Interview with “OneNews”, a web news media: What is “creating an environment where employees want to work” at a company that is loved by its employees?

This article was originally published in OneNews (2/28/2023), a concept-based curated media outlet that provides entertainment and lifestyle information from KADOKAWA’s popular media, and is reprinted here with permission.
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Leading avatar application company introduces new measures for work style. What is “creating an environment where employees want to work” at a company that is loved by its employees?

Cocone Corporation, creator of popular apps “Pokecolo”. The leading avatar application company introduced “cocone my time / my day”, a system that allows employees to spend Wednesdays freely for their families and themselves, in January, marking a new direction in the way they work. We interviewed Mr. Shigeyuki Kashiwakuma, Executive Officer, about the appeal of Cocone Corporation and the secret of “creating an environment where employees want to work” that balances corporate growth and the work environment.

Interview with "OneNews", a web news media: What is "creating an environment where employees want to work" at a company that is loved by its employees?
Shigeyuki Kashiwakuma, Executive Officer, Cocone Corporation

Progress and Business Development as a Leading Avatar Application Company

– First of all, please tell us about your company, including how far you have come.

[Shigeyuki Kashiwakuma]: Cocone is a company that has been in business for 15 years this year. The company was founded by the founding chairman, who had launched a major IT company, with the idea that “if I were to create a company next, I would want to create a better company”. We started out with a web service for English language learning. At first, there were some situations where it was difficult to achieve high profitability, but the learning content using avatars was so popular that we developed our own definition of CCP (Character Coordinating Play) using those avatars, and we have grown by releasing 15 titles, including an 11-year-long title called “Pokecolo”.

– What kind of business are you engaged in?

[Shigeyuki Kashiwakuma]: There are 1 million types of digital items for avatar services that have, and 16 billion items in circulation. While obtaining items in games often changes parameters, such as making a character stronger, our items do not have such a function. We have been working to enhance the appearance and collectability of digital clothing, room coordination items, and so on. The image is to create another self in the digital space of the metaverse. Nowadays, new concepts and values such as Web3 and NFT are emerging, but we are proud to say that we have been doing this for a long time through our CCP service.

At Cocone Corporation, we have been working with three themes for this year “Keep Your Eyes Up High” , “Be Professional” and “Let’s Do Inspiring Work”.

– What do you value in your work?

[Shigeyuki Kashiwakuma]: Each year we have three themes.This year’s three themes are “Keep Your Eyes Up High” , “Be Professional” and “Let’s Do Inspiring Work”. This is a theme that we all keep in mind, regardless of the type of job. We believe it is important to always strive to double or triple our growth. For example, let’s say you have a goal of tripling the DAU (daily active users) of your current service. It is quite a difficult task, and I don’t think it will be easy to accomplish. However, if you keep your eyes on the prize, even if it doesn’t double in a year, you may look back one day two years later and see that it has tripled. So, it means never lowering your eyes and keeping your goals high. And that each of us should feel professional in our work. “How can we impress our customers?” If you work with this in mind, you will surely be able to double or triple your growth. That is what I am telling my employees now.

A new way of working, “cocone my time / my day”, has started.

– What was the content and purpose of the “cocone my time / my day” program that started in January of this year?

[Shigeyuki Kashiwakuma]: The “cocone my time / my day” program is based on a system originally adopted by a group company in South Korea. The company asked, “Why don’t you work 2 days and take 5 days off?” This was the basis for the system. It is not that they just want to take time off, but the assumption is that if they do it creatively and efficiently, they can do it well enough. As an overview of the initiative, we have decided that Wednesdays of the week that do not have national holidays are positioned as free time for the entire day, which we can use as our own free time. This is not a holiday, but rather a day that is regarded as a day of work. This is another initiative created from the background of wanting to build a good company. We have always had the idea of giving back to our employees four things: “compensation” , “satisfaction” , “health” and “time”. This policy focuses on “time. Employees work about four days a week and have “compensation” , “healthy” and “satisfaction” jobs. Everyone may have their own definition of a good company, but we believe that at least no one should feel bad about receiving it.

