Engaging employees, an essential lever for the company
Meeting with Caroline Guillaumin, Director of Human Resources and Communication at Société Générale
Is employee engagement a recent phenomenon?
I think we need to put things in historical context. Companies have always evolved, but in a slow way, allowing everyone to adapt. At one time you could arrive in a company without a diploma and climb the ladder as you went: it was called the “social ladder”. Your career path was written down from your arrival to your “leaving drink”! Feeling of belonging, commitment to the company, were acquired and resignations rare. Then came the “digital revolution” that first touched the telecom world, which I belonged at Alcatel. This revolution then spread in industry and later in the banking world. Then came the term “transformation”, a word that can be perceived as positive or negative depending on the point of view. It was therefore necessary to see things in a new way.
Today, when we recruit new employees, we no longer issue career plans, but we talk to them about “employability”. This means that we are committed to training them throughout their career so that they are certain to find a job, even if they leave us.
What about the new generation, the famous “millennials”?
As for this new generation coming to the market, the commitment is very different. We are dealing with young people who have a strong commitment to work / life balance, who are very sensitive to their quality of life and for whom the work must have a “meaning”. They consider that the generation of their parents has made too many sacrifices, especially family ones. They also place a lot of value on the ethics of their company and closely monitor what the press and social networks say about it.
What are the levers for generating strong commitment and creating a culture of mobilization?
The first lever on which to rely is the internal communication, which must resolutely fit into its time. To achieve this, you have to register the company in the reality of your time by tackling all the societal topics: inclusion, diversity, diversity, LGBT, etc. We must not only show, but also prove that the company is open to all, whether through charters or public speeches. For example, when I first arrived 10 years ago, I supported a very first LGBT initiative launched by our subsidiary in the United Kingdom and I had a lot of misgivings. This month it is our Deputy Chief Executive Officer who will speak on behalf of the entire Group on this topic. This is a significant step!
To this must be added, and this is very important, the quality of life at work, teleworking (1 to 2 days per week at Société Générale for about 15,000 employees in France) and also the organization of offices; in Paris our “flex offices” are very close to those of the GAFA. Be careful, however, it is not by installing a table football in a hallway that you will retain talent! We must also work on the remuneration policy, equity, and above all the transparency of the decisions taken.
Can solidarity actions be one of these levers?
Yes, solidarity is an extremely important lever. Patronage actions, whether those of our Corporate Foundation or those of our subsidiaries, are extremely well attended by our employees. In parallel, and to meet a real demand, we have implemented skills sponsorship actions that can range from a few hours of support to NGOs, to the senior part-time that allows employees close to retirement to work part-time in an association while remaining employees of Société Générale. We also organize a Citizen Commitment Time every year. It is a great collective gathering that allows employees from all over the world to put their time and energy at the service of solidarity.
Finally, I would like to speak about an action that is particularly dear to me: it is about “Playing for Philarmonie”, on orchestre composed of professional musicians and singers mixed with employees of Société Générale. This orchestra works for a year and a half under the direction of the orchestra conductor François-Xavier Roth to build a program in order to perform on famous opera stages: the Philharmonie de Paris, London or even Moscow.
The initial idea was very simple and could be summed up in one sentence: privilege the collective. To bring together countries that were not used to working together: Senegal with Romania, Cameroon with the United Kingdom, Russia with Côte d’Ivoire, etc. and abolish the hierarchical links by mixing leaders, managers, assistants around the same partition. A year and a half of work, rehearsals in the evening, between noon and two, the weekend, just for the pleasure of music, to go on stage together, to live a part of dream. It is, in my opinion, the most beautiful commitment ever!