December 31, 2007


High-Quality 'Fun' Empowering Sustainability -- Impact (Japan) Ltd.

Keywords: Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.64 (December 2007)
Toward a Sustainable Japan--Corporations at Work Article Series No.67 Japanese)

The Impact Development Training Group was established in 1980, in the U.K.'s Lake District, well-known as the birthplace of Peter Rabbit. Initially, the Impact Group specialized in outdoor training programs targeting business people with the aim of encouraging trainees to have emotional experiences and develop new dreams. Today, the Group has grown into a network of general consulting firms that provide not only outdoor training but also classroom coaching, organizational development consulting and other programs at 16 regional offices in 14 countries, including Japan.

Impact Group's regional office in Japan, the predecessor to Impact (Japan) Ltd., was established in 1990 as a base for the Asian market. The office became a local subsidiary company in April 2004.

Impact Japan embraces Impact Group's mission of creating rewarding organizations and a better society, and aims to become one of the most the prominent companies in the Asia/Oceania region in the fields of team building, management development and change management for human resource and organizational development. The company strives to make positive changes in both people and organizations.

Impact Japan is proud of the fact that 85 percent of its clients come back and use its training programs again after their initial experience. The most notable feature of these training programs lies in letting the trainees realize the difference between what they know and what they can do.

Many human resource and organizational development programs put their emphasis on mere book knowledge and armchair understanding, but Impact Japan distinguishes itself by providing trainees with opportunities to put the knowledge they have acquired into practice in a natural setting.

Trainees become aware of the effect their behavior has on others when they put their knowledge into action. This naturally leads to behavior modification, which triggers attitude changes that eventually improve the status quo. Impact Japan trainees experience these linkages with all their senses, and more importantly, participating in these training programs always involves having fun. These are the most attractive features of Impact Japan's training programs.

Changing Needs in Human Resources Development

Many companies are likely to think that earning profits is the first prerequisite for survival, and that fostering human resources is a 'method' for increasing profits, for example by improving personnel evaluation systems, presentation methods and so on.

Some companies, however, have become aware that 'methods' by themselves cannot bring about the desired 'achievement' of higher profits. They have begun to shift their attention to educating the 'behavior' of those who implement the methods, as well as the more fundamental 'consciousness' that underlies behavior.

"Companies are places where employees invest a large portion of their limited lifetime. Companies can also become places where sales figures are overemphasized, overtime work is common, and customer satisfaction irrelevant to reality is pursued with the sole aim of increasing profit. Even if all employees are aware of these types of problems, it is not easy for them to stop or redirect the movement of the overarching mechanisms of companies or organizations. However, if employees share the awareness of such issues and change their own actions, we think they can achieve a shift in the direction of their companies," says Nobuhiro Ikeuchi, the sales and marketing director of Impact Japan.

Large companies with a long history, for example, may be bound by implicit preconditions and corporate-culture practices that no longer match modern society. Impact Japan perceives that the time has come for such companies to probe these issues and discuss them in order to pursue the themes of "how companies, organizations and leaders should be" and further, "how society and life should be."

The 'Community Action Learning' Program

What lies in the future - will we be happy if we continue to act the way we are acting now? As the range of training programs expands from work philosophies to life philosophies, Impact Japan's training approaches are also changing. Formerly, programs were usually designed for a single section of a company but they now address multiple sections, or are conducted so that participants have a chance to work with people in different fields, such as other companies' employees, members of non-governmental or non-profit organizations (NGOs or NPOs) or students. This latter type of training is called Community Action Learning (CAL).

In CAL programs, trainees receive the opportunity to make a social contribution while experiencing human resource development training. For example, participants in Impact Japan's leadership training take part in a campaign to clean up Mount Fuji, Japan's highest mountain, during one entire day of a four-day long program. Participants learn about how the natural environment at the foot of Mt. Fuji benefits humans and other living things and about the area's current environmental issues before they go to work cleaning up the mountainside.

In this program, participants work with the Fujisan Club, an environmental NPO whose members are experienced in the Mt. Fuji cleanup campaign. The CAL program helps trainees improve their leadership skills while giving participating companies an opportunity to contribute to society through their employees' activities.

Learning in the Community

Learning in the Community (LITC) is an in-house version of CAL. Let's take a look at the example of a one-month LITC program for supporting activities to combat HIV/AIDS in Zambia.

There are many organizations in Zambia working to combat HIV/AIDS; would it be more efficient if they could united in order to cooperate with each other? This was the proposition made by the Impact Development Training Group in an offer to train to Zambian NPOs and NGOs with a view to utilizing the training know-how it has developed in the course of its day-to-day work. The Impact Group considered this program as one of its own public social contribution activities.

The company set up a project team of members with different nationalities, as it also considered the project as a training opportunity for its own employees to learn how to work with people from diverse backgrounds, as well as to take part in hands-on activities in the project country by participating in building schools or organizing donations of goats to women to help them become financially independent.

"Zambian society, which I only knew about, and Japanese society, in which I live, are actually moving in parallel on the same planet. This fact has never left my mind even after I returned to Japan," says Hirokuni Yoshimura, a program development manager at Impact Japan.

The Zambia training program was a special event to mark the 25th anniversary of Impact Development Training Group. During an annual three-day volunteer activity assigned to everyone by the company, employees were required to offer feedback about their learning experience in the Zambia program. In addition to giving feedback about his learning experience to his colleagues, Yoshimura shared what he gained from the experience with the next generation by talking about it at his child's school. The point is that the company considers volunteer activity as a part of its work.

"Volunteer activity should not be just something we as individuals participate in on our days off in response to our own value system or which we as a company should take part in only while we are enjoying good profits. Impact feels it should be something that will improve our value in the long run and believe that our employees' proactive participation is important for increasing our organization's strength. In that sense, we can say that our definition of 'work' is changing," says Ikeuchi.

As an Expert in Human Resource and Organizational Development, Impact Focuses More on People

Against this background, about five years ago, Impact group chose 'sustainable' as a key word for its global operations. The Group applies the word 'sustainable' not only to the natural environment, but also to other types of environments. Accordingly, it has initiated various activities aimed at making the company an admirable model for sustainable enterprise.

'People, the Planet and Profit' make up the triple bottom line of Impact Group. Of the three, Impact Japan believes that calculating the primary bottom line involves taking a close look at people.

"In a broad sense, our environment is made up of nature, society and industry. If our current environment is a product of people's consciousness and behavior, it should also be subject to change as a result of changes in people's consciousness and behavior. What we can do is to create opportunities for people to change their behavior on the basis of a conviction that we can make the world better. In the course of a program, sometimes friends come into conflict and suffer because of it. But, after overcoming all sorts of troubles and difficulties while retaining their conviction, people can discover the pleasure of being and walking together with others as well as the profound joy of being themselves. I think such deep joy, which is different from momentary pleasure, is really the source and power of sustainability," says Yoshimura.

Impact Group will soon be announcing a group-wide sustainability policy drawn up on the basis of an agreement reached by its global branches after a series of discussions. By focusing more on people, Impact Japan as an expert in human resource and organizational development hopes to bring a sustainable society closer to reality by working on training programs, event projects and consultant services.

(Written by Reiko Aomame)