– Is there anything you are trying to do to ensure that employees use “cocone my time / my day”?

[Shigeyuki Kashiwakuma]: There are still many issues to be addressed, but I think it is important to create a culture of “cocone my time / my day” and a good way to deal with it and create a good atmosphere. If this system is simply defined as a “vacation”, it will be misinterpreted as the original intent of the system. If it is understood that way, Wednesdays will no longer be counted as working days when the business or the company is at its peak. When we started this system, we were careful to spread awareness of the importance of this. Of course, we must continue to make this known.

– It’s not a holiday, it’s just positioned as free time.

we can use our time freely, but we must not lose the strength to work together as a team when the game is on. If the way we approach and understand the system for new employees becomes something like “three days off a week”, they will use the system in a way that is different from what we want. We are trying to devise ways to ensure that this does not happen.

Mr. Kashiwakuma says it is important to spread the meaning of “cocone my time / my day” to each and every employee.

– It’s been a short time since you started, but how have your employees responded?

[Shigeyuki Kashiwakuma]: Employees can use the time to focus or to spend time with their families. They can also use it for personal matters that would normally require them to take a half day off to go to the hospital, They can also use the time to improve their skills, such as studying. Although we have only just started, we have generally received positive feedback about this increased free time. However, there are also various opinions and concerns.

– Do you have any examples of ideal usage that have been positive for you since you started?

[Shigeyuki Kashiwakuma]: Actually, about six months prior to the start of this program, we had introduced a trial policy of free use of not one day but half a day, i.e., Wednesday afternoons were considered as working. In January, we started a full-fledged expansion of that policy, which is how we got to this point. There have been a lot of different voices to include from that point on, but many people say that it is great to have a day when they can concentrate on their work. Since we basically didn’t include meetings on those days, we were able to create time to focus on our individual work. I think that kind of usage was good, and it was also good in the sense that it satisfied and refreshed them as family time or free time. Also, it seems to have made it easier to have horizontal connections between departments. Since Cocone has become a large company, it is difficult for us to cooperate with each other. and it was difficult to coordinate with each other. We hold study sessions and events for designers from different divisions on Wednesdays to enhance the sense of unity. However, it has become easier to include company events, but it’s a system that needs to be improved…. We are right on the edge (laughs). That is why it is important to create a culture.

– In that sense, each employee must first have a deep understanding of what “cocone my time / my day” means.

[Shigeyuki Kashiwakuma]: Yes, it is. It is important to have the right relationship with “cocone my time / my day”. It is very key to properly communicate the significance of this system, whether it will work or simply become a paraphrase of the 3-day week. We have to make sure that we are messaging the system properly.

– What is a “good company” that employees find rewarding to work for?

We are always thinking about how to create a good company environment, create services in a good condition for the employees who work there, and make our customers happy.

– In that sense, each employee must first have a deep understanding of what “cocone my time / my day” means.

[Shigeyuki Kashiwakuma]: Yes, it is. It is important to have the right relationship with “cocone my time / my day”. It is very key to properly communicate the significance of this system, whether it will work or simply become a paraphrase of the 3-day week. We have to make sure that we are messaging the system properly.

– Your company is ranked as one of the best companies to work for, what do you think about the reasons for your ranking?

[Shigeyuki Kashiwakuma]: We have a company cafeteria and gym/massage facilities because we want to pass on health to our employees and systems like this “cocone my time / my day”, but it is normal for a good company to have these facilities. That is why we do not use the word “benefits” in our company. We don’t think we are a good company just because we have these things. It may sound a bit like a Zen question (laughs). We believe that a cycle is formed when good people gather together and work in a good condition, and good services are born from that. We often use the phrase “good for all three sides” within the company. We often say, “It is best if the company environment is good, the employees are working in a good condition, and the customers are happy with the services we provide”.

– What initiatives do you have in place to improve employee performance and motivation?

