Nagase & Co., Ltd.
Conducting Online Management Training in Two Languages (English and Japanese) to Provide Equal Learning Opportunities on a Global Basis
Nagase & Co., Ltd. provides management-level training to its domestic and overseas national staff to think deeply about their visions and aspirations from a medium to long-term perspective.
To learn more about this project, we interviewed:
- Mr. Toshio Wakuda
- Mr. Yoshihiko Kanazawa
- Mr. Keisuke Maenohara
1. Background and Challenges
Mr. Maenohara: We recognized that while Nagase had strengths in building short-term goals, short-term tactics, and performance in specific areas, it had challenges in its ability to formulate medium to long-term visions and strategies.
We have been conducting management training for section managers for some time, although the main focus was on acquiring business knowledge. We recognized that there was a gap in the issues we were facing.
We decided to review the content of our training program and approached GLOBIS to design it. The section managers, those around 40 years of age, are the future management candidates of Nagase. So, we wanted to create a training program that emphasized the ability to create a vision, and to have commitment and aspirations from a big-picture view, in addition to advancing the business in front of them.
Mr. Maenohara: The goal was to think and produce output from the “perspective of two positions above,” the perspective of the division manager – which is two levels above the participants’ current position.
We decided to set goals from two positions above because if they would be from the president’s perspective, then it would lose a sense of reality, and if the position of the perspective would be set to just one position above, then it wouldn’t give participants enough motivation to push themselves.
Mr. Maenohara: In order to achieve this goal, the program was designed to focus on the ability to create a vision and exercise leadership. We asked our participants to create a medium to long-term vision with a time horizon of five years. We also set tasks for the participants to think about the business as a whole from a higher perspective and to demonstrate “leadership that involves others,” which is necessary to lead the business division.
2. Review & Implementation
Mr. Maenohara: There were two major concerns. One was whether the vision they created would end up being too vague and abstract, and the other was the time constraints of being able to devote only three days to the program. I was concerned about the extent to which we would be able to achieve our training objectives in such a short period of time.
Once the training began, the first concern was dispelled by the excellent guidance provided by the GLOBIS lecturer. For example, he pointed out that our participants needed to gather key facts and figures before the final presentation, which set expectations for all participants from the start. As a result, participants could achieve a high-quality output, and all of their visions were both realistic and highly focused.
The second limitation of the schedule was overcome by narrowing down the training theme. Focusing on mindset was the most effective way to implement this training program and the quality of the training did not deteriorate due to the short schedule.
GLOBIS did an outstanding job helping us build up the program through the PDCA cycle, even when there were concerns. The GLOBIS lecturer had a deep understanding of the Nagase Group’s overall business structure, and successive GLOBIS consultants have a wealth of experience in human resource development. We are constantly brushing up our training programs year by year while receiving ideas from them.
Mr. Kanazawa: We value the awareness that people are important assets, and we want to provide equal opportunities for our employees to learn, regardless of the region in which they work for the NAGASE Group.
In order to provide the same learning opportunities to our non-Japanese employees working around the world, our management training is conducted in both Japanese and English. These pieces of training conducted in English are called GMP (General Management Program). To date, about 200 employees have participated in the program, approximately 100 in Japanese and 100 in English. In addition to local employees, expatriates and head office employees who are fluent in English also participate in the GMP classes.
3. Results and Future Prospects
■Changes in Participants after the Program
Mr. Kanazawa: Over the past five years, a total of about 200 section managers, who are the backbone of the NAGASE Group, have taken the course. I feel that the corporate culture is gradually changing.
In fact, both the start of the current medium-term management plan with the theme of “transformation” and the timing when we started working with GLOBIS for management training was in 2016. I believe that GLOBIS has contributed greatly to the gradual change in our corporate culture over the five years since then.
Mr. Kanazawa: Most recently, the biggest priority is to not stop learning at the global level even in this post-pandemic time. It remains physically difficult to conduct both management training and GMP as in previous years. Therefore, this year we are using an online “distance learning” format.
I feel blessed to work with GLOBIS because they have high-quality tools to support distance learning. Moreover, they are able to provide both in-house group training and a business microlearning platform (GLOBIS Unlimited – unlimited video streaming) both in Japanese and English. This was very helpful for us during the COVID-19 situation, where we had to change plans within a short period of time. The ability to blend e-learning, online discussions, and group training in both Japanese and English is very much appreciated.
Mainly, GMP participants attend from various regions, such as the U.S., Germany, and China, so it is necessary to take time differences into consideration. Therefore, we have divided the GMP into two classes, one held in the morning (Japan time) and the other in the evening (Japan time). This means that participants in both classes can’t see each other for the time being, which can diminish the sense of unity.
For this reason, we hold an online kickoff session altogether and try to activate communication among participants through our internal tools (MS Teams/SharePoint) and GLOBIS’ own learning management system. Mr. Tadokoro (GLOBIS consultant) also attends the kickoff session so that participants can ask questions.
In the mid-to-long term, we would like to accelerate support for employees at the section manager level and above who participate in management training and GMP to form networks on a global basis.
Our business is not limited to any region. For example, Nagase is helping customers design their products in the U.S. and manufacture them in Asia. In order to speed up the discovery, nurturing, and expansion of such businesses, cross-regional management and networking are important. We expect that these training programs will also help expand new internal networks and increase business possibilities.
In the future, we would like to provide a place and support where management training and GMP graduates can decide what they want to discuss and learn, and implement it on a global level.
Now that we have an online option, people can participate from anywhere in the world if they are willing. The online option enables us to talk to people at startups in Silicon Valley. For the next stage, we are aiming to create a place where anyone who is motivated can learn on their own and can present their ideas.
Mr. Wakuda: The NAGASE Group’s goal is “to create a safe, secure, and warm society where people can live comfortably.” The continuous development and nurturing of innovative and global talent are one of the most important issues in our group’s management. In today’s rapidly changing business environment, the definition and weighting of terms such as innovation and globalization are constantly changing. Hence, we feel that the purpose of our human resource development must also change in step with, or rather ahead of the times.
In addition, the spread of telework due to the pandemic has eliminated commuting time and clearly increased the amount of time each individual spends on self-improvement. In fact, employees’ motivation to learn has increased. Conversely, I observe that since real communication has decreased, they feel that there are fewer opportunities for practice.
The knowledge and skills acquired through training and other off-JT programs are the so-called weapons of a businessperson. We expect them to gain their own insights, find points to learn more and increase their own value through the implementation of these skills and knowledge.
When these things are connected, they become the power of the team, the power of the group, and ultimately provide value to society. In order to realize this cycle, we would like to provide higher quality training opportunities as a matter of course, but we would also like to continuously update our functions to see if there is anything we can do to support growth after the training, rather than just providing training.
In these times, it is necessary to flexibly update the objectives and means of training in response to the times. In this regard, when we choose a partner for our human resource development, the know-how and infrastructure they have are very important factors. I look forward to continuing to take on challenges together with GLOBIS, our reliable partner.
GLOBIS Consultant’s Voice
Management Training (program in Japanese) and GMP (program in English) are initiatives aimed at enabling Nagase’s future leaders to network globally and promote business from the same perspective. I have taken over the baton from the previous consultant and am now working with Mr. Kanazawa on the detailed design of the program.
In the future, we would like to accompany the company in building a community of alumni (a group of program graduates and an alumni association). The contents of both Management training and GMP programs are very tough. At the same time, this toughness also helps participants develop a sense of closeness and emotional connection with each other. I look forward to continuing to help make alumni a reality on a global scale.