Dialogue on Corporate Culture

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Improving the Group’s corporate culture to unite all employees to help build a better world and healthier environment with foresight, curiosity, and a spirit of challenge

Miyuki Ishihara
Representative Director,
President

Kazutaka Saito
General Manager of Business and Culture
Engagement Department

Renewing the Group’s philosophy and fostering a new corporate culture

Ishihara:
If I recall correctly, it was in February of 2019 when you came to my office and suggested that we renew our corporate philosophy.
Saito:
That’s right. Even though the UACJ Group and its forerunners have many achievements and a long history of supplying products that are essential for society, I felt that employees were not really gaining confidence from that fact. I made my proposal because I thought the Group needed an unwavering mission in order to fully realize its strengths.
Ishihara:
At that time, more than five years had passed since the Company was established through the merger, and we had been adding new members to the Group with the establishment of UACJ (Thailand), acquisition of UACJ Automotive Whitehall Industries, and expansion of Tri-Arrows Aluminum’s operations. I wanted our employees to be able to describe what we do with confidence when asked about the business we do. For that reason, I also believed that we needed to redefine the Group’s purpose and renew our corporate philosophy.
Saito:
I had planned to proceed with this project at a slower pace, but I started on it immediately after you got behind it because we believed that renewing the philosophy and changing the Group’s corporate culture would be important for accomplishing the structural reforms that were initiated a little later on.
Ishihara:
Exactly. Whether we aim to increase earnings capacity or reform the financial structure, the reforms are entirely carried out by our people, so to achieve the objectives of the reforms, we needed to change the mindset of our people. For this reason, we specified corporate culture as one of the six main components of the structural reforms, and took steps to educate employees about the renewed philosophy and promote the UACJ Way as a set of basic guidelines for everyone to follow.

Gaining feedback from the Group’s members around the world and reflecting their ideas in the philosophy

Saito:
The first thing I did was meet with employees at workplaces throughout the Group to hear their opinions.
Ishihara:
I thought it would be difficult for you to travel around the world in such a short period of time, but gaining their feedback about the Group and its aluminum product manufacturing was a really important process for getting everyone involved in the creation of a new philosophy.
Saito:
We interviewed a total of 105 people, 70 in Japan and 35 overseas, and asked what makes UACJ unique and what are its strengths. Many participants shared their ideas enthusiastically, and meetings scheduled for an hour would often extend to one and a half or two hours. I really enjoyed listening to so many interesting ideas. In addition to these interviews, we sent questionnaires to over 400 people and held discussions with officers, including some who worked at Furukawa-Sky Aluminum and Sumitomo Light Metal before they merged to form UACJ. By analyzing all of this information, we identified common patterns and themes underlying everyone’s ideas, but it was very challenging to express this concretely and succinctly.
Ishihara:
I suggested the image of a compass for the UACJ Way to symbolize that it can give direction to employees whenever they need it. This idea was captured perfectly in the design. I also think that conveying the values of the UACJ Way with the expressions “embrace foresight” and “be curious and challenging” was excellent, because some people had pointed out that the Company was lacking in these respects in the past. These values are absolutely essential for realizing our philosophy, so we cannot make progress unless all members of the Group, including me, putting them into practice.

Promoting and practicing the philosophy through ongoing dialogue with employees

Saito:
After announcing the new corporate philosophy in February 2020, we focused hard on making all members of the Group aware of it through a variety of means. For example, we created promotional posters, had you give a video message, and from April of that year, we began holding meetings to explain the philosophy.
Ishihara:
I would have preferred to hold those meetings at workplaces, but because the spread of COVID-19 had started around that time, the meetings had to be held online. They were held in groups of 20 or 30 participants at first, but since discussions were difficult with so many people, we eventually made the groups smaller to facilitate more in-depth discussions.
Saito:
We began holding the meetings onsite again once the pandemic waned. To date, over 100 online and onsite meetings combined have been held over a period of three years. The 100th meeting was recently held in Germany.
Ishihara:
A positive aspect about these meetings is that they do not just initiate dialogue during the discussions, but also facilitate communication within the Group and between its divisions.
Saito:
Yes, there are people working in the same company who have practically no opportunities to talk with each other. Discussions about the philosophy in the meetings create opportunities for employees to discover what their colleagues think and what opinions they hold in common.
Ishihara:
During the meetings, I always make a point of asking the participants who benefits from their work, and how their company is beneficial for society. Answering these questions will come naturally if all members of the Group try to understand each other through the shared concepts of our corporate philosophy and the guidelines of the UACJ Way.
Saito:
Indeed, “respect and understand your associates” is stated in the UACJ Way. We are still in the process of changing our corporate culture, but we are making steady progress. For example, the results of our employee engagement surveys show that a much higher number of respondents identify with the philosophy and vision of management compared with the time before the philosophy was renewed.
Ishihara:
One thing that has changed in meetings inside the Company is that participants demonstrate an awareness of the philosophy and UACJ Way during discussions.
Saito:
Since we set up our in-house venture system in fiscal 2021, numerous new business plans proposed by young employees have already been launched. This shows how our values of embracing foresight, being curious, and taking on challenges are taking root in the Company.
Ishihara:
I believe that by raising awareness of our philosophy and values among employees, we are fostering a corporate culture in which all members feel safe to freely express what they think and want to do.
Saito:
In the same way a farmer can grow good crops on fertile soil, a company with a positive corporate culture can attract outstanding talent and provide superior products and services. Even fertile soil, however, will become wasteland if left untended. With that in mind, the Business and Culture Engagement Department will continue making improvements in an effort to cultivate our corporate culture for the better.
Ishihara:
The department’s efforts so far have demonstrated how all of its members share the same commitment. I look forward to working together with everyone to continue making progress in the years ahead.