Asahi Kasei Corporation:
Building a learning platform to support employees’ autonomous growth and career development
Asahi Kasei started out in the synthetic chemical and fiber business and has continued to respond to the today’s needs by proactively transforming its business portfolio. The company, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2022, is now deploying a company-wide learning platform to enable their people’s growth while also tracking learning according to their individual work duties and aspirations.
Asahi Kasei built this platform, named CLAP (Co-Learning Adventure Place), with Cornerstone Learning. With its flexible linkage to external learning content and user recommendation functions, CLAP is gradually creating a circle of learning within the company. It is now being used for new employee training, and the company is about to begin developing courses that combine internal and external learning content.
Promoting a new human resource strategy for the next hundred years
Asahi Kasei is one of Japan's leading integrated chemical manufacturers, developing its business in three primary domains: materials, housing, and healthcare. Founded in 1922, the company has grown by constantly transforming its business portfolio while boldly taking on social issues that change with the times.
With the business environment changing substantially in the century since its founding, the company has formulated a medium-term management plan for 2024, focused on remaining true to their trailblazing nature for the next hundred years.
The company has identified "GDP (Green, Digital, and People) Transformation" as a key theme for strengthening its managerial foundation. Among these, Yuji Miki, manager of the company’s human resources and organizational development office explains that the company is focusing on various human resource policies as part of their workforce transformation.
"In order to adapt to changes and stay ahead of the curve amid the ever-changing demands of society,” he says, “we need to maintain the corporate culture of freedom and open-mindedness that we’ve cultivated throughout our 100-year history. The same goes for our group values of integrity, challenge, creativity and lifetime growth that allow for each and every employee to continue to develop, as well as the "co-creativity" that leverages the diversity of the group. It is important to bring out the strengths of individuals and teams from these two perspectives and link them to results."
Implementing a learning platform employees can use to learn freely
One of these measures for lifetime growth is the development of a common learning platform for the entire company, which was launched in December 2021.
"Thus far, training has been conducted uniformly for each position,” Miki explains. “However, with the recent diversification of career awareness, there is a growing need to acquire the practical expertise required by each business and job category. So we decided to provide on-demand learning opportunities that work for diverse job descriptions to meet the needs and preferences of individual employees."
Asahi Kasei was already using a learning management system (LMS) from a domestic vendor. However, "the existing LMS was only for internal learning content and did not meet our requirements for a learning platform that we were aiming to create," recalls Satoshi Kiriyama, deputy manager of the advanced IT search group.
"We wanted to make ‘learning and growth is fun’ the norm for Asahi Kasei and have been working towards it.,” he continues. “ In order to achieve this, we thought we needed to fulfill five requirements.”
Those requirements were:
- API integration with a variety of learning content provided outside the company, including business development courses, general education offerings, and other digital content
- Learning management functions that allow employees to monitor their own learning status and performance
- Communication functions that allow their people to comment on the learning progress of other team members and share recommended content
- Customization functions to create their unique user interfaces (UI) and user experiences (UX) to motivate their people to learn
- Multilingual support and support for overseas offices, which are essential when expanding globally
Making the most of Cornerstone’s UI and ecosystem
After comparing major domestic and overseas learning solutions, Asahi Kasei selected Cornerstone Learning.
"It actively incorporates advanced functions, such as being the only one that supports integration with Schoo, which we had hoped to use for external content,” Kiriyama explains. “The product philosophy, which emphasizes such external collaboration and communication functions, also matched our ideas. And It’s got an intuitive, easy-touse UI that’s highly customizable."
After tweaking the platform to meet their names, they named it CLAP (Co-Learning Adventure Place).
"We wanted it to refer to learning together with colleagues and applauding each other's adventures for further growth,” says Miki.
In mid-December 2022, they began internal deployment of CLAP in collaboration with Schoo for their external content.
Increasing employee learning to the nth degree
Asahi Kasei started using CLAP for around 20,000 employees in Japan, and they plan to expand the program in stages soon. The penetration of CLAP has progressed rapidly as a result of the company's efforts to promote it, including devising a UI and UX to increase motivation to learn, issuing a monthly newsletter, and presenting related content in follow-ups to existing training programs.
In the first three and a half months, the log-in rate for CLAP reached 81%, and the registration rate for Schoo reached 43.3%.
"We have seen a good initial response, with 84.3% of users having completed at least one offering on CLAP,” says Miki.
Kiriyama, who is now a CLAP user himself, says that his motivation to learn has greatly increased.
"I'm glad that the company provides an environment where I can learn as much as I want,” he says. “I use CLAP to study during my commute and in my spare time, and if there is a topic that interests me, I search for related content on CLAP, so I can learn quickly and systematically. The recommendation function has also helped me to broaden my horizons, as it has opened my eyes to worlds I didn't even know existed.”
Miki reveals that, beyond individual learning, voluntary learning circles have begun to expand within each organization, exceeding expectations.
"At one group company, people have spontaneously begun to introduce learning themes of interest to each other,” he relates. “There have been several similar activities, and it seems that the concepts we incorporated into CLAP have been accepted more widely than we had expected.”
Utilizing CLAP for new employee training and in-house skill certification
Since April 2023, training for new employees has also been conducted on CLAP. Instead of a uniform training program for new employees, it has become possible to select training content according to each employee’s aspirations.
"New employees are asked to select the training course that best suits their aspirations and learn through CLAP,” Miki says. “In addition, we are holding weekly mutual learning workshops for each course. We have started to conduct these activities in two sessions, from June to September and from November to February of the following year, so that employees can continue to learn from each other.”
Furthermore, while external content is used for wider learning, Asahi Kasei’s proprietary specialized knowledge is learned through internal content. Preparations are in progress to enhance internal content and offer training courses in CLAP that address the various skills required for work, combining both internal and external learning content in the future.
"We are also considering using Cornerstone's badge function to award certification badges to those who complete each course for use in talent management," said Mr. Miki, who is also hoping to use Cornerstone's competency function in the future.
"One of the Group companies has defined the key skills required for strategic development, and the competency function will allow us to link these skills to the training courses on CLAP,” he continues. “It will enable us to link business strategy and human capital development content in a neat way. There are many challenges to be overcome, but we would like to take on the challenge of CLAP with this ideal in mind.”
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