"Best Working Environment Award 2021"

Columbia Sportswear Japan, Inc

Doctor Trust’s stress check service calculates the “TRUSTY SCORE” (workplace environment indicator), a unique index that quantifies the workplace atmosphere based on the results of group analysis, and awards the top-ranking corporations as Best Working Environment Award.
We interviewed Ms. Kazue Satake (Director, Human Resources Division), Mr. Katsuhiko Makino (Director, Marketing Department), and Ms. Rima Mitsunaga (Finance & Administration Division,General Affairs Section) of Columbia Sportswear Japan, which was awarded the “Best Working Environment Award 2021” (in the category of 501 to 1,000 respondents) regarding our stress check service in 2021, about their unique corporate culture and communication measures.

How is the corporate culture and atmosphere of Columbia Sportswear Japan?

Mr. Makino:Columbia Sportswear Japan was established 25 years ago in 1997 as a Japanese subsidiary of Columbia Sportswear Company in the United States. Starting with less than 10 members, the company has continued to expand and currently, there are about 160 staff at the head office and about 600 staff at stores. Although we have been hiring new graduates for the past six years, we have basically been hiring mid-career employees since our establishment. Since the company was originally established as a mountaineering manufacturer, some of our employees came from the outdoor field, but we also have people from the fashion field and people from completely different industries, creating a well-balanced culture as a whole.

Adding depth to the culture of the company, when people from different backgrounds come together!

Mr. Makino:The outdoors is a scene of fun and relaxation. Since we are in the business of providing outdoor wear and camping gear for such occasions, I feel that we have a cheerful atmosphere as the mindset of the provider. In my opinion, most of our employees, including myself, wear our own outdoor wear during work hours. I think it is comfortable to wear these clothes to work, because they emphasize functionality in terms of comfort and ease of movement. Of course, there is stress in working, but on the other hand, employees may be able to work with less stress from being “hot” or “cold” due to clothing.

Mr. Katsuhiko Makino (General Manager, Marketing Department)

I’m a little, no, a lot jealous of … since “office clothes” aren’t always comfortable!
Columbia Sportswear Japan is developing stores throughout Japan. Under these circumstances, what are you doing in terms of mental health and communication?

Ms. Satake:As part of our overall health measures, including mental health, we introduced the Employee Assistance Program for store employees in August. If they have any concerns about their health, they can easily consult with a public health nurse via chat, and in serious cases, they are connected to an industrial physician or the human resources department. With 133 branches nationwide, we support our employees in the form of these health management systems.

It’s important to have a system that connects people with problems and ailments to industrial physicians and the human resources department!

Ms. Satake::In addition, once a quarter, a “communication meeting” is held where the president explains the status of the company to employees. In this meeting, at the beginning of the term, sales and profit targets are announced. During the quarter, we also reveal the status of progress, including an analysis of what is affecting sales. This meeting is a communication measure in that the goals of management and employees are linked and the state of the company is shared with employees.

Sharing progress and goals will improve trust between management and employees, and knowing where they are headed will reduce stress in the workplace.

Mr. Makino:Although we have not been able to hold this event since the Corona Disaster, there is an “activity” once a year, which is a barbecue and mountain climbing event attended by a total of 200 head office staff and manager-level staff. For example, in the case of climbing Mt. Takao, we spread out over several routes, met at the summit, and held a party in a beer garden on the way down. However, mountain climbing is easily affected by the weather on the day of the event. When we were unable to hold the event for two consecutive years due to a typhoon, we decided to hold a sports day in the gym in the hope that we would be able to hold an activity this year. There was even an obstacle race using outdoor equipment, in which participants had to wear snow boots with thick soles and run with backpacks filled with weights on their backs (laughs).

Even if it is an authentic sports event, it is unique to your company to bring in outdoor colors.

