
- Ms. Kanako Kanno (Head of HR Planning and Development, Honda Motor Europe)
- Mr. Jitender Teckchandani (Lead of Global Learning and Development, Talent Management Department, HR Division)
- Ms. Yukiko Ichihara (Senior Staff, Talent Management Department, HR Division)
*Department and position are as of the time of the interview.
*The interviews for this article were conducted through an online conference system.
1. Background and Challenges
Ms. Kanno: We wanted to explore how we can provide opportunities for learning and growth to the young people who will lead our company twenty years from now.
Ms. Ichihara: We had been conducting leadership training for senior management for some time, but we had not been able to provide selective training for next generation global leaders. It takes a long period of time to develop leaders, so we needed to create a space that would provide opportunities and chances at an early stage in their careers.
Ms. Kanno: COVID-19 was the trigger that accelerated the program. We had to freeze face-to-face training for a year, so we took this period as an opportunity to design new training programs. It was also the first time for us to hold online training on a global scale, so it was a big challenge.
Ms. Ichihara: We wanted to design a training program where participants could build the foundation for becoming global leaders by gaining awareness. In particular, we wanted the participants to recognize and understand their own strengths and weaknesses as leaders, acquire a foundation of knowledge as managers, and gain experience through group work and discussions with similar next-generation leader candidates from around the world. We wanted the participants to utilize this training program as a launching pad to the next stage of their growth.
■GLP-D Focus Points
Ms. Kanno: We especially wanted the younger generation to hone their ability to think because in the age of VUCA, knowledge and skills can easily become obsolete. We want young people to always keep their antenna up, look at things from a broad perspective, and acquire the ability to think and learn on their own. With these expectations, we began planning and designing the training program.
As we looked at the goals of the training, we were particular about the name of the training. We named our program GLP-D (Global Leadership Program – Discovery), and especially the word “discovery” symbolizes the training. There were many things we wanted the participants to discover through the program. Even from the beginning of the program design, Mr. Nakashima (GLOBIS consultant) and our team had been saying, “this is discovery, isn’t it”.
2. GLP-D Review & Implementation
Ms. Kanno: The first concern was to maintain the participants’ motivation in an online environment, and the second was to strike a balance between input and output. In terms of input, we had to consider the time it would take to acquire and discover business knowledge. On the output side, we were looking at the time to synthesize and apply the knowledge and experiences to develop a new vision and strategy.
However, with the help of GLOBIS’s meticulous preparation and high energy lecturers, we were able to overcome our concerns.
In order to think beyond the surface level of an issue or topic, one must have the basic information and be trained to think deeply. Innovative ideas will not produce results unless they are backed up by theory and knowledge. This requires time for input, but in many cases, such input training lacks interest and can be demotivating for participants.
We were concerned about the challenge of finding a balance between discussion-based output-type training and input-type training that incorporates basic knowledge.
In this regard, the high quality of GLOBIS content was a great help. In addition to sessions on a variety of topics, the training was designed so that participants could watch GLOBIS Unlimited (a video learning service that enables participants to learn business knowledge in English) in advance and come to the sessions with that knowledge for discussion. This ensured a good balance of input and output.
Mr. Teckchandani: With GLOBIS Unlimited, some participants studied not only content related to the program but also topics they were interested in. We think this is because of GLOBIS’ desire to have participants grow even more and not limit their learning to a single program.
Although the GLP-D was conducted entirely in English, not all participants were fluent in English. GLOBIS always made sure that all participants were able to keep up with the program. They prepared slides that were easy to understand for those who were not fluent in English. During discussions, not only the program director (lecturer) but also the consultants paid attention to the participants and always made sure that everyone was involved.
Ms. Kanno: Perhaps the program was successful because we could select our partner carefully and decided to ask GLOBIS. Our selection criteria was based on four axes.
- The first is doing business globally. Since Honda is a global company, we looked for a partner who could provide general education and business literacy of global standards.
- Second is the personality and competence of the program director. The quality of the overall program largely depends on the program director, so it is important that he or she is a good fit.
- The third axis is having an organization and resources to expand the scale of the program. In the first year, the program was held on a minimal scale as a trial, but candidates were spread all over the world. From the standpoint of continuity, it was essential that the partner was able to handle future expansion.
