How Saint-Gobain, Capgemini and bioMérieux are Engaging Employees from a Human-Centric Perspective
By Sinakho Dhlamini, HR Content Specialist, Top Employers Institute
Engaging employees has always been a priority for organisations wanting to get the best out of their people. Over the years, there have been many strategies to engage employees, and more recently, organisations have begun to use a human-centric approach. An organisation does not necessarily need to be human-centric to engage its employees but organisations that are human-centric are seeing better engagement levels than those that aren’t.
That was the topic in mind in a recent roundtable we hosted with HR experts from bioMérieux, Capgemini and Saint-Gobain. These experts included: Regis Blugeon, Director of Social Affairs and HRD for France at Saint-Gobain; Franck Baillet, the EVP of Learning and Development at Capgemini; Pretheshini Moodley, Regional Head of Human Resources for Africa at BioMérieux, and Paola Bottaro, People Director at Top Employers Institute.
These certified Top Employers are embracing a human-centric approach and utilising it to engage their employees. Throughout the article, we will explore how these organisations are making a more holistic approach to employee engagement without ignoring the challenges faced by organisations making this change.
How Does an Organisation Become Human-Centric?
A human-centric organisation, also known as a people-centric or employee-centric organisation, strongly emphasises its employees’ wellbeing, development, and satisfaction. In this type of organisation, employees are considered the most valuable asset, and the entire organisational structure and culture are designed to prioritise their needs, growth, and overall experience.
Some characteristics of a human-centric organisation include:
- Prioritising employee wellbeing.
- A healthy work-life balance for employees.
- Creating a diverse and inclusive culture.
- Maintaining open communication across the organisation.
- Ensuring that employees feel empowered and have a sense of autonomy.
- Allowing employees to have flexible work arrangements.
- Cultivating a collaborative environment at work.
- Investing in professional development for every employee.
The concept of a human-centric organisation recognises that when employees are valued, supported, and engaged, they are more likely to be motivated, productive, and committed to the organisation’s success.
During Top Employers Inspire 2023, we got an insider’s view of how Top Employers Institute is becoming a human-centric organisation. Paola Bottaro, People Director at Top Employers Institute, talked to Wouter van Ewijk about how the business has adapted to support its employees better while learning to be mindful, empathetic, and purposeful. You can watch that session here.
Assumptions About a Human-Centric Organisation.
The concept of a human-centric organisation is still very new, and as such, many incorrect assumptions come with the term. Some of these assumptions are around how it is easier to implement a human-centric approach depending on some factors like:
- The organisation’s industry: there are doubts that some sectors, like investment banking and manufacturing, can become human-centric.
- The size of the organisation: there are assumptions that it is easier for smaller organisations to be human-centric than other larger organisations.
- Geographical location: it is assumed that organisations that operate where there is a national legal framework find it easier to be human-centric.
- Type of employee: there may be an assumption that having a human-centric approach for an organisation with white-collar workers is more effortless.
However, many of these assumptions are incorrect. Organisations that want to become human-centric differ in many ways, yet they can all engage with this approach.
How Top Employers like Saint-Gobain, Capgemini and BioMérieux Understand Human-Centric Organisations.
Pretheshini Moodley, Regional Head of Human Resources for Africa at BioMérieux, started this discussion by sharing how BioMérieux sees a human-centric perspective as engaging their people by “considering the individual needs”. This fits into their way of working because, as an organisation, one of their values is centred around belonging – where people can be themselves while feeling like they belong at BioMérieux.
As an organisation, they have prioritised listening to their employees and allowing them to share their genuine feelings and thoughts. In many ways, they are highlighting the diversity of their employees. While BioMérieux engages with their employees in a human-centric approach, they prefer to call it employee-centric as they feel that it allows their employees to feel better represented by the approach that they are taking.
At Capgemini, Franck Baillet, the EVP of Learning and Development, shared how the organisation recognises that one of its significant assets is its people. As such, they see the topic of engagement and human-centric work as “absolutely key”. As a human-centric organisation, one of the things they try to do at all times is to “put the individual at the centre at all times.”
While they see a human-centric approach as the best, Franck notes how it can be challenging at all times, primarily due to their size, but it is still something they enact across their organisation. Similarly to BioMérieux, Capgemini prioritises regularly listening to their employees to understand what is best for them. It helps them test the “temperature” of their employees’ feelings.
As the conversation continued, Regis Blugeon, Director of Social Affairs and HRD for France at Saint-Gobain, shared how Saint-Gobain see themselves first as customer-centric and people-oriented. For them, everything starts with the customer. The engagement of their people is significant for them, and they engage them by prioritising what their customers and their people need.