[Shigeyuki Kashiwakuma]: In addition to the facilities I mentioned earlier, also have a childcare free time system, a 5-year completion leave, a health center and a consultation service for women, and other facilities and systems that are appreciated by our employees. We also have a fair number of foreign employees, and we provide visa application support for them. Normally, they have to go through the procedures, including periodic renewals, on their own, but we provide support where we can on their behalf.

– What are some of the characteristics of your employees?

[Shigeyuki Kashiwakuma]: the composition of our employees is about 50/50 male to female ratio, and the average age is 34 years old. The company has a very large number of designers. More than 40% of the total workforce is made up of designers, so there are a lot of them. And just under 30% are engineers. The rest are so-called business employees, public relations, and so on. The male/female ratio of designers is overwhelmingly female, at over 90%. One new employee “I was surprised at how flat the relationship between engineers and designers is”. I heard that in other companies, there is a hierarchy of one or the other. At our company, there is such an easy atmosphere to talk, and as a result, I think there is a strong attitude of creating things together. The company has a creative and academic atmosphere.

– What is your company’s definition of a good company?

[Shigeyuki Kashiwakuma]: The company was started with the idea of creating a good company anyway. The same is true of the “giving back to our employees four things” , “good for all three sides”, which were mentioned earlier. I also do not believe that a company can become a good company just by We have such and such systems and facilities. We believe that it is necessary to have not only a full set of systems and facilities, but also to have employees, the recipients of these systems and facilities, understand and sympathize with the intent of these systems and facilities. We refer to our mission and vision values as “vocation” to make it clear that they are goals of the highest order. As stated on our website, vocation is an unchanging goal at the core of Cocone, and it is a word that applies universally to the entire company and its services. I believe that a good company means being able to work with people who share these things we value and enjoy a fulfilling life together. People often say, “It’s nice that you have a gym in your”, but I believe that alone does not make it a good company.

Cocone Corporation is taking on the contradictory challenge of growing its business and creating a work environment that gives back time. Mr. Kashiwakuma says that a sense of solidarity is necessary to be able to work together as one at the time of victory.

– As a company, we must strike a balance between continued business growth and a good working environment for our employees, or else there will be conflicting aspects. What are you doing to balance both of these aspects?

[Shigeyuki Kashiwakuma]: We have started “cocone my time / my day” and counting the number of days that fall into this category in 2023, there are 41 days. 41/365 days, that’s quite a lot, isn’t it? If we exclude Saturdays and Sundays and count them, the number of regular work days will be about 200 per year. As you say, it is a challenge to balance the conflicts between growing the business and giving back time. I am sure that there will be obstacles and hardships in the future, but I believe that it is important for everyone to work together when the time comes to win the game. I don’t think there will be many times in a year when this happens, but it is absolutely necessary to work together as a team, whether individually or as a team, in such situations. It is important to send out a message that will give us all the strength we need when the time comes. On the other hand, it is not good for the system to become a mere skeleton, so it is necessary for each leader to review unnecessary matters and improve operational efficiency. It is a challenge to make these aspects of the system permeate the company, and this is also an area where we are working to devise ways to address.

– Finally, please tell us what you hope your company will accomplish.

[Shigeyuki Kashiwakuma]: Until now, we have concentrated on creating services for domestic customers. Our vision for the future is to go global from Japan. We say, “Let’s go out from the river to the sea.” The word “destination” is often heard in management speeches as our destination, and we are finally ready for that. As for our business, we would like to work to bring our business business business, which has so far been focused on Japan, to our overseas customers.

Commemorative trophy awarded

This article’s # be useful
“Keep Your Eyes Up High” , “Be Professional” and “Let’s Do Inspiring Work”.
Institutions are important for culture building.

Interview=Yusuke Asano, Reporting and writing=Yasuyuki Kitamura, Photography=Ryo Higuchi

*Cocone is working on various systems through trial and error, based on our founding desire to return time, rewards, satisfaction, and health to our employees. We are currently considering the introduction of a different system to the one described in this article.

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