- The fourth was the competence of the consultants and their level of empathy. One of our concerns was not only the ability to create a custom design but also that the organization and/or consultants understand and empathize with our needs and the vision that we are aiming for. When creating something new, we cannot accomplish it unless we can share the same goals with our business partners. Mr. Nakashima and Ms. Aiste (GLOBIS consultants) showed us their understanding and empathy for our vision.
Mr. Teckchandani: When I was in charge of HR in the Asia Pacific region, regions were given the opportunity to provide feedback in the partner selection process. This had never happened before, and I think it was a very good process for deciding on a partner. I was very happy that the head office made the selection not only from their own perspective but also from a larger perspective that involved the region as well.
Ms. Kanno: GLOBIS listened carefully to our vague ideas and needs, and then provided us with materials that expressed our needs clearly and in an organized manner. We never proceeded without deeply understanding the background and reasoning for the design and its approach, and we feel that we were able to create this program as a team.
Ms. Ichihara: Indeed, there was always a sense that we were creating the program together. For example, we would have a meeting the day after the Class A session to discuss and reflect on how we could improve for the same session in Class B. We repeated this short-spanned PDCA cycle during the program. I really appreciated the fact that we were always encouraged to keep improving.
Mr. Teckchandani: Mr. Nakashima and Ms. Aiste were always positive about our ideas. We are not experts in training, but when we had an idea, they always listened. They would ask us “why and how we wanted to do this or that” and then consider the best approach carefully among GLOBIS members. We feel that they always treated us with persistence and positivity.
3. Results and Future Prospects
■Changes in Participants after the Program
Mr. Teckchandani: The program allowed the participants to learn new things, to be exposed to different disciplines, and to have eye-opening experiences. We were able to provide a lot of discovery throughout the program, which helped us achieve our training objectives.
The program also included an analysis of each participant’s strengths using an assessment tool. We believe this helped the participants become more aware of themselves, what their strengths are, and how they can apply them in their daily activities. This was very meaningful from the participants’ perspective.
The facilitation by the program director also had a great impact on the participants. For example, when we coordinators watched a participant’s presentation, we thought, “Oh, that was a great presentation,” but the program director asked questions like, “Why do you think so?” “What is the point?” “Why is it important?” The program director kept asking questions that encouraged the participants to think and gave them appropriate advice. We think this was an important element for the participants to not stay in the status quo, but to continue their growth and discovery.
We have received positive feedback from our participants as well. One said, “This was the best program I have ever attended.” Of course, there are areas for improvement, but there was no negative feedback. In that sense, we have had good results.
Ms. Kanno: The results should be measured not only in terms of participant satisfaction but also in terms of how participants changed their behavior. We believe that the program has fostered an attitude of willingness to learn and a mindset of enjoying learning.
Also, the reputation of GLP-D seems to have spread to personnel in the European region, and we have been contacted by people asking for more information about GLP-D. It seems that this “Discovery” is gradually becoming a part of our company.
Mr. Teckchandani: I have been a part of the GLP-D team since the implementation phase, and now, a year later, I realize that it was exactly what the program name implies: an opportunity that led to a lot of “discovery” for the participants.
For example, assessment tools and various other methods were used during the program. At times, the program director and the participants made some strict comments to each other, but this was helpful. The participants felt that they were able to discover more about their own strengths and where to improve. The program truly embodied the program name, Global Leadership Program – Discovery.
■Reflections from the Coordinators
Ms. Kanno: A great response for us was the fact that the younger generation is more motivated and energetic than we had expected, and that we have found in them the qualities of leaders who will drive Honda in the future.
Mr. Teckchandani: With the active support from GLOBIS, we were able to not only implement this program but also continuously improve it to make it even better. After completing the program, we did a reflection with GLOBIS on how we could evolve the program to be even better for the second year. The improvements agreed upon will be incorporated into next year’s program.
In fact, we proposed to our top management to double the size of the program in the second year and received their approval. They understood our desire to expand the program so that more people could participate.
