How Canon empowers its workforce digitally


The Company has leveraged technology to help its people stay connected, informed and updated about everything, anywhere, anytime

From the time they join the organisation and grow with it, to the time they exit it, employees at Canon have technology-enabled platforms, tools or apps that empower them to be at their best. Canon has leveraged technology in a manner that it helps its people stay connected, informed and updated about everything, anywhere and anytime. So much so, that Shikha Rai, vice president HR, Canon India, started the discussion saying, “HR is like a rivet in a fan—it binds the organisation together–and technology makes the rivet stronger.”

Talking of various digitisations empowering the workforce, Rai shares that Canon is largely a sales- driven organisation with about 40 per cent of their employees being on the field or working from home or remote locations. Hence, it was extremely important for the Company to keep all these people productive, engaged and motivated, and also ensure that they feel connected.

With that aim, in 2002, Canon devised iCan, which is a sales force automation and customer management portal, which empowers the sales and the service staff that constitute 700 out of the 1000 strong workforce of the company. These systems allow employees to schedule customer meetings, record attendance, schedule and report activities, and so on, which in turn help the employees themselves and their managers to keep track of their efficiency.

Rai says that Canon takes utmost care to keep its virtual workers engaged. “In order to stay connected with the virtual workers, the CEO addresses them in an online open house each month, wherein anyone can even ask questions through Lync (Microsoft’s real-time communications software for businesses),” she explains.

Another portal called ‘iamOk’ at Canon, ensures employee safety in case of any disasters. It is both web-based and SMS-based to ascertain employee safety in emergency situations. The system works such that the business continuity manager raises an alert when an emergency situation arises and people have to mark themselves safe on the system. Those who fail to do so are contacted separately by individual managers and are sent help, if required. Rai shares that this system helped one of their employees during the 2015 Chennai floods.

However, to get everyone to respond to the system in case of a real emergency, Canon organises frequent mock drills for the same. As Rai opines, “You can have the best of technology, but if it doesn’t get adopted, it’s a waste.”

Another important aspect in a workplace, Rai believes, is mutual appreciation and Canon has digitised that as well for the ease of its employees. In the early days, employees would share ‘Thank you’ cards with their peers at work, appreciating their contribution, at the beginning of each month. “This was important across verticals as all the functions are critical to business and each of their contributions is vital to the success of the others. For instance, repeat sales is only possible if the service is seamless and hence, the sales people need to appreciate service staff for their efforts,” Rai elucidates.

To digitise how people appreciate their colleagues, Canon has a portal called, ‘Digital Shop’ or the ‘Thank you card shop’, where people can chose a card template, customise it and share it with the designated peer. Furthermore, HR even prints out the cards for people who would like a physical copy to place on their desk. 


Coming to people development, technology has a huge role to play in simplifying and enhancing training delivery. Rai believes that although all formats of training and development are equally important, technology really enhances the experience. That said, Canon has beautifully digitised the same under the platform called ‘Sensei’ which in Japanese means teacher or trainer. It is an app that has videos, bite-sized learnings, product information with market benchmarking and so on. It also has a feature called ‘ask an expert’ for anyone who may have any queries around anything related to Canon and its products.

“Since a large part of our sales force is on the field, our people may at many points in time require quick reference to product information or details, which Sensei provides them on the go. Our people can use it at any time anywhere to learn about our products,” Rai says. Sensei also has groups, where people come together to discuss various relevant topics, and which lets people across levels and functions, learn more.

Furthermore, Canon being known for its R&D, has got a remarkable way to encourage creative thinking amongst its employees. It has another portal called ‘breakthrough’, where anyone with an interesting idea about cost saving or process improvement and so on, can post the same there. The ideas are then presented by the respective people, either online or in person, and then, the ideas ones deemed worthy of implementation are taken up for the same. The exciting part here is that the best of the ideas are awarded the ‘President’s Award’ at the end of the year.

Last but not the least, ‘Excellence One’ a one-stop shop for information on all kinds of policies, processes and guidelines allows employees to stay updated at all times. From fresh hires to people who have been a part of the organisation, this web and mobile-based platform offers convenience to all. People can even record minutes of meetings, document deliverables and set alerts for the same. It makes day-to-day work easier for people.

“All these systems allow our people to access anything they want at any point of time, simply through a few clicks, and that empowers them to work more efficiently. Since Canon’s business itself is a lot about technology, it made sense for us to utilise technology in the best way possible to make work life better for people internally as well,” Rai concludes. Undoubtedly, these tech-enabled tools at Canon remarkably bring people together, making them feel connected and empowered.

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