Learning & Development

5 Considerations for Fostering a Collaborative Global Culture

In an increasingly interconnected world, fostering a collaborative global culture is imperative for leaders. At Astellas, a Tokyo-based global pharmaceutical company with 14,000+ people across the globe, we recognize the importance of embracing diversity and nurturing a collaborative global culture, so our people feel empowered to pursue brave ideas and ambitious outcomes. We have focused on several initiatives to unlock new levels of collaboration in the pursuit of ambitious goals that keep our patient’s front of mind.

1. Culture Starts at the Top

Ensuring direct access to top management has been a priority for us, as demonstrated by our internal “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) sessions. These AMAs enable employees to engage directly with our top executives on any topic—from an executive’s career advice to strategic initiatives at Astellas, nothing is out of bounds. The candid dialogue at these well-attended virtual or in-person sessions helps connect employees outside of their daily reporting structures and reflects our unique approach to fostering unity and collaboration, encapsulating the essence of our One Astellas Philosophy.

2. Eliminating Hierarchical Titles Fosters Collaboration

Straying from traditional hierarchical norms, we as a Japanese company are dedicated to transitioning toward a flatter organizational structure, fostering a culture that champions collaboration across functions, irrespective of titles. As part of this transformation, we are eliminating all hierarchical titles, placing emphasis solely on individuals’ roles and contributions within the organization.

3. Diversity Enables Business Inclusivity

Fostering collaboration across divisions and harnessing Astellas’ diverse capabilities worldwide are pivotal in realizing our strategic objectives. Our globalized structure empowers individuals to collaborate seamlessly across cultures and teams.

My aspiration is to cultivate a culture where individuals embrace diverse perspectives and feel empowered to voice their opinions, as this is essential for fostering business inclusivity. Drawing from my experience as a native Japanese speaker, I understand firsthand the importance of addressing language barriers within our global teams and advocating patience among colleagues. This is why I actively encourage a “broken English” or “imperfect English” language policy that prioritizes effective communication over perfect English proficiency, aimed at fostering empathy and understanding among employees with varied linguistic backgrounds.

4. Flexible Work Patterns Increase Engagement

We recently surveyed our entire workforce to investigate the relationship between remote working and engagement. We discovered that employees who work from the office once every quarter or less had higher engagement scores than employees who work from the office once a month or once a week. These scores have informed Astellas’ remote work policy and commitment to continue offering fully remote employment worldwide. While other companies are pushing for a pre-pandemic, 100% in-office work schedule, Astellas is embracing our “Global Flexible Ways of Working” approach, where we empower employees to confidently make decisions about their personal work patterns. Implementing work styles that allow every employee to demonstrate high productivity and creativity and realize their own potential energizes us as an organization and leads to corporate growth.

Not only has this transformed our employees’ daily routines, but it has also opened doors to previously unexplored career paths within Astellas. Now that we’re no longer restricted to specific, geographic regions and have an expanded reach, we’re able to hire and offer roles to employees outside our office locations. For example, our chief digital and transformation officer, hired in late 2023, is based in Australia and will be the C-suite member from April 2024. We are able to benefit from his experience driving complex digital and technology initiatives and business transformation without him having to uproot his life.

5. Psychological Safety Promotes Intelligent Risk Taking

A sound corporate culture requires a psychologically safe environment in which all employees respect each other and can actively communicate with peace of mind. Astellas commits to its organizational health by supporting diverse work styles and promoting employee health, ensuring all employees can maintain their physical and mental wellbeing, thus enabling them to strive for even greater productivity.

Feeling safe when taking appropriate risks is a key part of psychological safety. To grow as a company, intelligent risk taking is important, and if the preferred outcome is not achieved, it is key to apply takeaways learned from the experience in the future. I advocate for leaders to openly share their mistakes and failures, fostering a culture where employees feel encouraged to do the same. In line with this philosophy, Astellas has organized internal failure-sharing sessions, led by top management, during which they shared a past failure and what they learned from it. This openness has encouraged employees to try new approaches without being afraid of making mistakes.


Through these strategic initiatives aimed at fostering unity and satisfaction among our employees, we have been able to foster a more collaborative global culture at Astellas. Our success at Astellas is driven by the passion and talent of our people, who embody our core values and pursue brave ideas to improve patient outcomes.

Katsuyoshi (Kats) Sugita is the Chief People Officer and Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer at Astellas Pharma. In his current role, Kats is responsible for leading strategic decision-making to ensure legal compliance and fostering strong stakeholder relationships for organizational success. He is passionate about people and driven by results and has experience leading transformative projects worldwide, focusing on talent management, diversity and inclusion, data-driven HR strategies, and best practice sharing. Prior to his role at Astellas, Kats was at the forefront leading HR at several pharmaceutical and technology sectors (Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Microsoft, etc.).

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