Ms Kanno: This program gave us confidence that we could design a program to promote awareness and behavioral change among remote participants to this extent. Before COVID-19, there was an unwritten rule in training design that it had to be acquired through face-to-face interactions. However, with ingenuity, even online training can produce great results.
Mr. Teckchandani: Our focus now is to provide the right opportunity to the right person at the right time. GLP-D and other activities are in line with this idea of right talent to right position.
COVID-19 has brought very difficult conditions, and these changes in the environment will continue to occur. We need to quickly develop talent to cope with the difficult challenges that come with rapid environmental change.
In addition, we aim to utilize a more diverse workforce by increasing the number of women and non-Japanese in top management positions. To achieve this, we must determine who is the right person, what strengths and challenges they have, and what opportunities they need for further growth.
The GLP-D played a major role in helping us identify and develop talents under these difficult circumstances. This program allowed us to think about what kind of talent we have around the world, what their strengths are, and how they can apply their strengths to work and lead growth. This was another gain for us in terms of strengthening our organization.
We’d like to continue our efforts in this type of training. Coupled with many other initiatives, we can realize our goal of having the “right talent to the right position” on a global basis. This will make Honda stronger.
Ms.Kanno: Two future goals from me. The first is to strengthen and expand opportunities to foster the ability to think. Deep thinking is not intuitive, it must be learned. We would like to provide a place like GLP-D for more people to help develop the ability to think beyond the surface and have discussions with those who’ve completed our programs.
Second, we would like to use this program as an opportunity to work on building our internal network. Through GLP-D, we can now see what kind of talent we have around the world. The question is how to connect these talented people.
We would like to maintain and expand our networking, as well as try to provide opportunities for our top management team to get to know our younger leaders. We feel that there is a greater need to incorporate connections among leaders as a mechanism within our human resource development and training structure.
Ms. Ichihara: From the perspective of improving GLP-D, we would like to place more emphasis on the individual approach and feedback to each participant. We would like to discuss this with Mr. Nakashima and Ms. Aiste and make GLP-D even better.
GLOBIS Consultants’ Voices
To be honest, launching GLP-D was not an easy task. As you know, the automotive industry is at a once-in-a-century structural turning point. In this situation, how should we create the leadership talent that will create new growth for Honda?
Ms. Kanno, Mr. Teckchandani, and Ms. Ichihara’s sense of responsibility and seriousness were tremendous. They never compromised on details. At the same time, they always returned to the main goal of “Discovery,” checked the progress of the program, and were willing to make bold revisions when necessary. The participants, who participated from all over the world, were talented and eager to learn. Their energy made it easy to fulfill our responsibility as their partner.
I am very pleased that we were able to bring “discovery” to each and every one of the participants. At the same time, there were many “discoveries” for GLOBIS and myself. We were able to enhance our know-how to support the development of global leaders not only at Honda but also at many other companies, including program design in a diverse online environment, day-of-work management, perspectives to keep track of changes in participants, system operations, tool selection, and more.
However, there is still more work to be done. In other words, I have been able to see new directions of growth and challenges for GLOBIS and myself. I am truly grateful for the challenges and growth opportunities I have been given.
How will the participants act and what kind of changes will they create for Honda in 10 or 20 years from now? What kind of value will they create for society? How will the world have changed? When I imagine these things, I cannot help but feel excited.
Honda’s decision to launch a program targeting young people within the framework of its traditional selective management development program was a new initiative, and we learned a lot from the process. We have been greatly inspired by Honda’s constant pursuit of high quality, and we are honored to have been a part of the program.
GLOBIS is involved in the development of management leaders for many companies, but we are committed to the learning and growth of many employees, not just a limited number of people. In other words, the aim of our programs is not limited to the further growth of people who already have business skills and are achieving results in global practice. We are concerned with creating growth opportunities for as many employees as possible, without missing a single one.
This is a very important commitment in a program like GLP-D, where leaders from all over the world gather, and each participant is required to take on difficult challenges in a diverse environment. Honda’s future leaders are not labeled, but all work hard, learn, and grow together. When I see this kind of change, I can imagine that even after the program was over, each individual continued to grow and inspire those around them in their respective positions. I have great confidence in Honda’s bright future.