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Strategic competence in Kemira – wow-moments and challenges

Chemical Industry Federation of Finland together with Aalto University explored the strategic capabilities and the drivers for success to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045. Kemira´s VP, Talent Development Sandra Dillon opens up the company´s strategic competence approaches.

In Kemira, how do you increase responsibility and continuous learning through the whole organisation?

We start with explaining the different roles, how as employees we must take responsibility for our learning and our managers role is to support and coach. We have been using the grow coaching model and people like it.

Also, all employees are asked to complete their own personal development plan as part of our performance and development discussion with their manager. This process kicks off in Q1 each year and has become more of a continuous process over the year as we have developed. We also have many eLearning solutions available through our HR platform MyKem such as learning on Commercial and Manufacturing competences, Sustainability and Digital as well as other topics for leadership and professional development. Employees can review their learning history and we are also able to recommend learning solutions to our team members and track completion rates.

As a company we have a long history with mandatory training on safety and key procedures. Building on that, in recent years we have also been building on the learning culture where employees are more in the driving seat increasing the rate of learning. We also have prioritized the key target groups going through the most change or disruptions and try to encourage employees to invest time in their learning and making sure leaders and line managers are encouraging and support and role modelling learning themselves. Also, of course we are all different so it is important that we allow also for us to consume learning more aligned with our roles and personal preferences.

Any wow-moments?

The future competences program running for the last three years has been successful in terms of outcomes.

  1. We developed a professional competence model to define what are the 5 most critical competences needed to be successful in targeting job families like commercial and manufacturing which was proven to very well adopted and valued by the job holders and their managers. It has really improved the quality of development discussions for these stakeholders.
  2. Increase in the rate of employees creating a personal development plans.
  3. Increase in rate of these employees completing future competences learning paths.
  4. Even during Covid-19, while many of our employees have had to work remotely and couldn’t attend face to face learning, they could still meet their learning goals through Digital learning channels. Actually employees said it was great to have the future competences program at this time!

What are the challenges?
Making time for learning is always a challenge and as a company we can set up the processes and give the options but learning has to be taken into practice by the employee. Learning is becoming more about on the job than classroom so this means learning in the flow of work required more preparation and time to reflect on the learning. Also as adults not everyone wants to learn and unlearn so we have to come up with new ways of experimenting and piloting so that learning is interesting and interactive. Another challenge is that learning path content can become absolute more quickly due to the rate of change so how can we keep the learning content fresh is a challenge.

Corporate culture and carbon neutrality: how do you encourage creativity and experimentation?
We encourage creativity and experimentation by building trust, openness to tackling problems together, and acceptance that mistakes will happen and the point is to learn from mistakes as well as sharing our successes. Creativity comes more easy when you have a more open mindset to possibilities. When we have more of a growth mindset and not a fixed mindset, you can start to see more possibilities and openness to improving our way of working. You can also encourage the team to take small scale pilots to experiment and make a commitment to increasing the psychological safety. For example creating a culture of where employees know that if we make mistakes we can learn and it is OK to fail sometimes.

Silo thinking is only human but something we should avoid and instead try to evolve and to think outside a box. Any experiences how silo thinking can be avoided?

My first experience tip: to make time to collaborate with others and don’t be too quick to do it alone. When you create a culture where people collaborate for the greater good and not just for their own tasks it builds trust and connects people for a common purpose. When you build a shared understanding of the future and everyday importance of team work then people see the value of cocreating and less silo thinking. Also, I see a real value of having a good diverse network inside and outside your company. It’s important to move outside our comfort zone and network with people different from us so that we get fresh and diverse perspectives. Not only does it improve the risk of silo thinking but also very inclusive increasing our sense of belonging in the company and for sure even better outcomes!


Strategic Capabilities for Carbon Neutrality in the Chemical Industry (pdf)