One of the ways that they keep themselves accountable for their employees’ feelings around engagement is by measuring their engagement levels regularly. Their regular check-ins with their employees are why they see themselves as people-oriented because this approach to their employees impacts many other aspects of their day-to-day work environment; it is just balanced with the needs of their customers. For Saint-Gobain, this regular assessment is also essential because their organisation is not a monolith, but rather, they have a remarkably diverse set of workers – from blue-collar to white-collar.
How Top Employers Institute is Becoming a Human-Centric Organisation.
As the discussion around Top Employers Institute’s shift into becoming a human-centric organisation, Paola Bottaro explained that the company did not decide to become human-centric overnight. Instead, their leadership board undertook the decision, understanding that this approach is complex, especially as there is no such thing as a “typical human experience”.
At first, when the organisation began to think around this issue, they considered calling it an action- or activity-driven approach. Still, they settled on the human-centric approach because it encapsulated their desire to give everyone a fair and equal experience while understanding the differences that make us human. In a similar vein as the Top Employers in the conversation, Paola stressed the importance of listening to employees, especially as working in a human-centric way is explicitly not a one size fits all approach, and even she recognises that you can never know everything about working in a human-centric way. That is why listening is essential and embracing that you may not always understand, but you should always be open to listening.
What About Engagement?
Franck shifted the conversation to understanding what engagement means. In some ways, the word is quite generic as it can apply to many situations because an employee can be engaged in many different ways. And for each employee, their way of being engaged at work may be completely different.
He thinks organisations must consider “how they can create the best conditions for people to feel engaged?” He sees that engaging employees is in so many different people’s hands, which is part of why engaging employees is more of a complex task than it appears to be on the surface.
Franck sees that employees understanding the “why” of their job as playing a critical role in improving the engagement of employees as it helps to guide the organisation to develop the conditions to support employees – making them feel more engaged.
Adding to Franck’s, Pretheshini explained how at BioMérieux, they launched a project to gauge their employees’ sense of purpose before they even critically thought about engagement. They did this by asking each person how they viewed purpose and “why they were here [at BioMérieux]”. They used this as the start of their engagement journey to create a sense of purpose and better understand each person’s motivations. It made it a lot easier for them to understand the voice of their employees because of this project.
Once they had done this part of the project, they ensured they created a safe environment for their employees to share their thoughts. The environment needed to be a place that empowered employees in a ‘space’ they could trust because, without these safe spaces, they would be unable to have satisfying and enlightening discussions.
Beyond having a survey or a measurement for their employee engagement, BioMérieux has created a game that leans into their desire for honest conversations. In the game, they encourage employees to be courageous and utilise the trust they’ve built with their colleagues. In the game, when an employee wants to be courageous, they show the car to their manager and then say how they would like to share something important. Pretheshini shared that they see “every failure as an opportunity to become better”, and that can only happen when you’re brave enough to try something that may lead to failure. It allows employees to feel engaged because they are given the space to truly try their best, even when it doesn’t work out.
How Does Leadership Fit In?
Leaders in an organisation are often the guides that make initiatives work, but that still needs to be completed in a boardroom. Instead, modern organisations require empathetic, emotionally intelligent leaders, good listeners and communicators. These are often considered soft skills and have been undervalued for many years. Still, when it comes to engagement, these skills are crucial to having an authentic connection between leadership and employees.
Here are some key roles that leaders play in promoting employee engagement:
- Effective communication: Leaders should foster open and transparent communication with employees.
- Recognition and Appreciation: Leaders should recognise and appreciate employees’ contributions and achievements regularly.
- Creating a Positive Work Environment: Leaders should foster a positive and inclusive workplace where employees feel safe, respected, and valued.
- Aligning with Organisational Values: Leaders should ensure that their actions and decisions align with the organisation’s values and mission to help create a sense of purpose and shared direction.
- Leading by Example: Engaged leaders model the behaviours they want to see in their employees.
- Empowerment: Empowering employees by giving them autonomy and decision-making authority can increase their sense of ownership and engagement.
- Professional Development: Leaders should support employees’ growth and development by providing training, skill-building, and career advancement opportunities.
- Conflict Resolution: Addressing conflicts and issues promptly and fairly is essential for maintaining a positive work environment that engages employees.
Employee engagement is a critical factor to many organisations’ success, and a human-centric approach recognises that engaged employees are motivated not only by financial incentives but also by a holistic experience that fulfils their emotional, psychological, and professional needs. Engagement is also not a topic that rests solely in the hands of HR professionals; instead, it is a companywide task, and when an organisation is human-centric, it can better allow everyone to achieve these engagement goals. When employees are engaged, they become more committed, innovative, and motivated to contribute their best efforts to the organisation’s success.
While this is only a snippet of their conversation, it highlights some of the challenges and successes Top Employers are making in creating the conditions to support employee engagement.
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