Ms. Satake:Another unique initiative is our annual “Speak Up Survey”,which is similar to an employee engagement survey. In this survey, employees answer 24 questions related to diversity and inclusion that good ideas are adopted regardless of where they come from or who proposed them, as for questions like, “Is the direction clear?” or “Is management support adequate?” or “Do the benefits meet my needs?” This survey is a no-name method, so individuals cannot be identified, but results can be analyzed from various axes, such as length of service and age. In addition, since this is a globally deployed measure, comparative analysis on a global level and analysis over time are also possible.Each department head is asked to create an action plan for enhancement and improvement based on these results, and furthermore, we use this process to solicit ideas for implementing the action plan from the members of the department.

Ms. Kazue Satake (General Manager, Human Resources Division)

Ms. Satake’s story made me feel that the “Speak Up Survey” is quite similar to the stress check system.

Ms. Satake:You are correct. However, the “Speak Up Survey” is conducted around June, and the stress check around October or November. Also, since there is a difference in the content of the questions, we are making good use of both surveys.

You have been using our stress check service for several years. Can you tell us how you came to use our services?

Ms. Mitsunaga:Before we requested Dr. Trust’s stress check service, we were using another company’s service, but it was paper-based and we were facing issues such as a slightly high unit price and sluggish response rate. Since the stress check system is obligatory for workplaces with 50 or more employees, stores are not subject to the system. However, although we had sent a survey to store staff to gather the opinions of all employees, the response rate was not good. One of the deciding factors was a recommendation from a mid-career employee who said, “I used Dr. Trust’s stress check service at my previous job,” so we requested a quote and received a reasonable price.

Thank you! After the examination method has been changed from paper to web, how are the results?

Ms. Mitsunaga:Paper surveys were printed on both sides of the paper, so there were often cases where respondents did not notice the questions on the reverse side and answered only one side, resulting in invalid responses. With the web-based survey, there were no omissions, so the response rate increased. In addition, as a person involved in stress checks, the switch to the web-based survey has greatly reduced the burden and time required for sending out questionnaires and compiling the results after the checks have been taken. From the viewpoint of the examinees, we appreciate the fact that the results of the stress check can be obtained immediately after the check is taken

Ms. Rima Mitsunaga (General Affairs Section, Human Resources Division)

In the “Speak Up Survey,” you create an action plan based on the results. How do you make use of the results of the stress check group analysis?

Ms. Satake:The results of the group analysis of stress checks are shared with department managers, focusing on areas of concern. The decision to introduce an employee support program for store employees, which I mentioned earlier, was also based on the results of the group analysis. We are now shifting from an era of working long hours to achieve results to an era of “enhancing workplace wellbeing”. The Human Resources Department will focus on creating a work environment in which employees can work in their own way while actively utilizing the results of the group analysis.

“Being yourself” is also likely to lead to “choice” for each individual.

Ms. Satake:I myself was originally in a different industry, but I again feel that our employees are free, or rather, have many choices.To give you an example, we sponsor the Fuji Rock Festival held every August, and one of our marketing team members submitted a business trip application that said, “Lodging: 0. I was worried that he might be staying in his car. I was concerned, but he replied, “I will stay in a tent with a sleeping bag! I will cook my own meals, so I don’t need to stay overnight!” At that time, I was deeply impressed by the fact that I was working with such a group of employees.

Mr. Makino:The year I went to Fuji Rock Festival for work myself, I kept thinking about the arrangements while riding my bicycle from my house to the nearest station. I felt a certain amount of pressure because it was my job, but I was impressed when the manager of the bicycle parking lot said to me, “You’re going camping! That’s nice.” In my head I am thinking about work, but on the outside I look like a person who is completely outdoors and out to have fun. That fact made me feel happy.

Ms. Satake:I think our strength is that we can work with the feeling of “I love what I do every day. I would like to continue to focus on creating an environment that is easy to work in, by listening to and being close to our employees so that they feel that their work is rewarding.

Columbia Sportswear Japan, Inc.
The Japanese subsidiary of Columbia Sportswear Company, founded in 1938 in the United States, was established in June 1997.
The company provide an extensive product lineup including outerwear, sportswear, footwear, backpacks, and accessories to people who enjoy outdoor lifestyle in Japan.
Official website:https://www.columbiasports.co.jp/shop/default.aspx