Arkema was formed in 2005, following the reorganization of Total Chemicals, one of the world’s largest players in the chemical industry. Fast-forward 10 years and thanks to successful innovations, targeted acquisitions, and investments in emerging countries, we are the leading chemical producer in France and recognized as a world player in the field of specialty chemicals. We have 19,000 employees based in 50 countries, with 137 industrial plants and 13 research centers. But, despite all of this success, our company had been facing an internal struggle. The very acquisitions and mergers that helped us grow into an industry leader led to a significant challenge: creating a single corporate culture and identity, centered on safety, that resonated with our people located all over the world.
As a chemical company, safety must always be a priority. But as people joined us via mergers and acquisitions, they often brought along their previous company’s views on safety protocols and procedures. This was simply not effective. We needed one point of view, one strategy that transcended all continents, cultures, and language barriers. We need to shift ownership of safety from just our leaders and managers to everyone in the organization. Without it, we would never achieve a position as one of the best-performing companies in the chemical industry in terms of safety performance. But how?
I realized we needed help. Based on my previous experience with Root, I knew how effective their unique methodologies could be. I arranged for Root to present to our executive team and everyone quickly became intrigued by Root’s unique hands-on and visual approach. We agreed that Root should be the partner to help us unite all of our employees and engage them in the company mission to be an industry leader in safety.
We kicked things off with a two-day meeting at our headquarters in Colombes, France. A small group of Arkema representatives from offices in Asia, the U.S., and Europe teamed up with Raphaele Grivel (our training coordinator from the corporate HR group), myself, and Root to develop messaging and content for our very own Arkema Strategic Learning Map® module – “Arkema Safety Academy: Our Safety Culture.” Our executives believed the steering team must be as diverse as the organization itself; we needed all employees’ cultures and perspectives represented in the final materials. And we knew we had to position this initiative as an inclusive effort from the start in order to establish support for the long term and to ensure it would stick globally.
Once we had our Learning Map® module ready, the steering team facilitated a total of four pilot sessions – two in France and two in the U.S. We couldn’t have been more pleased with the feedback. Several participants felt so passionate about the session, and the impact that it was sure to have on the rest of the organization, they requested to be part of the train-the-trainer process.
We then worked with Root to modify the materials based on the pilot program and began train-the-trainer sessions during which 70 of our employees from nine countries learned how to lead their peers through the experience. Then Raphaele began overseeing the full deployment – with the goal of training 14,000 people in 40 different countries and 10 different languages in a 12-month time period.
Our employees participated in two-hour training sessions, broken into small, mixed-level groups of 8 to 10 people. With a focus on interaction, facilitators helped participants initiate dialogue and learn from each other, while discussing the company’s focus on creating a safety-focused culture. The Learning Map® visual created for the session also educated our people on the company’s evolution, showed them the tools and best practices we have available, and illuminated the behaviors that would help (or hinder) our organization’s progress toward becoming one of the best – and safest – in the industry.
By participating in these interactive trainings, we saw a new sense of trust grow among our people. Thanks to the intimate group setting, people had the unique opportunity to get to know each other and discover each other’s strengths. They now realize they can count on their peers for knowledge, insight, and ideas. The Learning Map® experience truly changed us – it unified our people and became the foundation for our culture.
“Arkema Safety Academy: Our Safety Culture” has been successfully implemented in North America, Europe, and Asia – reaching thousands of people in 10 languages and 40 countries. What’s more, due to high interest and demand for the experience, an additional 280 employees – for a grand total of 350 – have been taught how to lead their peers through the course.
The impact of the Learning Map® experience has been huge. It’s united us. It’s created a common thread that everyone relates to and feel connected to – regardless of where they are based, what language they speak, or what company they may have previously worked with. One of the most exciting things is that we haven’t received one piece of negative feedback! As soon as a training begins, people realize it’s different. They get involved and walk away excited about the new knowledge and resources they have.
In the future we hope to use the map session as a core onboarding tool – with the goal of training the 5,000 new employees who joined the company via the Bostik acquisition in early 2015.
I’ve seen the power of the Learning Map® experience extend beyond the trainings. When you visit various offices around the world, you’ll see the visual displayed with pride. It serves as a quick reminder that we are all part of the same story.
Paul Leonard is Vice President for Health, Safety and Environment at Arkema, which has 137 plants, 13 R&D centers, and 19,000 employees in 50 countries. He has spent over 30 years in the chemicals industry in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. With a proven track record, a passion for people development, and a contagious enthusiasm for improving safety performance, his current mission is to develop a global team at Arkema to help people prevent unplanned events and prove that, as far as accidents are concerned, Zero Is Possible.