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HOME > Kobe Steel, Ltd. | Japan

Kobe Steel, Ltd. | Japan

  • About the company

    Kobe Steel originated as a part of Suzuki Shoten, one of the largest Japanese trading companies in the early 1900s along with Mitsubishi, whose steel division separated in 1911 and became the entity it is today. In its 100-year history, Kobe Steel has honed its craft and become a predominant presence in steel, machinery, and electricity; a unique strategy among competitors who usually specialize in only one of the three.

  • Our goals

    1. Create a brand identity that can be communicated by all employees.

    Kobe Steel is a company that grew organically by answering to the needs of customers. While it originally specialized in steel, the company later expanded into machinery and electricity, as they were the needs of clients at the time. This characteristic, while unique to Kobe Steel, often left members of the company asking why these three divisions were still a part of the same company, and unable to communicate the identity of Kobe Steel as a whole.

    2. Use the brand identity to recruit employees who appreciate the company and culture.

    After establishing the brand identity, it needed to be disseminated so that all those entering the company recognized the unique strengths and culture of the company, and chose the company because of that.

  • Our solution

    While creating a unique identity was an important aspect of external branding, we felt that it was even more essential that Kobe Steel’s employees felt a sense of pride in their company and work. This is why we decided upon a process in which all 39,000 employees take part in the creation of Kobe Steel’s corporate identity and take ownership over it, rather than adopting an approach in which management decides upon the identity.

1. Create a rough sketch of Kobe Steel’s “why” through discussions with management and employees.

2. Gather insight and feedback from all 39,000 global employees and finalize the identity.

3. Communicate the new identity to employees and potential recruits.

1. Create a rough sketch of Kobe Steel’s “why” through discussions with management and employees.

In addition to speaking to the CEO and management, we gathered 12 members of the company who were in line to become leaders within the company, and created a prototype of the “mission” and “vision” as a part of Kobe Steel’s identity. The purpose was to build a hypothesis of what the identity was going to be before gathering information from all employees.

2. Gather insight and feedback from all 39,000 global employees and finalize the identity.

Over the course of 3 months, we held workshops, each with 30 to 50 department directors, and asked for their insight on what they thought was special about Kobe Steel, and the value the company has to offer its clients and to society. We also received feedback on the prototypical “mission” and “vision” created earlier in the process.

These workshops were held not only in Japan, but in the United States, China, Thailand, and Singapore, as we wanted all global employees to take part in the creation process. While there were varying opinions on Kobe Steel and the new identity, an opportunity to take ownership over the process allowed for the all employees of Kobe Steel to come together as one, no matter their geographic location.

After the feedback was gathered from department directors, each of them held the same workshop with their own employees, and gathered their insight and feedback. The following was the worksheet used to communicate with each employee.

Finally, the information gathered was used as the foundation to revise the prototypical identity created at the beginning of the process. Below is the final output of Kobe Steel’s identity.

Behind each of Kobe Steel’s multifarious endeavors is the uniqueness and skills of its employees, and each of these strengths come together to create better solutions for society. Kobe Steel is ultimately supporting the vast infrastructure of the entire world – by continuing to carry out this mission, all individuals can better fulfill their hopes and dreams, while feeling safe and secure in their environment.

The new identity was announced both internally and externally on May 11th 2020.

3. Communicate the new identity to employees and potential recruits.

The new corporate identity has been used to shape messaging for potential recruits, as they will play essential roles envisioning and building the future of the company. The recruiting website and booklet allow for future employees to examine the shared values of Kobe Steel’s employees, and whether they want to take part in the work and culture as well.

*The material is currently in use in Japan only.

Kobe Steel’s new recruiting website outlines the values of the company, based on interviews with employees.

The recruitment pamphlet shares the stories of 13 employees and what has made their experiences at Kobe Steel special. This pamphlet can also be used in workshops with new employees by recruiters.